Sports-radio fans were in shock yesterday when word broke that former CU Buffs and Denver Broncos star Alfred Williams, one of the biggest stars on 104.3 The Fan (along with his partner, Darren "D-Mac" McKee), had left the station after fifteen years.
On February 28, the Fan tweeted the following: "Sports Radio 104.3 The Fan announces that Alfred 'Big Al' Williams has chosen to leave the station effective today. We thank Alfred for his many contributions during his years with The Fan and wish him the best in his future endeavors."
Williams doesn't want listeners who heard the news to worry about his departure from the Fan. "I'm not huge on social media, but maybe I'll have to start tweeting and Facebooking people so the word gets out that I'm not in a bad place," says the man known as Big Al. "I'm in an excellent place."
That excellent place: iHeartMedia, the local broadcasting giant whose Denver affiliates include KOA and Orange and Blue 760, which touts itself as "all Broncos, all the time."
Long before he was a Denver radio star, Williams, who grew up in Houston, was a local sports legend thanks to a stint anchoring the defensive line for the University of Colorado Boulder, which earned him a national championship ring and membership in the College Football Hall of Fame, and a three-year run with the Broncos that included not one, but two Super Bowl victories.
In an August 2017 Westword interview, Williams detailed his path to a second career behind a microphone, giving much of the credit for the transition to his agent, Peter Schaffer. And Schaffer was key again in Williams's latest leap, which was prompted by the expiration of his contract yesterday, February 28.
Schaffer "does a wonderful job for me," Williams says, "and he went out and got me some different contract offers both locally and from out of state. And we had an impressive offer from iHeartRadio, which is a place my two great mentors in this business have been: Dave Logan, first of all, and then Rick Lewis."
Shortly thereafter, Williams continues, "I talked to them about the possibility of coming over there to work with those guys at iHeart, and they said they would welcome the opportunity to have me in the building. And to have that conversation with that group of people, who have had so much success, meant a lot to me."
Eventually, two main suitors emerged from the pack, Williams reveals: "Peter Schaffer narrowed it down to really just the Fan and KOA — and KOA presented an offer that was a good offer and put it on the table for me to sign.
"I presented the contract to the Fan, and they said they didn't want to match," he continues. "And I said, 'Thank you for fifteen fantastic years,' and we kind of moved on from there."
He admits that the end of his run on the Fan "was a heartbreaking moment," but it was one made easier after a conversation with Bob Call, vice president and general manager for Bonneville International, 104.3 The Fan's owner.
"I really felt like I needed to talk to and get blessings from him, and we had a really good conversation," Williams says. "Bob Call has been my rock through most everything that's happened, good and bad, for me. He's always been on Team Alfred, and once I talked to him, I knew that things would be okay and that I was good. I love that guy. I love him." After a pause, he laughs as he adds, "Man, you're making me emotional!"
Don't expect to hear Williams back on the air any time soon, though. His contract with the Fan included a six-month no-compete clause — though he says negotiations are under way to see if there might be a way to shorten the mandated delay.
As for what Williams is going to do for iHeart, that's unclear. "We haven't talked completely about what the opportunity is," he acknowledges. "It could be doing some work with Orange and Blue. I don't know where, exactly, they're going to put me, but the conversation has been mostly with KOA."
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The situation is certainly tricky. Aforementioned mentors Logan and Lewis are partners on a KOA afternoon-drive show that also includes Kathy Lee; the show is simulcast on 103.5 The Fox, where Lewis and Lee also anchor the morning-drive program. Williams certainly wouldn't want to displace either Logan or Lewis, given his affection for them, and Lewis just signed a new contract in October to continue doing double-duty. Logan and Lewis also do live broadcasts for the Broncos — something at which Williams is also very skilled.
Of course, Logan, Lewis and Williams could become a new KOA combo: It would make for a crowded studio, but the chemistry could be killer. However, the field is truly wide open at Orange and Blue, which has struggled to make a major impact in part because its 2017 launch coincided with a terrible stretch for the Broncos — and the addition of new quarterback Joe Flacco has pretty much no one excited. Orange and Blue recently bounced Andy Lindahl, who spent two decades or so on various stations in the iHeart family. And while Lindahl hasn't responded to a Westword interview request, his exit could be interpreted as a way to clear space (and salary) to make room for Williams.
If anyone can supercharge Orange and Blue, it's Williams, who's done this kind of thing before. "My radio career, I'm so proud of it," he notes. "I'm so proud of the brand we built over there on the Fan. We took a station that wasn't a big player for listeners and turned it into one of the biggest players in the entire market. I really believe in the mantra of 'Leave the place better than it was when you got there.' And I think that was certainly proven true for the CU Buffs, for the Denver Broncos and for the Fan."
Teaming up with iHeart "gets me closer to the two teams I care about the most, the Broncos and the CU Buffs," Williams concludes. "I loved being at the Fan. The format felt like I was talking to my best friend every single day. But iHeart feels right for me now. That's the most important thing to me. And I just want listeners to know I'm not leaving the market. I love this place."