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On March 19, Tim Neverett, seen here, hosted

The Press Box

, his regular a.m. feature on KLZ-AM/Z560, as if nothing unusual was going on behind the scenes. But this wasn't just any morning. Late the previous week, Z560 staffers were informed that the outlet's sports-talk format is going away as of May 1, to be replaced by a Christian-rock approach

In many ways, this move is far from surprising. After all, Crawford Broadcasting, the station's owner, specializes in Christian programming. However, the timing is flat-out bizarre, and epitomizes how Crawford has mismanaged the station for years.

KLZ had been the area's ESPN affiliate until the tail end of December, when the network jumped to 1600 on the AM dial; the call letters at that Lincoln Financial Group property were changed to KEPN as a way of marking this shift. In response, Jim Armstrong, the Denver Post scribe who'd helped Neverett turn The Press Box into the area's finest local sports-talk program, jumped to KKFN-AM/The Fan, where he's now sharing a very crowded afternoon slot with Irv Brown and Joe Williams.

These developments didn't bode well for the future of Z560, and had Crawford execs been paying attention, they could have dumped sports then. Instead, Neverett's services were retained, as were those of Dave Benz, the FSN Rocky Mountain personality whose afternoon offering, Sports Town, showed real promise. In addition, the station signed on with Sporting News Radio, another national syndicator.

So why pull the plug less than three months later? This decision makes no sense, but neither have most of the things Crawford has done with KLZ, one of Denver's oldest, strongest and most fabled frequencies. The station's confused listeners by playing programming roulette; KLZ aired rock oldies and a women's music format before getting into sports talk. But even with a surefire franchise like ESPN, not to mention some fine original programming, the company didn't spend the money needed to properly promote these assets. As a result, the station's potential went largely unfulfilled.

Christian rock almost certainly won't turn KLZ into a hit, since the market is already flooded with such programming. By signing on with a syndication service, however, the folks at Crawford will keep costs to a minimum -- and maybe that's enough for them at this point. Still, the loss of Neverett and Benz makes this deal a bad one for listeners who liked having a local alternative to the Fan. What a waste. -- Michael Roberts

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