Houston sports radio is about to endure another shakeup. Longtime on-air talent and native son Lance Zierlein announced Tuesday he would not sign a contract extension with 790 KBME, where he has been since 2011. During his time at KBME, he has worked the morning show with both Adam Clanton and, most recently, Matt Thomas, and had a brief stint on the afternoon drive with former 790 alum Charlie Pallilo.
For those who follow sports radio, Zierlein's decision to decline his contract option is not a shock. Not only had he said he was going to do it sometime ago, but his analysis of the NFL draft has grown in recent months with his work on NFL.com. In his statement on social media, he admits as much and says he is open to new opportunities that fit with his NFL focus:
I've decided to decline my contract offer to continue doing morning shows for 790. After years of doing morning radio, I think the 6 AM start time is something I need to take a break from for now.
I'm still friends with Matt Thomas and all of my bosses at iHeartRadio. We still have a good relationships and there is no ill-will. I'm going to take this summer to spend some time with my family and get a head start on my NFL Draft work for NFL.com which is a big part of what I love to do on a daily basis.
I will explore other opportunities that fit with my football work. My contract isn't up just yet so you can still keep listening to me on Sports 790.
Zierlein is a veteran of Houston sports radio, getting his start at KILT 610 before moving to upstart 1560 The Game, where he and morning show partner John Granato helped to grow a station from scratch in a very competitive market. Additionally, his lifelong friend and fellow football expert John Harris (now a sideline reporter broadcaster for the Houston Texans) as well as current 610 afternoon co-host and Houston Press writer Sean Pendergast got their starts at 1560.
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Given the Texans' contract with 610, where Harris regularly hosts the one-hour Texans Radio show, and Zierlein's ties with both Harris and Pendergast, it would make sense if he joined KILT in some capacity, adding to that station's growing lineup of talent. But, given his interests, it would be surprising to see him take another full-time on-air gig, particularly in the morning slot, no matter where he lands.
As for 790, there are reports that Josh Innes, currently in the afternoon drive spot, will move to mornings. Innes has struggled to gain a foothold in the ratings with his acerbic and often controversial persona. Whether his style would translate to mornings is up for debate, but it would certainly draw a very stark distinction between the sports-driven pair of Mike Meltzer and Seth Payne on 610.
As for Thomas, his fate is up in the air. He remains an in-arena announcer and road radio play-by-play announcer for the Rockets, so no doubt he'll remain at the station given its affiliation with the Rockets. There has been speculation that when current play-by-play announcer Craig Ackerman makes the full-time move to TV after the eventual retirement of Bill Worrell, Thomas would be the natural replacement. Until then, 790 will no doubt find a spot for him, maybe during middays, currently manned by Clanton and former Houston Oiler great Sean Jones.
Whatever happens in the shakeup, it is clear that 790 has taken a talent hit with the loss of Zierlein, who, despite his long stints at multiple stations, has never shied away from making a bold career move. Regardless of his landing spot, with his talent and experience, he will undoubtedly be fine. KBME could be another story.