Tar Heel Sports Network changes flagship stations

That designation goes to WPTF, which was the Wolfpack network’s flagship for years

By R.L. Bynum

There will be a notable change in the air when Carolina opens the football season on Sept. 3 at Virginia Tech.

The flagship station for the 62-station Tar Heel Sports Network will become the station that was, for years, the flagship station for the Wolfpack Sports Radio Network — Curtis Media Group’s WPTF (680 AM and 98.5 FM) in Raleigh, according to releases from UNC and Learfield.

Previously, the main affiliate for the eastern part of the Triangle was WTKK (106.1 FM), which will no longer be on the network.

Learfield and Curtis reached a multi-year deal to make WPTF the flagship station for coverage of football and men’s basketball. The network also airs the weekly show “Primetime in the ACC.”

Chapel Hill’s WCHL (1360 AM and 97.9 FM), the longtime THSN flagship station which first became the flagship in 1965, will still be on the network. UNC women’s basketball still will air exclusively on radio on WCHL, in addition to streaming option. WCHL is one of two stations to air UNC baseball games.

“A flagship is our blowtorch,” said Gary Paczesny, director of creative services and athletic communications at UNC. “They are our main station. While WCHL’s position for us as an affiliate doesn’t change, WPTF will be our flagship station out of Raleigh. It’s our highest-powered station. That’s what we consider and what Learfield Sports consider their flagship while WCHL will still be able to carry the games and broadcast like they have in previous years.”

In a story on WCHL’s website, chapelboro.com, Aubrey Williams, the station’s general manager, said that the Learfield and UNC releases caused “confusion” and disputes the contention that its flag status has changed.

“This announcement is just that the Raleigh station is changing from 106.1 to 98.5. They made a big announcement in an effort to let Triangle east listeners know,” Williams said in the story. “WCHL’s flagship status does not change at all. Still the original home for the Tar Heels.”

Both the Wolfpack and Tar Heel networks are part of Learfield, which, until Thursday, was known as Learfield IMG College.

“As the largest locally owned radio group in North Carolina, we understand the power of the Carolina brand,’’ said Trip Savery, the Curtis Media Group’s president and chief operating officer, said in a release. “We are very pleased to welcome Carolina alumni and fans to listen to Tar Heel football and basketball on WPTF this fall.”

The change will give the network a second in-state 50,000-watt AM station. The 50,000-watt WBT in Charlotte, other than brief periods in the early 1990s and from 2006 to 2012 (when the Charlotte affiliates were WFNZ, then WNOW), has been a network affiliate since 1971.

“We are excited about this partnership with Curtis Media Group, which will help us tell the great stories of Carolina Athletics in the Triangle area and across the state,’’ said Robbi Pickeral Evans, UNC’s associate athletic director for external communications. “We know that Carolina fans are excited about the year to come, and Curtis Media’s wide reach will help us connect and stay connected with our supporters.”

WPTF’s signal stretches into Virginia and South Carolina and can go as farther south at night, when most Carolina football games will be played this season.

WPTF was the Wolfpack Sports Radio Network’s flagship station for more than 40 years until Wolfpack Sports Marketing signed a deal with Capitol Broadcasting Company’s WRAL-FM on April 23, 2007.

For more than 20 years, WPTF talk-show host Garry Dornburg was the color analyst on Wolfpack broadcasts with play-by-play man Wally Ausley, another WPTF announcer. Before Ausley, longtime WPTF morning personality Bill Jackson was the voice of the Wolfpack for years.

1 Comment

  1. Hubba says:

    This moves the focus in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area to AM. WPTF-FM and WCHL-FM are low power stations, and no comparison to WRAL-FM or WTKK-FM power-wise or antenna height-wise in the Triangle. I suppose the logic is that in other areas the FM signal is stronger, and that the increased 50kW footprint on AM from WPTF and WBT more than compensates for the weaker FM presence in the triangle.


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