Less than six weeks before Tulsa media members flock to Arlington, Texas, for the Big 12 Football Media Days event, there is a flurry of personnel movement at local stations.
This week, RJ Young became the new host of the Sports Animal Tulsa’s 9-11 a.m. show. Previously known as The Sports Mix, it now is The RJ Young Show.
“Unbelievable opportunity,” Young said. “If you had told me a few months ago that I would have this platform, I would have kicked you in the shins. I would have laughed.
“To do sports-talk radio in such a great sports state — this is an amazing privilege and honor.”
On Monday, an additional Sports Animal change will be unveiled. Oklahoma City radio veteran Erik Gee will be introduced as Pat Jones’ new co-host.
At Fox 23, Luke Slabaugh has accepted an offer to join Nathan Thompson’s sports staff as a reporter and anchor.
At KOTV-6, John Holcomb reports that he’s close to finalizing his hiring process. Channel 6 has had a staff opening since February, when Harold Kuntz resigned to accept a position with a Kansas City station.
A thousand videos: Since September 2017, Young has recorded and uploaded more than 1,000 videos onto his YouTube channel. As he developed an audience for his video content, it resulted in an opportunity at the Sports Animal.
“I’m just trying to be me,” Young said. “It was very clear (from Animal management): ‘We want to hire you, and all that comes with you.’ That was encouraging to me.
“I know many of the people who work in sports media in this state. It’s always been kind of difficult to figure out where I fit, knowing that this is where I want to fit. The Animal said, ‘Hey, man, you fit.’ That’s what you want. You want to fit and you want somebody to take you as you are.”
The 31-year-old Young says his broadcast influences include ESPN’s Bomani Jones, Ryen Rusillo and Scott Van Pelt.
“This is what I want most with the show: I want it to be fun,” Young said. “For the Animal to put my name on the marquee — you have to accept it with a sense of responsibility. Consistency is essential.”
A life of variety: Young graduated from Memorial High School in 2005 and from the University of Tulsa in 2010. At the University of Oklahoma in 2012, he received his master’s in professional writing.
He interned at The Oklahoman in 2012 and was a member of the Sooner Scoop staff in 2012-14.
In 2016, Young was accepted into Oklahoma State’s English PhD program. He is the author of three published books (including, in 2018, “Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns”).
Young is an NRA-certified basic pistol instructor. He has worked as an auto mechanic. He is an accomplished bowler who at one time aspired to become a professional.
A Super prize: A few months ago, as part of a Natural Light beer promotion, Young was stunned to learn that he was one of the recipients of a $40,000 prize to be applied toward student debt.
In a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl, a tearful Young said, “I won this contest. For real. Like, I won it for real. I think today’s a good day.”
A new brand
Within a span of 16 months, the Sports Animal Tulsa’s 11 a.m.-2 p.m. show has evolved from The Middle of the Day Show (co-hosted by Al Jerkens and Jones) to The Coach and Big O Show (featuring Jerry Ostroski and Jones) and now to The Pat Jones Show.
Several weeks ago, Ostroski resigned to accept a marketing position within the University of Tulsa athletics department.
During Monday’s debut of the rebranded Pat Jones Show, there will be the introduction of the former Oklahoma State football coach’s new partner — Gee, a Norman native whose extensive radio background includes time in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Oklahoma City.
In 2013-17, Gee was the co-host of a show for The Franchise in OKC.
“Pat is going to be great to work with,” Gee said. “He gives you gold every day. He’s limitless with his knowledge. He’s funny, and I promise, if you listen to this show every day, you’ll learn something.”
Friday is the 35th anniversary of Jones’ promotion to the head-coaching position at OSU. Since working as an NFL assistant for 10 seasons, he has been a Sports Animal fixture since 2006.
Slabaugh at Fox 23
On June 17, Slabaugh starts at Fox 23. He succeeds Jeff Kolb, who recently took a job at the Fox affiliate in Dallas.
“Luke will be a great addition,” Fox 23 sports director Nathan Thompson said. “He does a great job of putting together interesting stories, and (doing it) very creatively.”
As Slabaugh’s most recent television work was done for the CBS affiliate in Knoxville, Tennessee, “he knows about big-time college football,” Thompson said.
Apparently, Slabaugh also knows about big-time baseball. As St. Louis is his hometown, he has been employed by Major League Baseball as a data-operations specialist during Cardinals’ home games.
Thursday’s 3-1 Cardinals victory over Cincinnati was Slabaugh’s final assignment for MLB.