ST. LOUIS -- The flap caused by St. Louis University men's basketball coach Rick Majerus abandoning his local radio show has led to wild speculation in the local media and among fans as to the reason. Theories range from the thought he might be campaigning for the DePaul coaching job to the belief he's protesting the SLU administration's recent decision to drop charter flights for the team in favor of commercial travel.
The issue culminated Monday when he appeared on a Chicago radio station WGN at the same time his local show on WXOS (101.1 FM), where the Billikens' games air, was scheduled to run. That led station 101.1 FM to switch to syndicated programming. And in an even more bizarre move, KTRS (550 AM) aired WGN's feed, thus putting Majerus on a station that competes with SLU's broadcast partner.
Majerus addressed the situation in a brief recorded clip that aired Monday afternoon on WXOS. He told Billikens play-by-play voice Bob Ramsey that his charity work and the air travel situation led him to pull out of the program.
"I'm happy to do the show," he said. "But I can't do the show to the exclusion of my preparing for my game on Wednesday evening or to certain charity things I feel very strongly for."
But that didn't wash. He joined David Kaplan for 45 minutes on Monday night, a week after he was on WXOS for only 35 minutes of the hour-long "Rick Majerus Show" -- which he opened by saying he wanted his name stripped from the title. And in yet another twist, Kaplan said the next day on KFNS (590 AM) that he went through the SLU athletics department when setting up the interview. The peculiar events have led to a bevy of talk in the media and online.
"Consider the SLU soap opera under way," KTVI (local Fox affiliate Channel 2) sports director Martin Kilcoyne said. And Frank Cusumano rang in on his KFNS show.
"Let me say this definitively: Rick Majerus will not take the DePaul job, and not many right-thinking coaches with great resumes would," he said. "That program is a mess. . . . Imagine taking over a team which is not a priority in Chicago, with a roster that has no talent at all" and is in the powerful Big East Conference. If Majerus wanted that job "he would have to be drug tested."
Cusumano added that because Majerus turns 62 next month and has built a promising team at SLU, a move would not make sense.
"You only have one rebuild left in you," Cusumano said. "And here, he has the foundation. . . . Is he upset with the administration? Well, would you be a little bit over these travel plans?"
Majerus alluded that he disdains the new set-up, saying that by the end of the current trip, players will have missed eight days of classes in three weeks.
"My greatest concern is for my own players academically," he told Ramsey. "Now with this travel schedule, there's just absolutely no way. You've got to get to the airport two (or) 2 1/2 hours early. You've got to take early flights. A lot of these places, there's only one nonstop flight."
Majerus also said, "The commitment I have to the team, recruiting and scouting, I just can not commit every Monday night to these shows given our travel schedule."
But a coach's show is in the school's contract with WXOS, station management has said. And particularly irking to some was that a few hours after those comments aired on WXOS, Majerus was on WGN with Kaplan -- the two have been friends since 1982.
SLU and 101.1 are business partners in their relationship, leading to little negative public comment from station management. But the station figuratively has thrown up its hands -- program director Jason Barrett said the plug has been pulled on the show that "we'll revisit next year." Other sources say WXOS officials are steaming. After all, the show is supposed to be a promotional platform to help boost awareness of the SLU program, not a big ratings grabber.
SLU athletics director Chris May called the situation "unfortunate" and acknowledged the school's responsible in the mess.
"I think there was some communication that didn't happen as well as we'd like on our end," he said. "Some of the dynamics on our end changed."
How so? "The demands on what Coach was doing and the dynamics of working with the youngest team in the country and what all that entails," he said, adding he will make the program more accessible to the media, and in turn fans -- and potential new fans.
Meanwhile, Cusumano said he thinks Majerus blew off his own program for recruiting purposes.
"Majerus needs Chicago," he said. "He was promoting SLU Billiken basketball in the Windy City for Chicago recruits to hear."
But there certainly are alternate days or weeks he could have appeared there, and Cusumano said Majerus made a mistake -- "He should be doing his radio show, there's no doubt about it."
Kaplan told KFNS that Majerus, who is from Milwaukee, is popular in nearby Chicago.
"I can't tell you how much response we got . . . from people going, 'Man I hope that guy comes to coach DePaul' (and) 'Man I hope that guy can run the Bulls,"' Kaplan said. "People love Rick Majerus in Chicago. And rightly so."
But Kaplan pooh-poohed any idea of Majerus going to Chicago.
"I think Rick is very happy where he's at," he said. "I think he loves coaching there, I think he loves the city. ... He's has made it known he likes it where he's at."