94.1 WIP had to travel more than 2,300 miles to find a replacement for Spike Eskin.
Rod Lakin, the program director for Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, has been hired as WIP’s new brand manager, a fancy title for program director. Jack Keffer, who had been filling in since Eskin left to run WFAN in New York in July, will remain WIP’s assistant program director.
Lakin’s first day will be Monday, Oct. 4.
Lakin’s appointment is an interesting choice for WIP — Lakin was born and raised in Phoenix and has worked there his entire career, climbing the Arizona sports radio ladder from intern to program director. But he’s prepared to swap out Cardinals red for Eagles green (and purchase a few more jackets to survive the cold Philadelphia winters) if it means he has the opportunity to run one of the top sports radio stations in the country.
“In Phoenix, like in a lot of markets, sports is important. It’s fun. People like to dive into it,” Lakin said. “In Philadelphia, it’s just vital. It’s necessary. It’s completely different… Combine that with the strength of the WIP brand, which, it’s a cliché but it’s on the Mount Rushmore of sports radio stations.”
“I’m just excited to go to a sports market where people are so passionate about it,” Lakin added. “There’s nothing more important than to serve the local sports audience, and that’s what we have to deliver on every day. It really doesn’t matter whether or not I was born in Phoenix.”
David Yadgaroff, senior vice president and market manager of Audacy’s seven Philadelphia radio stations, said the job is really managing the problems that come up at the station and creating an environment where hosts can thrive. He was also looking for someone with the vision to continue WIP’s climb up the ratings and into new areas of broadcasting and digital content. Lakin checked all his boxes.
“I liked that he had spent the last two decades in the format in a variety of roles and capacities, because WIP is a complex machine,” said Yadgaroff. “As we talked it felt right, it felt like he was a good fit for WIP, and I thought he’d be a good replacement for Spike.”
Eskin certainly left the cupboards full for Lakin. He inherits a strong lineup that remained well ahead of rival 97.5 The Fanatic in the spring ratings book, which ranks ratings gathered over a three-month period from the end of March to the middle of June. WIP is led by Angelo Cataldi’s long-running morning show, which he hosts alongside Rhea Hughes and Al Morganti. The show finished second overall in the morning behind 93.3 WMMR’s Preston & Steve show, drawing a massive 13.4 share.
“The lineup has been very successful, so I’m not looking at anything there,” Lakin said. “I’m just looking to build on the station’s great success over the last few years and eventually assess if there’s new opportunities to help the brand grow.”
Neither Lakin nor Yadgaroff is expecting Cataldi — who signed a multiyear contract extension back in 2019 — to retire any time soon. But the 70-year-old host won’t be on the radio forever, and it’ll be up to Lakin to build out his bench and develop talent that can take over when Cataldi finally decides to hang up his headset.
“The day Angelo no longer wants to be the morning show host at WIP will be a historic day,” Yadgaroff said. “It’ll be the end of what is probably one of the most unprecedented runs in that space.”