Paul Alan Finebaum is an American sports author, television and radio personality, and former columnist. His primary focus is sports, particularly those in the Southeast. After many years as a reporter, columnist, and sports-talk radio host in the Birmingham area, Finebaum was hired by ESPN in 2013 for its new SEC Network starting in 2014, and produces a radio show out of the network's regional base in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Finebaum in 2018
Paul Alan Finebaum
Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
|Education||BA, University of Tennessee 1978 (Political Science)|
|Occupation||Sportscaster, Sports author, TV / Radio personality, Sports columnist|
SEC Network, Pardon My Take, College football, The Paul Finebaum Radio Network
Finebaum attended Christian Brothers High School and White Station High School in Memphis before graduating from the University of Tennessee, where he received a degree in Political Science, in 1978. He served as host of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, whose flagship station was on WJOX-FM from 2:05-6pm CST. The show was syndicated in Alabama (27 stations), Mississippi (2 stations), Tennessee (3), and on single stations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and also heard on Sirius XM Radio's Channel 81. His radio show is simulcast every day on the SEC Network and heard on Sirius XM radio. He is also a regular on ESPN's College Football Live, Sportscenter, Golic & Wingo, First Take, Outside the Lines, SEC Nation and College GameDay. He is considered one of the medium's finest interviewers.
Recently, ESPN's Joe Tessitore, on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast (12-8-16) with Richard Deitsch, said: "If you asked me who are the two greatest interviewers on radio and television, I would say Paul Finebaum and Howard Stern." In the College GameDay episode of Origins, the new podcast, James Andrew Miller said: "Paul Finebaum knows the American Southeast like Jay-Z knows Brooklyn. And that's a big blast of wind at your back if your job is covering college football. His instincts as an interviewer rank him in the top tier of the sports world. And he is beyond mere savvy when it comes to speaking very virally." And in March, 2019, Bobby Burack writing in The Big Lead, praised his role as the preeminent voice in the game: "Finebaum's gives the most must-hear, mind-changing, make-you-stop-and-think opinions on the sport. Finebaum is one of ESPN's most valuable people."
Finebaum arrived in Birmingham in 1980 and became a columnist and reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald. Finebaum's work has earned him more than 250 national, regional, and area sports writing awards, including his stories on the recruitment of Alabama basketball player Buck Johnson. He also in 1993 broke the story of Antonio Langham, a University of Alabama football player who signed a contract with a sports agent while playing for the school, which led to a NCAA probation for the school. He was also the first to report the firing of Auburn University coach Terry Bowden in 1998. Finebaum joined the Mobile Press Register in 2001 where he wrote a twice-weekly (later weekly) column with the column syndicated to other newspapers. Finebaum discontinued the column in December 2010. On September 1, Finebaum returned to writing with his first column for Sports Illustrated. His weekly column appears every Thursday at SI.com. His Christmas Eve column on a radio caller from Iowa suffering from cerebral palsy was among the most acclaimed stories of his career.
Finebaum started his radio appearances in the mid-1980s by giving morning commentary on the Mark and Brian Radio Show on WAPI-FM (I-95). After starting his own afternoon radio show a few years later on WAPI-AM, his program quickly became the highest rated sport-talk show in Birmingham. In October 1993, Finebaum moved his sports-talk show to WERC.
The Paul Finebaum Radio NetworkEdit
In 2001, Finebaum, along with Network Director Pat Smith and Producer Kerry Adams, launched The Paul Finebaum Radio Network, syndicated with affiliates across the southeast. It was named in 2004 by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 12 sports radio shows in the United States. In January 2007, his radio show moved to WJOX.
Finebaum found himself embroiled at the center of one of biggest college sports stories in America in 2011 – the poisoning of the famous trees on Toomer's Corner at Auburn University. The man charged, Harvey Updyke, called the Finebaum show, claiming to have poisoned the trees. The audio of the call was played on nearly every national radio show and television newscast in the nation. In the aftermath, Finebaum was featured on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, appeared on CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and several other networks. He also was blamed by many for the event including one caller saying "if anything else happens, there will be blood on your hands." On April 21, Updyke appeared again on the Finebaum show, speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, breaking his long silence. The interview, perhaps the most listened to ever in the history of the Finebaum show, made national news, appearing in publications ranging from The New York Times to ESPN's SportsCenter. Updyke ended the 45-minute interview with his signature Roll Damn Tide.
In late May 2011, Finebaum conducted a four-hour interview with Randy Owen, lead singer of the country band Alabama, that he later called "the most memorable and meaningful program we have ever done" as they were raising awareness for victims of the April 27 tornadoes.
Finebaum's show went off the air on WJOX temporarily on January 21, 2013 when his contract with Cumulus and WJOX expired. The New Yorker reported he "had talks with ESPN and CBS, about joining their national radio networks, and with SiriusXM, about moving permanently to satellite."
In May 2013, Finebaum signed with ESPN to appear on its new SEC Network beginning in 2014, and also host a daily radio show based out of Charlotte. In July 2018, after a much-publicized negotiation, Finebaum signed a new deal with ESPN. There had been speculation from The Sporting News in an article by Michael McCarthy Finebaum was being wooed by Fox Sports to possibly jump to the Big 10 Network. Dan Wolken of USA Today, in a July 10 article headlined: ``Paul Finebaum's potential departure is the biggest storyline in the SEC as media days nears. No terms of the deal were released, but John Ourand of the Sports Business Journal wrote new ESPN president Jimmy Pitaro "personally had a hand in the negotiations with Finebaum and his reps at CAA (Nick Khan). Ourand said the new deal "is believed to make Finebaum ESPN's second-highest paid college football talent, behind only analyst Kirk Herbstreit." SBJ reported the new deal called for a salary of approximately $2 million annually.
Finebaum's television contributions have been numerous. In Birmingham he currently appears as a sports analyst for WBRC. He was sports director for WIAT-TV from 1998 to 2002 and co-hosted individual shows on WVTM-TV and WBMA.
Finebaum also had a leading role in ESPN's documentary Roll Tide/War Eagle. The producers used Finebaum and his program as the voice of the documentary, which debuted on November 8, 2011.
As part of the deal Finebaum signed with ESPN in May 2013, he agreed to appear on its new SEC Network starting in 2014, hosting The Paul Finebaum Show in simulcast for ESPN Radio. As an extension of the radio show, Finebaum has also hosted special broadcasts on SEC Network during high-profile football games involving SEC teams—the Finebaum Film Room—particularly during College Football Playoff National Championship games.
Finebaum's books include his popular I Hate... series, including I Hate Michigan: 303 Reasons Why You Should, Too, and several dozen similarly titled works.
Finebaum's other books include The Worst of Paul Finebaum (ISBN 1881548120), a 1994 compilation of some of the newspaper columns he has written; and Finebaum Said (ISBN 1931656037), a 2001 collection of columns and interviews.
On March 27, 2013, the Birmingham News reported that Finebaum agreed to an advance (later reported to be $650,000) with HarperCollins to write a book about the radio show. HarperCollins Senior Vice President and Executive Editor David Hirshey said "We expect this book to occupy the same spot on the best-seller list that Alabama occupies in the BCS rankings – number one." In February, Publishers Weekly reported the book would arrive on August 5 with a first run of 150,000 copies. The book, which was excerpted in the Wall Street Journal on August 5, quickly made the New York Times best-seller list, landing at No. 6 among sports books. The book remained on the best-seller list for five months.
In 2002, Finebaum was named by The Tennessean in Nashville as one of the Southeastern Conference's Top Power Brokers. In July 2009, The Orlando Sentinel named Finebaum as one of the SEC's 10 most powerful people. On January 11, 2011, CNBC's Emmy-Award-winning sports reporter, Darren Rovell wrote: "Back 2 back titles by Alabama & Auburn make Finebaum the most powerful small market sports media member in the nation" and called him "the best listener of any sports talk radio host." In December 2012, Sports Illustrated, in its year-end review of sports media, listed gave Finebaum an Honorable Mention along with 10 other names for "Best National Radio Voice".
In 2008, Columbia University named Finebaum's Show as one of the winners of its annual 'Let's Do it Better! Workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity' awards for providing a strong and sometimes controversial view on racial issues in sports. In particular, Columbia cited a poignant show on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday – which highlighted the slain Civil Rights leaders' still strong connections with today's sports stars. Among Finebaum's written works noted included a column in the Mobile Press-Register on the first two black coaches in the bowl, the admission of a NBA star that he was gay, a column on the University of Alabama snubbing Sylvester Croom to be the first black football head coach in the SEC, and a tribute to the late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson.
Reeves Wiedeman profiled the radio host in a 5,000-word article, "King of the South", in the December 10, 2012 edition of the New Yorker. According to the Wiedeman, it was The New Yorker's first major piece on a college football figure in more than 10 years. Several months later, on February 6, 2013, The Wall Street Journal, in a profile by writer Rachel Bachman, stated: "Paul Finebaum is not only one of the nation's best-known sports-talk radio hosts. He is perhaps college football's best-known voice since TV announcer Keith Jackson retired." The Journal ended the story, referring to Finebaum as "the Oprah Winfrey of college football." On March 6, 2013, Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch unveiled a ranking of the 20 Most Powerful People in Sports Media nationally and Finebaum came in at No. 17.
In May 2015, The Big Lead, part of USA Today's sports online network, ranked Finebaum No. 18 in a piece on The 25 Most Powerful People in Sports Media, writing: "He was profiled by the New Yorker, and that was before he became a multimedia presence on ESPN and the SEC Network. His radio show is a focal point for college football fans and media members. He can alter the sport's national discussion with an interview, a hot bit of gossip, and offhand comment or a tweet."
In July 2015, the college football website, Saturday Down South, ranked Finebaum No. 3 among the SEC's most influential people, saying "Finebaum has masterfully positioned himself to be "the voice of the SEC." At the conclusion of SEC Media Days, "Saturday Down South" also ranked the top 10 commentators and media figures, and Finebaum was ranked No. 1. "There was really little question as to who would top this list," wrote Saturday Down South. "In the midst of facilitating what can turn into a crazy sideshow, Finebaum has managed to develop one of the league's most respected voices." Also, Rosalyn Durant, the new head of the SEC Network, told Al.com in an interview, that ESPN will utilize Finebaum even more in its second year. "Finebaum has been a great success for us," Durant said, "and we want to continue to grow his brand on television. You can expect to see more of Paul and see him out on location with us as much as you've seen and even more so. He's a tremendous asset to the Network." Also, the Charlotte Business Journal ranked Finebaum No. 8 among The 10 Most Influential People in Sports in the Carolinas. Also, listed were Michael Jordan, Stephen Curry and Cam Newton.
In January 2017, The Big Lead had Finebaum No. 25 on a list of The 30 Most Powerful Talents in Sports Media Today, saying: "Finebaum owns the SEC region, and when he wields his cudgel on a coach or program in scandal, it cuts deeper than just about any voice. He has his finger on the pulse of Nick Saban and Alabama, which you might as well write in the CFB playoffs every year in a Sharpie." On February 1, 2018 Jason Barrett of Barrett Sports Media, polled 35 radio executives from the nation, and listed Finebaum No. 7 in "America's Top 20 National Sports Shows of 2017." In January 2019, The Big Lead ranked the 75 Most Powerful People in the Sports Media, a list ranging from Disney chairman Bob Iger and Fox chief Rupert Murdoch to LeBron James to sports talent on various network. Finebaum came in at No. 35, tied with Jay Bilas. ``Paul Finebaum and Jay Bilas are arguably the most influential voices on college football and college basketball respectively. Finebaum has a huge impact on the most important region in the sport ... They (Finebaum and Bilas) are two truly untouchable voices." In February 2019, Jason Barrett's annual ranking of the Top 20 National Sports Shows saw Finebaum land at No. 6.
Finebaum's show was also featured recently on ESPN's Sportscenter and in various publications for a group of callers coming together to raise from money for the infamous caller, Phyllis from Mulga, whose husband is seriously ill.
In October 2013, the University of Tennessee honored Finebaum by presenting him with the "Accomplished Alumni Award," "which recognizes notable alumni for their success and distinction within their field." In April 2014, he returned to Knoxville to give the keynote speech at the annual UT Social Media Workshop. In October, Finebaum gave a lecture at the University of Missouri's famed Journalism school (recently chosen No. 1 in America) while in Columbia for an SEC Nation broadcast. On Jan 27, it was announced that Finebaum would be the commencement speaker at the Ole Miss Law School. Dean Richard Gershon said Finebaum would speak at the graduation ceremony on May 9 in the Grove. Finebaum was the keynote speaker at the annual Cancer Wellness fund-raiser in Montgomery on March 13. He followed Nick Saban, Eli Manning and Tim Tebow as the keynote. He was also the speaker in May at the 6th Annual Leadership Luncheon in Birmingham, benefiting Changed Lives Christian Center and the Foundry Ministries. He followed Gus Malzahn, Nick Saban and Les Miles.
On June 23, 2016, Finebaum delivered the keynote at the annual meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors annual convention in Charlotte. He gave an emotionally charged address, challenging the group to remain firm to its core principals, adding "journalism is not a reality show." A copy of the speech is available at apsportseditors.org. In May 2018, Finebaum delivered the eulogy of his close friend SEC Commissioner Mike Slive in Birmingham, an occasion live streamed on Al.com. Kevin Scarbinsky, the long-time columnist, said: His eulogy for dear friend Mike Slive had to be among the most personal and painful minutes Finebaum ever spent behind a microphone. Paul's moving tribute may have been his finest hour.
- "ESPN hires Paul Finebaum". USA Today. May 23, 2013.
- "SMW 2014 - Paul Finebaum". College of Communication & Information. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "Cumulus Media". finebaum.com. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- Carter, Robert (February 2, 2011). "FINE-GONE: Paul Finebaum ends syndicated column". The North Jefferson News. Archived from the original on September 5, 2012.
- "Finebaum joins WJOX radio station". The Decatur Daily (via Associated Press). January 20, 2007. Archived from the original on May 21, 2007.
- "Is Finebaum to blame for Auburn tree poisoning? Will controversy help or hurt him?". Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- Wideman, Reeves (December 10, 2012). "King of the South: How Paul Finebaum became Alabama's biggest booster". The New Yorker.
- Bishop, Greg (May 21, 2013). "Radio Host Paul Finebaum joins ESPN". The New York Times.
- "Paul Finebaum hears 'train wreck' predictions for live Iron Bowl show, phones ready this time". AL.com. Retrieved November 30, 2014.
- "Paul Finebaum agrees to book deal with HarperCollins for memoir about his radio show". Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 13, 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
- "The SEC's 10 most powerful people". Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- "SI.com's Media Awards: Best, worst from 2012". CNN. December 19, 2012.
- "Ranking the 10 most powerful people in sports media". CNN. March 6, 2013.
- "Renowned Sports Journalist Honored with Accomplished Alumni Award". October 18, 2013. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
- Hester, Wayne (August 23, 2015). "Once a Birmingham sports columnist, Finebaum hits the big time at ESPN". The Anniston Star.
- Wiedman, Reeves (December 10, 2012). "King of the South". The New Yorker.
- St. John, Warren (December 10, 2012). "Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer". ESPN.
- Fatsis, Stefan; Levin, Josh; Pesca, Mike (December 3, 2012). "Hang Up and Listen: The How To Talk About a Murder-Suicide Edition. Slate's sports podcast on Jovan Belcher, Alabama sports radio host Paul Finebaum, and the contretemps over the Spurs resting their starters". Slate.
- Barnes, Susan. (Summer 2005) "The Devil We Know". Tennessee Alumnus Magazine. Vol. 85, No. 3 – accessed April 16, 2006
- Paul Finebaum is "the most influential sports-talk personality in the Southeast" – Huntsville Times, August 21, 2003.
- "Paul Finebaum, the state's most influential sports columnist and talk-show host" – New York Times, May 4, 2003.
- Fowler, Jeremy. "Finebaum voted as one of the SEC's 10 most powerful people"- "". Orlando Sentinel, July 10, 2009.