Less than a year after hiring a new program director, ESPN 980 will again be making changes at the top.
Staffers were told in an e-mail Monday evening that Dan Zampillo — hired last April in the aftermath of the “Man Cave” fiasco — had resigned his position, although he had agreed to work with the station through the transitional period. No replacement was mentioned.
The news continues a tumultuous year at the Daniel Snyder-controlled sports-talk station. First came last spring’s strange series of events, in which the debut of a new morning show called “The Man Cave” was delayed for two weeks. While the delay was never explained, subsequent reporting revealed an elaborate and bizarre back story, including prank phone calls from someone pretending to be ESPN President John Skipper and demanding that the show be scuttled.
Longtime ESPN 980 program director Chuck Sapienza — the driving force behind the new show — resigned during the episode, and while the morning show eventually made it on the air, it was canceled in October less than seven months after its debut. It was replaced by a combination of national programming and Redskins- and NFL-themed local shows, which continued last week even with the Redskins out of the playoffs.
Last month, the Redskins confirmed that Red Zebra broadcasting chief executive Rick Carmean had left the company and would not be replaced. The team also said that Redskins Executive Vice President Terry Bateman, the chairman of Red Zebra, would take a more active role in running the stations, including 980, the team’s flagship station. Bateman said then that the move signaled a closer business relationship between the Redskins and the station, but there would “absolutely not” be increased control of the station’s content.
“The team is not really any more closely involved than it was before,” Bateman said at the time. “Everybody knows what the ownership structure of the team and the station was before; it’s exactly the same now. There’s not any difference. So the only thing we’re doing really is working closer on the business relationship. …
“If the Redskins stink it up on Sunday, then it’s your job to tell the truth about what’s going on, right?” he said he told the station’s employees. “You’ve got to talk about it, because otherwise you’ve got zero credibility. If you take it to a personal level and start assaulting somebody’s character, I don’t care if you’re a radio talk-show host or a software executive or anybody else; that’s inappropriate. It’s just human decency. So keep the line there.”
A Redskins spokesman confirmed Tuesday that the station is “in the process of restructuring.” Zampillo, the former director of programming for Bleacher Report and NBA Radio at Sirius XM Radio, declined to comment. Monday’s e-mail to 980 staffers thanked Zampillo “for his continuous support,” and asked employees to wish him success in future endeavors.
UPDATE: Multiple radio industry sources confirmed that the station is also eliminating its Redskins beat reporter position, costing Craig Hoffman his job. Hoffman was hired to cover the team during training camp, moving to the Washington area from Dallas.