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UND reaches radio deal with Clear Channel; longtime broadcaster let go

GRAND FORKS - Clear Channel Grand Forks again will be the flagship radio station of UND athletics. But a longtime voice of Sioux athletics -- one that has called games for more than three decades -- has been silenced.

Clear Channel Grand Forks and UND announced a three-year agreement Wednesday to continue their partnership in carrying Sioux athletics on a 13-station radio network stretching from Warroad, Minn., to Plentywood, Mont.

The partnership, however, will go on without Scott Swygman, who has been involved in broadcasting Sioux games for 32 years.

Under the agreement, UND will buy the airtime from Clear Channel and sell advertisements for Sioux broadcasts. That change from previous radio contracts gave UND the ultimate say in selecting and paying the on-air talent to call Sioux games.

Swygman, who has been involved in every major sport at UND and has been the voice of Sioux basketball for the last two decades, was informed of the school's decision earlier this summer.

Swygman said he's not bitter at UND for leaving him on the sideline. But he is upset with the way the situation was handled.

"I'm not upset with UND," Swygman said. "Their decision is their decision. We're excited at Clear Channel to carry the games again. But from a personal standpoint, I'm a little angry with the way in which it was handled. They didn't handle it with much courtesy or respect."

Initially, Swygman said he was led to believe by UND associate athletic director Sean Johnson that he would return to call Sioux men's and women's basketball games as the contract between Clear Channel and UND was worked out.

"I didn't hear anything for several weeks," Swygman said. "Finally, I called (Johnson) to find out if there was something I needed to do, whether I needed to apply or if there were steps I needed to take.

"He was very abrupt with me. All he told me was that he'd get back to me the following week.

"So on Monday afternoon, he called and said he wanted to see me Tuesday at Clear Channel. He came to see me Tuesday right after I got off the air.

"He said, 'You no longer work for us.' I looked at him and said, 'OK.' He asked me two or three times if I had anything to say. I said no. I was kind of shocked. I didn't get an opportunity to present a case for myself."

Who's calling?

Swygman is the only broadcaster from last season that won't be calling games for UND's during the 2009-10 season.

Paul Ralston will call UND men's and women's basketball games and, as a UND employee, will sell advertising for Sioux games. Ralston was the Sioux women's play-by-play announcer last season and was the color analyst for men's games.

Dan Hammer will return to call Sioux football games, along with Mike Berg and Kelly Howe.

And Tim Hennessy -- the longtime voice of Sioux hockey -- again will broadcast all home and away games.

Johnson said it was hard to leave Swygman out of the mix.

"It was a very, very difficult decision," Johnson said. "We had to make the best decision for us and for the partnership between ourselves and Clear Channel.

"It wasn't about who would do basketball broadcasts. We're paying Clear Channel a rights fee. We had to make a decision for what was best for this particular situation."

Johnson, however, said UND appreciates what Swygman has done for Sioux athletics since the 1970s.

"I can't tell you how much the athletic department appreciates what Scott has done for a number of years," Johnson said.

Swygman said he'll remain loyal to UND, where he came to play football in the early 1970s. During his career, Swygman has worked Sioux basketball, hockey, football and baseball games.

"I have great respect for UND," Swygman said. "I won't badmouth them."

But the way situation was handled, he said, is what stings.

"I think I've always done a good job," Swygman said. "I think I put a good product out there. I'll miss doing the games. I was looking forward to this season. The basketball teams have a great schedule.

"It's not like I expected a parade down University Avenue. A simple thank you or handshake might have been appropriate instead of saying, 'You no longer work for us.' "