In a move that surprises no one, KATV announced this morning that Steve Sullivan would be the station's new sport director. Sullivan, who joined the station seven years ago from KARK, where he was the lead sports anchor there, takes over for Paul Eells, who was killed in a car accident July 31. It's common knowledge around the local TV industry that Sullivan was doing all the main "sports director" work in terms of setting up interviews and running the day-to-day at KATV for Eells the past few years.
Eells, as well as Sullivan, would also have to commute to Fayetteville regularly to cover the Razorbacks. In fact, Eells was returning from Fayetteville on July 31 after covering a Houston Nutt sponsored golf tournament and press conference about Hog tailback Darren McFadden's toe injury when he was killed.
KATV announced today that it would open a permanent bureau in Fayetteville, meaning they'll man it with a full-time sports anchor that will compete with the "Razorback Nation" crew that covers the Hogs for KARK, Channel 4. Rusty Jackson, a news reporter, will fill that new role for KATV.
KATV's move seems to indicate it will attempt to remain a player in control over who is "Voice of the Razorbacks" when that position is permanently filled next year. Fayetteville-based Mike Nail will be the temporary football replacement for Eells this season, and Nail is the basketball voice of the Razorbacks. KATV's lead sports anchor covering the Razorbacks has been considered the "Voice" of the team since Bud Campbell switched from KARK to KATV in 1965.
Sullivan, who has been in the business for 20 years, is host for KATV's "Sports Week" and its "Friday Night Touchdowns" high school football recap shows. He's a two-time Arkansas Sportscaster of the Year, voted on by his peers.
Here's more from KATV's press release:
“KATV has been the home of the Arkansas Razorbacks for the past 40 years,” KATV President and General Manager Dale Nicholson says, “and we are proud to continue that history of award winning Razorback coverage with Steve Sullivan.”
“Paul Eells can never be replaced, but I am honored for the opportunity to walk in his footsteps and continue KATV’s dedication to the Hogs,” says Sullivan.
Channel Seven Sports will also carry on the legacy of sports excellence by opening a full-time bureau in Fayetteville, dedicated to daily Razorback reports. Hog Central will be led by KATV reporter and former sports anchor-reporter Rusty Jackson.
“As an Arkansas native, I grew up a fan of KATV’s Razorback coverage and I am excited to be a part of it,” says Jackson.
Jackson is no stranger to the Razorbacks. He is a University of Arkansas graduate and spent more than two years covering the Razorbacks as a sports anchor and reporter in northwest Arkansas. Ironically, Jackson’s first assignment will not be in Fayetteville. He is in Los Angeles today covering USC’s preparations for Saturday’s game against Arkansas.
News Director Randy Dixon says he is excited about the new opportunities that the bureau will allow, “The close proximity to the Hog headquarters will increase the scope of our coverage, but it will not be limited to the state. We’ll go wherever the Hogs take us.”