Detroit’s sports-talk radio landscape is getting a big addition.
Veteran sports radio personality Rico Beard is joining 97.1 The Ticket as the new partner for Mike Valenti in the popular weekday time slot, from 2-6 p.m., with his debut on Aug. 3.
The pairing of Valenti and Beard brings together two highly opinionated voices that will make for an interesting mix on the last remaining local sports-talk radio station in Detroit.
“It’s an opportunity that I’ve been waiting on for a very, very long time, to be a voice back in the city of Detroit,” Beard told The Detroit News. “This is something that I’m very excited about.”
Entercom, the parent company for 97.1 The Ticket, announced the move Thursday.
Valenti has been the solo host on the show for the past three years. Prior to that, Valenti had worked with former Detroit News columnist Terry Foster on the highly successful “Valenti and Foster Show” for 13 years, until Foster retired in 2017.
“I’ve wanted to work with Rico for several years now and it is simply fantastic the occasion has arrived,” Valenti said in a statement. “Adding Rico to our show represents a massive opportunity to not only stay at No. 1 but to evolve and become even stronger. I’m really proud of the show we created.”
Beard has worked in the television and radio industry in Michigan for more than two decades, most recently hosting “The Spartan Beat” podcast. He also had a three-year stint with the now-defunct “Ryan and Rico Show” with co-host Ryan Ermanni on former rival station 105.1, which abandoned its sports-talk format in 2016.
He said that when Valenti reached out and asked him to join the show on 97.1, it came as something of a shock.
“That was huge. When Mike called me, I thought he was trying to prank me; I thought it was a joke,” Beard said. “I’m not coming in to be Mike’s cheerleader; I’m coming in to push and challenge him.”
Valenti and Beard have bombastic personalities and how they mix on air will be interesting, as will be their past affinities for Michigan State sports. Valenti has been critical of the MSU program and Beard, who also is well connected in Spartans circles, isn’t afraid to say exactly how he feels — good or bad.
“It’s not all green all the time. Mike’s not the biggest MSU fan all the time. It’s about telling the truth,” Beard said. “If the teams are good, we’ll praise them; if they’re bad, we’ll expose them. We’re not going to be cheerleaders and say that everything is great, or everything is awesome.”
While Valenti has been the solo attraction on the show for the past three years, producer and contributor Mike Sullivan has had an increased role. Along with the announcement of Beard’s hiring, Entercom revealed that Sullivan’s six-year career with 97.1 will end on July 31.
“Sullivan has meant a lot to this show, to the station and to me personally,” Valenti said in the statement. “I wish him all the success in the world.”
In his time at 105.1 and previously at another 97.1 rival, WDFN, Beard said he learned a lot about the radio business and connecting with Detroit sports fans in a genuine way. Instead of pandering to what popular opinion might be, there’s a responsibility that goes with sitting in front of the microphone that he doesn’t take for granted.
“That time showed me a lot, that this indeed was a business and goes back to my time at WDFN — you have to believe in what you say; you can’t just throw out a hot take,” he said. “If you don’t believe it, you don’t say it.
“It was something a former producer, Marti Martin, said early in my career and it stuck with me. If you don’t believe it, people will see right through it.”
Beard sees his return to the airwaves in the city as a missing piece that he can bring to the new show.
“It’s just my different life experiences, a different way of doing things. As a native Detroiter, I’ve grown up experiencing the teams and colleges and their rise and falls and I’ve seen great players come through here, have their greatness and then retire,” Beard said. “This is personal. I know the pain, angst and happiness of Detroiters. I’ve watched Barry Sanders say doesn’t want to play anymore and fax his retirement announcement.
“I know the anger of the Lions not winning a playoff game for so long. I was there in January of 1992 and little did I know that would be last time they won a postseason game.”