‘Big Al’ Coleman abruptly resigns from ESPN 950
RICHMOND, Va. — After 26 years on the air, Al Coleman abruptly resigned from his on air shift at ESPN 950 on Wednesday, signing off with a brief thanks to those who have listened and supported his program through the years.
Coleman had been doing an 8 a.m. -10 a.m. shift at WXGI up until just over a month ago, when the station moved him to a 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. slot that he admitted just did not fit.
“It was like a size 6 shoe,” Coleman explained from his self-named restaurant in the West End. “It wasn’t something I felt comfortable with. It was a tough spot and I don’t mind tough spots. But it didn’t make sense for me.”
“I’ve been doing mornings for 95 percent of my career. I’ve been doing this too long to just fall into a 3 p.m.- 4 p.m. slot.”
He declined to offer insight as to the switch in shifts.
Coleman left a career as a stock broker back in 1992 to begin “Sportsphone” at WRNL AM 910.
Through more than a quarter century and stops at three different stations, he developed a loyal following of fans who earned their own monikers when calling in.
“It’s not just talking cold, hard, analytical facts. You need to entertain,” Coleman said of his radio career. “You can have bad days, but you have to have fun. If you’re not having fun, you’re listeners aren’t having fun.”
Coleman made his decision over a week ago, but chose Wednesday to make the announcement because it was the last day of February, and he thought that would make fiscal sense for everyone involved. He would not have given his listeners much more notice in any event, but thanked all of them for their years of support.
“You don’t have a show without listeners, sponsors, callers or the staff that you work with,” Coleman explained. “My clients became friends. And that’s important.”
Coleman also admitted without being on the air, he likely would not have his own sports bar that is celebrating its first decade of existence this year.
When asked for career highlights, Coleman struggled to come up with specifics, but remembered having guests like Gordie Howe, Don Shula, and former Redskins head coach Joe Gibbs in studio for longer interviews.
“Joe Gibbs was on for an hour about a year ago,” Coleman remembered. “And he said ‘Wow, you really do know about the Redskins. I’ll do this with you any time.'”
Coleman said he would continue to run his sports bar and enjoy sleeping in without much of an alarm clock moving forward. He was nicely surprised by the reaction to a Facebook post he made shortly after his final show.
“It’s incredible how nice people can be. When you get to times that people perceive as being bad, people can be so nice.”
Coleman will keep his options open about future radio opportunities, but if he has broadcast for the final time, he is at peace with his decision.
“One door closes, another one opens,” Coleman said. “I didn’t retire, I resigned. There’s a big difference there and I hope people understand that.”