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Syracuse sports talk host fired for not being a fanboy

Some wild news out of Syracuse today: Brent Axe, who hosted the local ESPN Radio affiliate’s afternoon drive program, has been canned because he was too negative about the Orange.

No, really. The station bigwig actually said this out loud.

From Syracuse.com:

Galaxy President and CEO Ed Levine said he fired Axe because he believes the content of Axe’s show had become too negative toward Syracuse University sports.


“I had a problem with the content of the show,” Levine said. “I’m an SU fan. I’m sorry, but I bleed Orange. I’m not going to apologize for that, and I think a fair reading of the Orange is appropriate. I understand (Galaxy has) a business relationship (with Syracuse), that coach (Jim) Boeheim and I are personal friends and he’s an investor in my company.“I understand and acknowledge all of that. We’ve called it pretty fair, and I would argue we’ve been tough on SU when the on-field or off-field events warrant it. I just think over the past six months it took a different tone and became overly dark and negative. I don’t think that’s what Syracuse fans want to hear.”

Axe had hosted on ESPN Radio Syracuse since 2014 in addition to his still-ongoing work as a sports columnist for Syracuse.com and The Post-Dispatch (disclosure: I have appeared on the show several times for unpaid segments and used to work for Syracuse.com’s sister site).

Axe said he never received any indication the show was losing audience and sponsors due to content. And the timing is quite suspect, despite Levine’s denials, given his relationship with Boeheim, Boeheim’s ownership stake in the station, Boeheim’s past shots at Axe and the fact he will now have ample time to appear on its airwaves after getting pushed out the door as men’s basketball coach.

The fact Axe got sacked five minutes after the perception Boeheim got his biggest critic fired would no longer be as politically volatile — seems a bit on the nose, no? Galaxy has Syracuse’s broadcast rights, so that is another problematic angle — the athletics department likely did some griping as well.

Levine also fired some shots at Syracuse.com for good measure:

Levine said he thinks Syracuse.com and The Post-Standard’s coverage of Syracuse sports is too negative. He said he thinks Axe carried that approach over to his radio station and that it wasn’t in his company’s interest.

He said he believes acknowledging the negative is necessary but Axe was focusing on it too much.

“Brent is a full-time employee of Syracuse.com,” Levine said. “I believe Syracuse.com has an agenda in regards to Syracuse University. I don’t know what that agenda is, but that agenda was manifesting itself on our airwaves. We have no agenda. We’re in business with Syracuse University, but we call it straight down the line. What I said to Brent was I wish he covered Syracuse University with the same affection that he covered the Buffalo Bills.”

Uh, I am pretty sure you do have an agenda there, actually.

This is pathetic all around. Levine is a clown, Boeheim is a bully and — if it influenced this move — Syracuse needs to grow some thicker skin. Axe was and is a professional who called it like he saw it. Which is what real journalists do. And Levine will soon learn that going full homer never leads to the results you anticipated. Because listeners will just tune out the house organ at some point.

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James Kratch is the managing editor of ESNY. He previously worked as a Rutgers and Giants (and Mike Francesa) beat reporter for NJ Advance Media.