« Le Batard move official, moves to 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. starting Tuesday; Le Batard fallout; Winslow discusses how Heat plans to use him, his on-court improvements and other issues; UM notes | Main | Here's who the Dolphins plan to cut today; Other notable cuts; NFL TV preview »

11 p.m.: UM suspension; Heat roster moves; Le Batard discusses his radio show's move to middays, why he agreed to it; 5 p.m. update, new twist on how The Ticket will replace Le Batard in afternoons; WQAM dumps prominent ex-Cane

11 p.m. update:

### UM has suspended defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad for Saturday's opener against Bethune Cookman for a violation of team rules (not believed to be drug-related). The suspension, which I confirmed and was originally reported by Peter Ariz, will be for only one game unless AQM does something else wrong before the second game, according to a person briefed on the situation.

Muhammad was a four-star recruit and rated the No. 3 defensive end in the 2013 class by rivals.com. But he had only eight tackles as a freshman and was suspended from school in the fall of 2014 after punching a former student in the nose in the Sun Life Stadium parking lot following the team's spring game. Muhammad's gruff personality has rubbed some the wrong way, but UM coaches like him and would like to make it work with him.

Muhammad's failure to win a starting job is unrelated to his suspension, I'm told. Trent Harris simply beat him out in camp.

### The Heat has only one roster opening left after finalizing a training camp deal with undrafted Virginia Commonwealth point guard Briante Weber, as Yahoo! reported.

The Heat has been discussing having former Georgetown center Joshua Smith possibly fill the 20th roster spot, but Miami has other options, too.

Smith, 6-10 and 360 pounds, played for the Heat in Summer League after averaging 10.8 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.7 blocks for Georgetown last season. A former McDonald's All American, Smith began his college career at UCLA.

Webber ranks third all-time in steals in NCAA history and averaged 2.7, 3.5 and 3.9 steals in his three seasons at VCU.

Weber, 6-2, averaged 8.1 points, 4.3 assists and 1.7 turnovers last season. He doesn't shoot a lot of threes, making just 12 of 29 last season. His college career ended when he suffered a torn ACL and MCL in a late-January loss to Richmond.

He would be the 19th Heat player under contract, just one under the maximum permitted for training camp. Teams can carry no more than 15 in the regular season.

Chad Ford rated him the 73rd best player in this past June's draft.



Another crazy day in South Florida sports radio began with The Ticket announcing one lineup, then throwing a curveball six hours later after corporate meetings that focused, among other things, on how to replace ratings giant Dan Le Batard in afternoon drive.

Ethan Skolnick and Israel Gutierrez emerged with that late-afternoon job, at least on a temporary basis, and we'll get to that later in the column.

But the big media story Thursday was ESPN's formal announcement that Le Batard will be replacing Fox-bound Colin Cowherd from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. weekdays. And so the South Florida radio show that became so popular that ESPN decided to air it nationally now moves six hours earlier in the day beginning Tuesday, quite an adjustment for Le Batard and his loyal listeners.

The first time ESPN pitched Le Batard on the idea of moving to 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Le Batard said his reaction was “mixed. Found it interesting but hadn't given it much to any thought because we have been happy with what we've been doing for a long time and I didn't really want to mess with happy."

So two years after ESPN began airing his radio show, why did he agree to the time shift?

“Everyone around me wants it,” Le Batard said. “Not just our team. But ESPN, [790] The Ticket, everyone. I was literally the only one tapping brakes. And it is low risk, high reward. That's an ideal way to make a decision. Huge support, minimal risk and high reward. 

“My tiny reluctance isn't enough to push back against that. It's not a forever contract. If we try it and fail, me and Stugotz [Jon Weiner] and our team will transition into selling arepas on Calle Ocho before Marlins games." 

Le Batard assures that the program --- which will be simulcast live on ESPNU and aired on tape on Fusion at 1 p.m. --- won’t be any different, that he won’t do anything to conform to a “traditional” ESPN show.

"It better not [change],” Le Batard said. “I've been adamant about that. I don't want our fun diluted by degrees. I've gotten every assurance about that. ESPN says it wants our show, this show. That remains to be seen, right? But everyone at ESPN has promised me they won't mess with the format one ounce. 

“ESPN has earned my trust there. ESPN hasn't messed with our show in two years. We have a Miami zoo guy on weekly [Ron Magill], for God's sake. I'm sure that we will be met with great audience hostility the first six months when people used to the polish of broadcast professionals are met with our careening, reckless Miami mess. Only changes I'd predict are the one that comes with growth. And Stugotz somehow reversing evolution and becoming more like an ape."

What makes Le Batard’s show so appealing is that it’s unlike anything on radio --- smart, irreverent, whimsical, self-mocking, unwilling to ask the cliché questions that beget cliché answers.

But Le Batard and Weiner also know that when the program is introduced to a new audience --- as it will be next week, when it airs in morning drive on the West Coast --- that it takes awhile for some listeners to warm up to it.

Though afternoon drive is a more prestigious time slot than middays on local radio, that isn't the case with ESPN's national programming. More affiliates carry ESPN Radio from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. EST than 4 to 7 p.m.

Le Batard also agreed to do a local hour from 9 to 10 a.m. on The Ticket because "that was one of my few wants here, even though I'm not a morning person and I certainly would prefer just 10-1 as a lifestyle. I wanted to keep giving South Florida four hours of our show, how ever I could, and 9 a.m. was the only possible time it could actually work. 

“We have TV and studio conflicts after the show. Can't claim we aren't changing, that we'll be equally South Florida, and then lose the one hour that is exclusively South Florida.”

The Ticket also will air a fifth hour of Le Batard --- essentially a “best of” show with morning content --- from 3 to 4 p.m. weekdays. 

“I never imagined any of this,” Le Batard said. “I just wanted to do a little show for South Florida and my neighbors. Always. So that's the little show we are going to keep doing. And ESPN is betting America will find it interesting and contagious, which is somehow an indictment of both ESPN and America."

Le Batard will continue doing his ESPN TV show, Highly Questionable, at 4 p.m. weekdays.

How The Ticket will replace Le Batard in afternoon drive-time has been a story with lots of twists and turns, and it still hasn't reached conclusion.

At 10 a.m. Thursday, morning co-host Jonathan Zaslow announced on the air that Josh Friedman and Chris Wittyngham will move into the 4 to 7 p.m. slot on The Ticket "for now," beginning Tuesday. Management had made clear that both were candidates for the job permanently.

But after several hours of corporate meetings, management emerged with plans to use Gutierrez and Skolnick in that 4 to 7 p.m. time slot as soon as Gutierrez becomes available Sept. 16. They are poised to keep the job longterm if they fulfill management's expectations.

Station general manager Doug Abernathy explained that "Josh and Chris were killing it at night" in the ratings before moving to 10 a.m. last month, and "we want the least amount of disruption as possible. People expect Josh and Chris in the evening."

As for Skolnick and Gutierrez --- who have built sizable followings in this market --- Abernathy said he's eager to hear how they do in a high-profile time slot. Skolnick has appeared regularly on the 1 to 3 p.m. program the past two years, while Gutierrez appears twice a week on the morning show.

"We've giving [Skolnick and Gutierrez] an opportunity to be the quarterback of an afternoon drive show," Abernathy said. "Here's a real opportunity for them to prove themselves. They've done great shows but doing it in prime time [afternoon drive] is a little different. You've got to be perfect every day. We believe they can do it but they've got to do it." 

### Zaslow’s and Joy Taylor's morning show will start 30 minutes earlier (5:30 a.m.) because they're losing their last hour to Le Batard. Eric Reed and Leroy Hoard remain hosts from 1 to 3 p.m.


### WQAM-560 informed former UM star Randal Hill that he will not be retained as the station’s pregame Hurricanes analyst because he’s running for U.S. Congress.

“The station said they would have to give my opponent equal time,” said Hill, who has announced plans to challenge incumbent Frederica Wilson for a District 24 Congressional seat in an August 2016 Democratic primary.

Hill said that equal-time issue is “crazy” and shouldn’t apply in this case because he will be discussing only UM football, not politics. But WQAM said it believed it needed to cut ties with Hill because of FCC equal time rules.

By the way, Jimmy Johnson has agreed to appear at a fund-raiser for Hill at 5 p.m. Sept. 24 at Fowler/White/Burnett PA on Brickell Avenue.

### Even though he’s now working for Al Golden’s UM football staff, WQAM will keep Josh Darrow as its Hurricanes football sideline reporter --- a role he handled capably in past years.

### Saturday’s UM-Bethune Cookman opener (available only on ESPN broadband service) is expected to be the only Hurricanes football game not on television this season. FYI: All Dolphins, Heat and Panther games are expected to be on TV.

### No joke: Lou Holtz, who parted ways with ESPN in what was announced as a mutual decision, will become a weekly contributor on the Golf Network's studio show, Morning Drive. Holtz, an avid golfer, will discuss both golf and college football.

Twitter: @flasportsbuzz