Trey Wingo has the not-so-envious job of replacing a legendary morning fixture on ESPN Radio. With the departure of Mike Greenberg and the ending of the 18-year run of “Mike and Mike,” Wingo was selected to plug in across from Mike Golic and be part of the next chapter in morning sports talk radio for the network. The “Golic & Wingo” show debuted Monday (November 27).
Wingo is a 20-year ESPN veteran, but has spent more time in front of a camera than behind the microphone. He is the host of ESPN’s “NFL Live,” “NFL Primetime” and the network’s presentation of the NFL Draft and the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony.
His prior ESPN Radio experience includes hosting “The NFL on ESPN Radio.” Before taking over for Chris Berman for coverage of the NFL Draft on ESPN TV, Wingo hosted the radio coverage of the draft.
Inside Radio caught up with Wingo just a few days into his new syndicated morning radio gig to discuss the transition from TV to morning radio, Greenberg’s support during the transition, working with a pair of Golic’s, and the best NFL stadium for tailgating. An edited transcript follows.
You’re the new guy replacing one-half of one of the most successful sports talk morning shows on the radio – ever. No pressure, right?
I know what I was getting into. Mike and Mike are rock stars. They’re in the National Radio Hall of Fame for a reason. This is not my doing. This was somebody else's decision and they asked me if I wanted to do it and I said absolutely. I kind of feel it’s very similar to when I took over the NFL Draft coverage on ESPN from Chris Berman. Chris Berman is on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I knew on the first day I took over for Berman there would be high expectations. It feels very similar. I have sort of the same rationale about how I’m approaching this new show with Mike Golic. They’ve already built a foundation. My job is to just not play with matches and burn it down. My job is to just carry it forward. That’s my job with “Golic and Wingo,” just carry this forward in the best possible way.
You have a TV background for the most part. How are you adjusting to the daily grind of morning radio?
Well, that is an adjustment. I’m not going to lie. By personality or genetics, I’m a night owl. I always have been. Part of that is the business. You start in this business doing local television and you go on late night on the east coast at 11 o’clock, Midwest it’s 10 o’clock… That’s going to be the hard part. Golic has assured me it’s about eventually finding your level… like water finds its level. And that will come to you. We’re three days in and it’s a process. Like the Sixers with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid, I’m trusting the process.
What time are you waking up these days?
Earlier than I have ever have in my life. I’m one of those guys, like, whenever I have an early flight to get to, I’m afraid I’m gonna miss the flight so I wake up four or five times before the alarm has to go off. I’m sort of dealing with that now on a daily basis. But I’ll get there, I promise.
The show has continuity in that Mike Golic, the longest running morning host on the radio network, is still in place – yet it’s a re-birth of the program at the same time. What changes have been, or will be, made to the show? What’s staying the same?
Staying the same is that we’re going to do what Mike and Mike did for years. We’ll find the hot button topics in sports and talk about them, hopefully in an informative and entertaining way.
We will continue to have great guests. We’ve already had the commissioner of Major League Baseball, Rob Manfred; Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner; and we had Dabo Swinney, the head coach at Clemson on the show already this week.
The biggest difference I would say, is that Mike and Mike sort of morphed from being a radio show that was on TV to a television show that just happened to be on radio. And it became a little too big and unwieldy – which was fine because it was a product of their success. But I think this show is going to go back to, as [senior VP of ESPN Audio] Traug Keller said many times, a radio show on TV. And that makes it a little more intimate. A little more about the conversations and the one-on-ones you can have with each other. We’re going to do more bits and sound drops and all that kind of stuff you can’t really do on the TV side of it. We’re going to do more of that here. I think that’s going to be the only big change that people will notice.
The first hour of the show features Mike Golic, Jr., who stays on after his own program. What is the three-person portion of the show like?
I’m the referee in the Golic daily family squabble. That’s sort of how I’m looking at it. Mike [Jr.] is great. Golic and I live about a mile and a half from each other. Our kids went to the same football programs together. I’ve known Mikey forever. So this is kind of fun to see him growing into this role. It’s a blast. Plus, as we alluded to earlier, I’m a slow starter in the morning so having him there for that first hour gives me a little time to catch up to the rest of them who are used to it.
You’re in the first few days of the first week of the “Mike and Mike Swear Jar” where money gets thrown in every time a mention of the old show happens. How much money is in it?
It’s turned into more of the San Diego Swear Jar than the Mike and Mike Swear Jar because the Chargers have been talked about so much after a slow start and now have a chance to make the playoffs so we find ourselves slipping, saying the San Diego Chargers instead of the LA Chargers more than Mike and Mike. We’ve only had it happen once and honestly that’s been the biggest surprise. I thought that many of us would say “Mike and Mike back after this” or “more Mike and Mike when we come back after the break.” That has not happened yet, but I’m not ruling it out. I’m sure that between me and both Golic and Golic Jr., somebody is going to find a way to put money in that jar.
Mike Greenberg said on Twitter that “Golic and Wingo” is his new favorite show. Do you believe him?
I’d love to believe him. And it was very nice of him to say that. Let’s be clear, his show hasn’t started yet so he’s right to say that. Mike’s been great about this. Having filled in a lot when it was their show, I really got an appreciation for just how good he is and what he does. We had a bunch of talks going into it and we continue to have conversations. I texted him as soon as he put that up. That was very much appreciated. Mike and I thought that was a very great thing that he put that up there.
NY Giants quarterback Eli Manning being benched for Geno Smith… Thoughts?
He’s not being benched for Geno Smith. They can say that, but at the end of the day he’s being benched because they believe his time has come to an end. I don’t think they believe Geno is the future. [NY Giants 3rd string quarterback] Davis Webb was a third round draft pick a year ago. You’re also going into a draft this year – by the way I’m going to continue doing the NFL Draft on television which is great. We have a plethora of quarterbacks that can be taken at a myriad of draft positions, whether first, second or third round. So really what this is about is moving on to life after Eli. Whatever Geno is, he’s a bridge to somebody else. I think we are looking at a total rebuild. It’s a total gut job. Eli’s got a big cap number next year. I think he deserved better than the way it played out, there’s no question about that. To me this is not about being benched for Geno this is about him being 37 in January and it’s his 14th season and we need to find out where we’re going after Eli Manning.
What has been the biggest sports story in 2017?
The NFL is trying to find itself again after being the top dog for so many years. Let’s be clear – their ratings still blow everything else away, but they’re not where they used to be. While we have seen a little bit of a decline in TV ratings in the NFL, the NBA coverage on ESPN is up 24%. We are trying to figure out the landscape of television and radio as it relates to sports and that’s changing. We’re trying to figure out exactly where we are in this dynamic.
What stadium has the best food?
I’m going to default to Arrowhead Stadium because the barbecue that those guys make in the parking lot is unreal. That’s the best smelling stadium in football, there’s no doubt in my mind. It just covers you once you get within a square mile of Arrowhead. Pittsburgh is also great for tailgating. I took my son to a game there in 2008 against the then San Diego Chargers. It was snowing and sleeting and 32 degrees and they were out there with their kielbasa and sausage and peppers and it was great. We had a blast. My son looked at me, he was 13 at the time, and he said “Dad, these Steelers fans are a hearty bunch.” He was absolutely right.
The world of sports has been your living – most people turn to it for enjoyment. What do you do to enjoy a night, or day, out?
I love playing golf. I like to travel a lot. And I like binging on Netflix or watching a good movie. All those things that a lot of people like to do I like to do as well.