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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Whatever happened to… Jeff Hullinger?

Jeff Hullinger

When Jeff Hullinger ended his final WAGA-TV broadcast on May 31, 2002, he had established himself as one of the biggest sportscasters in town after 18 years on the job. A slew of Emmy Awards. Play-by-play announcer for the Falcons when they made the Super Bowl. Sub for CNN’s “Talk Back Live.” Prominent radio gigs at 96rock and WGST-AM.

At age 43, with a rock-solid resume and brand-name appeal, he figured he’d have no problem finding another TV job in Atlanta.

He never did. After calling games for ESPN on a freelance basis and two years toiling in Tampa, he nabbed a job reading the news at WSB-AM in 2006. But the news/talk radio station inexplicably cut him last summer. (No comment from WSB-AM program director Pete Spriggs, per policy.) He is now unemployed.

Hullinger has gotten nary a nibble from any of Fox 5’s rivals. Nothing close, he said. (Management at those stations did not return calls and emails or declined to comment.)

“I’ve been mystified,” said Bill Hartman, retired WSB-TV sportscaster. “If I were one of the other TV stations besides Fox 5 and WSB, I’d hire him in a minute to be my newscaster – not my sportscaster, my newscaster.”

The local radio sports stations don’t seem interested either. “He’s really talented but I don’t think sports talk is an ideal format for him,” said Steak Shapiro, co-owner and morning host at 790/The Zone.

Hullinger, when he was younger, had a reputation of being brash, brusque and a bit remote.

Jeff Hullinger

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“He had a lot of self confidence,” said Doug Richards, veteran former WAGA-TV reporter now at WXIA-TV. “Some put that off as arrogance. But there’s nobody who does live better than him that I’ve ever worked with. And every time I thought I knew something, Hullinger would leapfrog me and know a little bit more. It baffles me why people aren’t beating down the door and hiring him.”

“Southside” Steve Rickman, who worked with Hullinger at 96rock for three years in the mid-1990s and is now part of the Regular Guys on Rock 100.5, said Hullinger “was very guarded at first. But by my second year, we became friends. He doesn’t let you in easily but once you’re in, you’re in.”

“Jeff,” he added, “is too talented to be silent.”

Hullinger’s former boss at WGST Gabe Hobbs said there was friction between Hullinger and Fox 5 General Manager Gene McHugh when Hullinger was juggling jobs at both places. “I got a feeling from Gene,” Hobbs said, “that he was never terribly thrilled with Jeff doing radio. He [McHugh] was never as cooperative as we would have liked to have seen.”

McHugh declined to comment about Hullinger’s current status or why he let him go in 2002.

Former colleagues at WSB-AM mostly praised him, said he was a team player and actually called people to thank them after he was dismissed. “I loved working with him,” said Kerry Browning, a reporter who was let go from WSB in 2008. “He could handle anything you could throw at him. He was creative and showed great wit in his writing. Sometimes it was subtle. You had to know it to appreciate it.”

Now at age 50, Hullinger is at a precarious point in terms of his TV career.

Though he was massively popular in 2002, metro Atlanta has added about one million people since then who don’t have a clue who he is.And most broadcast news operations has been paring down staff and even when they’ve hired people, they’ve tended to be younger and presumably, cheaper. (The CBS affiliate WGCL-TV just outsourced its sports coverage to 790/The Zone and no longer carries sportscasters. I plan to write a blog entry update about that next week.)

“It’s been a difficult and humbling experience,” said Hullinger. “I have two children and a wonderful wife. I’m hoping better times are ahead.” He said he still gets recognized all the time. Heck, two parents at his son’s school asked him what was up today. “It’s like a singer getting asked to sing the same song over and over,” he mused.

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151 comments Add your comment

Newsproducer

February 12th, 2010
12:50 pm

Can you say blackballed by WAGA?

Steamboat

February 12th, 2010
1:03 pm

Hullinger is no Stu Klitenic

Chris Miller

February 12th, 2010
1:04 pm

I remember watching Jeff assemble newscasts when I was working with him at Cox Radio, and was always impressed by how hard he worked to find audio and how good he was at writing. Hope he lands a great, great gig real soon.

John Cloonan

February 12th, 2010
1:21 pm

As a former WGST regular listener, I don’t miss him at all. Truly one of the single most annoying personalities on radio.

John

February 12th, 2010
1:29 pm

It is the regular guys curse. Anyone or team associating themselves with the regular guys will go straight in the toilet. Falcons, Braves, Rocker, Brooking, etc…….

Stephen Smith

February 12th, 2010
1:29 pm

Kind of sad. I always thought that the Hull man was the top sportscaster in the city for a decade! His call of the Falcons 1998 NFC Championship win was great.

I think it’s also what has happened to local sports coverage. There is hardly any.

Sit N Spin

February 12th, 2010
1:30 pm

I remember when he broadcast Falcons games. He was horrible. It is a difficult job to do play by play, but just the same, he could not do it.

German accent

February 12th, 2010
1:37 pm

He’s obviously blackballed in this market. He’s got to try somewhere else, or go into another line of work.

Hollywould

February 12th, 2010
1:42 pm

Can he play cornerback?

Ali

February 12th, 2010
1:43 pm

The minute I heard Jeff Hullinger on WSB radio a few years ago, I smiled. Anyone who’s from Atlanta would recognize that voice and witty delivery in an instant. Follow-up on this- let us know where he goes. I’ll follow.

Tim Tebow's Tears

February 12th, 2010
1:46 pm

I enjoyed him. He made me cry (from happiness)

outspoken1

February 12th, 2010
1:49 pm

I NEVER liked Jeff on Fox 5, I did however LOVE him on WSB Radio.
I thought it was a great fit and he came across more humble and comfortable than he had on Television.
I am serious when I say I would rather hear him call UGA Football games than the goober head they have replacing Larry. Yeah, I know he has been around for a long time but he is not a good voice for the Dawgs.

Oh yea, bye Jeff!

Mike

February 12th, 2010
1:51 pm

‘The Falcon’s are going to the SuperBowl, The Falcon’s are going to the SuperBowl’ what a horrible play by play guy he was! What the Falcons have now is so much better although there should be MORE Van Note!

Jim Mora Jr.

February 12th, 2010
1:53 pm

“I don’t think sports talk is an ideal format for him,” said Steak Shapiro, co-owner and morning host at 790/The Zone.

Anyone catching the irony of this statement? Pot, meet kettle baldy.

Glenn

February 12th, 2010
1:53 pm

He was good . The best was Van Earl Wright & I have heard his magnificent voice in years . I bet the politics in a job like that are brutal .

sugarfoot

February 12th, 2010
1:56 pm

Jeff Hullinger could single-handedly out-do the crap that WSB-TV has on for sports now, (except for the new guy, Anthony Amey, who, is actually pretty good). Zach Klein is a complete joke, and Heather Sam is just a reader. In fact, bring back Hartman and Hullinger!
Jeff was great on the radio, too.

cgregister

February 12th, 2010
1:56 pm

The only thing I can say is Atlanta TV stations DO NOT have any good sportscasters now. They really need to start looking, if Atlanta is going to ever become and stay a “sports city”, you have to have a “sportscaster” who has more knowledge than the ones that are out there now. Ken R on 5 is okay, but we definitely need better ones.

mike

February 12th, 2010
1:57 pm

he was good.. im 28 i grew up watching hullinger on WAGA.. good luck jeff..

Mike?

February 12th, 2010
1:58 pm

I guess Jeff Van Note has changed his name to Mike.

Van Jones

February 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

It must be the money. All these newer, young (un)professionals doing sports now must be working for cheap. And they just don’t cut it.

Steak?

February 12th, 2010
2:00 pm

Jim Mora, Jr….truer words have never been spoken.

Rob

February 12th, 2010
2:02 pm

Seems like a very well spoken, likeable enough guy. Was pleased to hear him back on WSB radio and can’t understand why they would cut him. Thanks for the update.

Rancid Meat

February 12th, 2010
2:03 pm

Jim Mora, Jr. you are correct. Add a face for radio and a voice for newspaper and you have schmuckpiro.

Whatever happened to......

February 12th, 2010
2:03 pm

Blogs and articles that had any value?

Native Atlantan

February 12th, 2010
2:07 pm

“It is the regular guys curse. Anyone or team associating themselves with the regular guys will go straight in the toilet. Falcons, Braves, Rocker, Brooking, etc…….”

Hey John: Hey was never on the RG’s. Get your head out of Bert’s butt and get to know your ATL radio DJ’s before making unwarrated associations.

And to SSS…you should love Jeff. You stole his tag line. Yeah C’mon!

DamntheButcher

February 12th, 2010
2:07 pm

Do you guys think Tiger Woods will get Black Balled on the Tour?

atlanta native

February 12th, 2010
2:08 pm

Hullinger was not a Regular Guy, he was on with Chris Rude. He was a great foil on that show and I miss his comments. I enjoyed him on WSB. His interviewing skills, however, often depended on him making a statement and saying to the interviewee “Agree or disagree?” that got tedious after a while. I would love to hear him doing news again, though.

FenwayFrank

February 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

I agree with Mike….MORE NOTER!!!!!

Deja Vu

February 12th, 2010
2:09 pm

Couldn’t be more surprised. I can remember writing letters 10 years ago complaining about how he gave his opinion, and not the sports results. Give me the score, not your personal opinion about the person scoring. Hate to see him without a job though. Wouldn’t wish that on anyone. Was then and is now, time for a career change.

mrj

February 12th, 2010
2:10 pm

Hullinger is MUCH better than Ken Rodriguez. Wanna puke everytime I see Rodriguez’s signature hand gesture that I refuse to even name. Miss ya Hull-Man! Hang in there,
Hullinger was funny, concise, knowledgable on sports. Most of the people on tv in sports news now are no good and only using that as a step to news. No knowledge of sports and don’t seem to even like them.

migel

February 12th, 2010
2:11 pm

Van Earl Wright????? Now there was a REAL talent.

Jean Shorts and Ponytails

February 12th, 2010
2:12 pm

You can add the Regular Guys to that list. They fell victim to their own curse.

Richard

February 12th, 2010
2:14 pm

I am suprised that he was cut form the radio gig. I wasn’t crazy about him on TV but for whatever reason I instantly liked hearing him on the radio. And while I like Steak Shapiro; I really have a hard time believing that Jeff couldn’t be successful doing sports talk. I could see him doing a one man show. 790 should kick Brandon & Whoa-V to the curb and give Hullinger the spot. Same goes for 680 and Cowheard.

Dood

February 12th, 2010
2:15 pm

John’s right- didn’t think about it but anyone associated with Reg. Guys have fallen. The Hull-man was cool though. I liked listening and watching him. He’s more entertaining the the talking heads on TV now.

Pammy Faye

February 12th, 2010
2:17 pm

I used to love listening to Rude and the Hull man on 96rock every morning on the way to work. Steak Shapiro had to buy a station to keep a job in sports radio, if not I don’t think he could get a job selling dog food.

Dragon

February 12th, 2010
2:18 pm

So he went *poof*. That’s life. Seemed sorta dorky to me.

Guy Sharpe

February 12th, 2010
2:20 pm

Give him Chestly McNeil’s job, he can’t do any worse!

DamntheButcher

February 12th, 2010
2:21 pm

Who is Steak Shapiro? Never heard of him. Loved the way Rude called Jeff Gayoff.

Taking Issue

February 12th, 2010
2:22 pm

I take issue with Steak’s comments. Hull would be perfect for the radio gig. The late morning/early afternoon show on 790 will never be able to compete with Chuck and Chernoff (probably the best sports talk show in Atlanta). Steak needs to up the talent and adding Hull would definitely do that. Also, putting Hull with Bell may work in the afternoon. Once Pollock heads to TV, this would give listeners a viable option to Buck & Kincaid.

AlphaDog

February 12th, 2010
2:24 pm

Jeff, welcome to the club… Membership reserved for experienced, seasoned, skilled and over-40 professionals that can’t get a look from cost-cutting management who turned their business over to kids or off-shore faceless hoards.

gemini06

February 12th, 2010
2:26 pm

I was younger when he was sports announcer for Fox 5. He was alright. Cant agree that there are no good sportscaster on the air now. I LOVE KAREN GRAHM!!!

Northern Songs, LTD

February 12th, 2010
2:27 pm

I remember watching “the hull man” when he was at KSL in Salt Lake for a,cup of coffee in the very early 80s; he was there with someone else you may have heard of, Jim Nantz. Imagine my surprise when I moved here in 1990 to be able to watch Jeff again. There’s gotta be more to this story than Rodney reporting.

Northern Songs, LTD

February 12th, 2010
2:28 pm

“…than Rodney IS reporting…”. sheesh.

Roffler Feeder

February 12th, 2010
2:31 pm

I worked with Jeff at WAGA for three years, he was the absolute best at what he did. Anyone remember him covering the fire at Atlanta Fulco Stadium live as it was happening? It was some of the best live television I’ve seen. I completely agree with Bill Hartman, forget sports, he should be a main anchor in Atlanta.

KIMMER Fan

February 12th, 2010
2:33 pm

I grew up in here in Atlanta with Hullinger and like him immensely.

Bring Back Kim Peterson, WGA

Now more than ever, Atlanta needs THE KIMMER !

Mike S

February 12th, 2010
2:34 pm

Bring back Gay-off Hoolinger!

Couldn’t Rude bring him back in some capacity??? I’d love to hear that name on the air again…

NJC

February 12th, 2010
2:35 pm

JH was always erudite yet humorous. I remember a radio interview with Jim Lampley of HBO boxing fame who was a total a$$ to JH. After the interview concluded JH mused in a totally unruffled manner that a “Lampley” was form of crustacean – classic. I hope JH catches on somewhere soon, however, like Tom Hughes and Pete Davis (even though they were forced to spout the ultra right wing bile at the end of their tenure at WGST) I suspect he is too intellectual for the “dittoheads” and the morons who find the self-absorbed Mr. Shapiro entertaining (Nick C and Chris D I don’t know how you put up with it – I would much rather listen to you two and Mike B than Mr. “let’s talk about me” Shapiro).

Jim of Hiram

February 12th, 2010
2:37 pm

I like Hullinger. He’d be better than Chuck DOODLE anytime. I say hire him, WSB TV!!!

Fridawg

February 12th, 2010
2:42 pm

I saw him on some PBS special a few months back. It looked like he had some terrible cosmetic surgery. I’m guessing that he would just look freaky on the news.

Karen

February 12th, 2010
2:44 pm

We love you Jeff. I wished it was something we could do. Not only were you an awesome sportscaster, you were good EYE CANDY!!!!! :-) . My prayers are with you and your family…