680/The Fan last week hired Chris Dimino to bolster its already strong sports talk lineup, according to multiple sources – but you won’t be able to hear him on air for six months.
Why? Dimino was ingloriously fired by rival 790/The Zone more than two months ago after a radio bit had gone badly awry. He was released from his contract with cause but the nine-month non-compete clause remained in effect, keeping him off Atlanta radio until March, 2014.
I heard he was at the Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith’s press conference today asking questions in the capacity of a credentialed journalist.
Clearly, the Fan wanted him so much, management picked him to work several months off air producing, reporting, booking guests and sales.
David Dickey, who runs the Fan, didn’t deny that Dimino had been hired. In a text, he merely wrote, “Who says he works for me?”
Dimino, to many who heard the bit that got Mayhem in the AM fired in June, was the least culpable. Nick Cellini came up with the idea to play knock-knock jokes with a robotic-voiced Steve Gleason, the former Saints player who has the denegenerative nerve disease ALS. If you listen to the abbreviated two-minute bit, Dimino expressed reservations from the get go and stayed largely silent. The story went national after a Saints fan board posted about it and a former Saints player complained about it in Tweet. He, Cellini and Steak Shapiro were suspended, then fired hours later.
Of the trio, Dimino was the most popular, based on a survey I posted that day. Cellini, in an interview last month, said Dimino would have no problem finding a job given his deep sports knowledge, especially in baseball and football. Dimino at the time also lost several TV jobs, but the noncompete does not cover television. He is already back on CBS Atlanta co-hosting the “SEC Wrap-up Show” each Saturday with Larry Smith. CSS has not done so yet.
790/The Zone recently offered Dimino his job back, with back pay, but sources tell me he turned them down, feeling the station left him out to dry in June. If he had returned, he could have gone on air immediately.
But the Fan may provide a brighter future for Dimino. That station now garners higher ratings and more ad revenue than the Zone, a gap in both cases that has only widened since the one fired Mayhem. The arrival of a third sports talk station, 92.9/The Game on the FM dial, had made life even tougher for the Zone, an AM station which lacks an FM simulcast like the Fan, which is also on 93.7. (For many years, the Zone was the leader, especially in revenue.)
Dimino has not talked to the press about the situation since he was fired and declined to comment about his new job.
Over the years, the Fan has picked up several former Zone personalities, including Chuck Oliver and Matt Chernoff, now the Fan’s highest-rated show.