Paul Alan Finebaum is an American sports author, television and radio personality, and former columnist. His primary focus is sports, particularly those in the Southeast. After many years as a reporter, columnist, and sports-talk radio host in the Birmingham area, Finebaum was hired by ESPN in 2013 for its new SEC Network starting in 2014, and produces a radio show out of the network's regional base in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Finebaum was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Paul attended Christian Brothers High School and White Station High School in Memphis before graduating from the University of Tennessee, where he received a liberal arts degree in Political Science, in 1978. He served as host of the Paul Finebaum Radio Network, whose flagship station was on WJOX-FM from 2:05-6pm CST. The show was syndicated in Alabama (27 stations), Mississippi (2 stations), Tennessee (3), and on single stations in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, and also heard on Sirius XM Radio's Channel 84
Finebaum arrived in Birmingham in 1980 and became a columnist and investigative reporter for the Birmingham Post-Herald. Finebaum's work has earned him over 250 national, regional, and area sports writing awards, including his investigative stories on the recruitment of Alabama basketball player Buck Johnson. He also in 1993 broke the story of Antonio Langham, a University of Alabama football player who signed a contract with a sports agent while playing for the school, which led to a NCAA probation for the school. He was also the first to report the firing of Auburn University coach Terry Bowden in 1998. Finebaum joined the Mobile Press Register in 2001 where he wrote a twice-weekly (later weekly) column with the column syndicated to other newspapers. Finebaum discontinued the column in December 2010. On Sep 1, Finebaum returned to writing with his first column for Sports Illustrated. His weekly column appears every Thursday at SI.com. His Christmas Eve column on a radio caller from Iowa suffering from cerebral palsy was among the most acclaimed stories of his career.
Finebaum started his radio appearances in the mid-1980s by giving morning commentary on the Mark and Brian Radio Show on WAPI-FM (I-95). After starting his own afternoon radio show a few years later on WAPI-AM, his program quickly became the highest rated sport-talk show in Birmingham. In October 1993, Finebaum moved his sports-talk show to WERC.
The Paul Finebaum Radio Network
In 2001, Finebaum, along with Network Director Pat Smith and Producer Kerry Adams, launched The Paul Finebaum Radio Network, syndicated with affiliates across the southeast. It was named in 2004 by Sports Illustrated as one of the top 12 sports radio shows in the United States. In January 2007, his radio show moved to WJOX.
Finebaum found himself embroiled at the center of one of biggest college sports stories in America in 2011 – the poisoning of the famous trees on Toomer's Corner at Auburn University. The man charged, Harvey Updyke, called the Finebaum show, claiming to have poisoned the trees. The audio of the call was played on nearly every national radio show and television newscast in the nation. In the aftermath, Finebaum was featured on the NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, appeared on CNN, ESPN, MSNBC, and several other networks. He also was blamed by many for the event including one caller saying "if anything else happens, there will be blood on your hands." On April 21, Updyke appeared again on the Finebaum show, speaking publicly for the first time since the incident, breaking his long silence. The interview, perhaps the most listened to ever in the history of the Finebaum show, made national news, appearing in publications ranging from The New York Times to ESPN's SportsCenter. Updyke ended the 45-minute interview with his signature Roll Damn Tide.
In late May 2011, Finebaum conducted a four-hour interview with Randy Owen, lead singer of the country band Alabama, that he later called "the most memorable and meaningful program we have ever done" as they were raising awareness for victims of the April 27 tornadoes.
Finebaum's show went off the air on WJOX temporarily on January 21, 2013 when his contract with Cumulus and WJOX expired. The New Yorker reported he "had talks with ESPN and CBS, about joining their national radio networks, and with SiriusXM, about moving permanently to satellite."
In May 2013, Finebaum signed with ESPN to appear on its new SEC Network beginning in 2014, and also host a daily radio show based out of Charlotte.
Finebaum's television contributions have been numerous. In Birmingham he currently appears as a sports analyst for WBRC Fox 6. He was sports director for WIAT-TV from 1998 to 2002 and co-hosted individual shows on WVTM-TV NBC 13 and ABC 33/40. Recently he has been a frequent guest on ESPN's Outside The Lines with Bob Ley commenting on national and regional stories.
Finebaum also had a leading role in ESPN's documentary Roll Tide/War Eagle. The producers used Finebaum and his program as the voice of the documentary, which debuted on November 8, 2011. It was during the program where Wright Thompson of ESPN uttered the epic comment, ``There are two types of people in Alabama. Those who admit they listen to Finebaum and those who lie about it." As part of the deal Finebaum signed with ESPN in May 2013, he agreed to appear on its new SEC Network starting in 2014. Last fall, Finebaum became a regular on ESPN programs ranging from SportsCenter, College Football Live, Olbermann and a weekly role on College GameDay and along with the show's other contributors, was awarded a Sports Emmy.
Finebaum's books include his popular I Hate... series, including I Hate Michigan: 303 Reasons Why You Should, Too, and several dozen similarly titled works.
Finebaum's other books include The Worst of Paul Finebaum (ISBN 1881548120), a 1994 compilation of some of the newspaper columns he has written; and Finebaum Said (ISBN 1931656037), a 2001 collection of columns and interviews.
On March 27, 2013, the Birmingham News reported that Finebaum agreed to an advance (later reported to be $650,000) with HarperCollins to write a book about the radio show. HarperCollins Senior Vice President and Executive Editor David Hirshey said "We expect this book to occupy the same spot on the best-seller list that Alabama occupies in the BCS rankings – number one." In February, Publishers Weekly reported the book would arrive on August 5 with a first run of 150,000 copies. The book, which was excerpted in The Wall Street Journal on Aug. 5, quickly made the New York Times best-seller list, landing at No. 6 among sports books. The book remained on the Times best-seller list for five months.
In 2002, Finebaum was named by The Tennessean in Nashville as one of the Southeastern Conference's Top Power Brokers. In July 2009, The Orlando Sentinel named Finebaum as one of the SEC's 10 most powerful people. On January 11, 2011, CNBC's Emmy-Award winning sports reporter, Darren Rovell wrote: "Back 2 back titles by Alabama & Auburn make Finebaum the most powerful small market sports media member in the nation" and called him "the best listener of any sports talk radio host." In December 2012, Sports Illustrated, in its year-end review of sports media, listed gave Finebaum an Honorable Mention along with 10 other names for "Best National Radio Voice".
In 2008, Columbia University named Finebaum's Show as one of the winners of its annual 'Let's Do it Better! Workshop on Journalism, Race and Ethnicity' awards for providing a strong and sometimes controversial view on racial issues in sports. In particular, Columbia cited a poignant show on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday – which highlighted the slain Civil Rights leaders' still strong connections with today's sports stars. Among Finebaum's written works noted included a column in the Mobile Press-Register on the first two black coaches in the bowl, the admission of a NBA star that he was gay, a column on the University of Alabama snubbing Sylvester Croom to be the first black football head coach in the SEC, and a tribute to the late Grambling coach Eddie Robinson..
Reeves Wiedeman profiled the radio host in a 5,000-word profile in the December 10, 2012 edition of The New Yorker titled King of the South. According to the Wiedeman, it was The New Yorker's first major piece on a college football figure in more than 10 years. Several months later, on February 6, 2013, The Wall Street Journal, in a profile by writer Rachel Bachman, stated: "Paul Finebaum is not only one of the nation’s best-known sports-talk radio hosts. He is perhaps college football’s best-known voice since TV announcer Keith Jackson retired." The Journal ended the story, referring to Finebaum as "the Oprah Winfrey of college football." On March 6, 2013, Sports Illustrated's Richard Deitsch unveiled a ranking of the 20 Most Powerful People in Sports Media nationally and Finebaum came in at No. 17. In May, 2015, The Big Lead, part of USA Today's sports online network, ranked Finebaum No. 18 in a piece on ``The 25 Most Powerful People in Sports Media, writing: ``He was profiled by the New Yorker, and that was before became a multimedia presence on ESPN and the SEC Network. His radio show is a focal point for college football fans and media members. He can alter the sport's national discussion with an interview, a hot bit of gossip, and offhand comment or a tweet.
In October 2013, the University of Tennessee honored Finebaum by presenting him with the "Accomplished Alumni Award," "which recognizes notable alumni for their success and distinction within their field." In April 2014, he returned to Knoxville to give the keynote speech at the annual UT Social Media Workshop. In October, Finebaum gave a lecture at the University of Missouri's famed Journalism school (recently chosen No. 1 in America)while in Columbia for an SEC Nation broadcast. On Jan. 27, it was announced that Finebaum would be the commencement speaker at the Ole Miss Law School. Dean Richard Gershon said Finebaum would speak at the graduation ceremony on May 9 in the Grove. The announcement made big news, landing on the front page of the Clarion-Ledger, the state's largest newspaper. Finebaum was the keynote speaker at the annual Cancer Wellness fund-raiser in Montgomery on March 13. He followed Nick Saban, Eli Manning and Tim Tebow as the keynote. He was also the speaker in May at the 6th Annual Leadership Luncheon in Birmingham, benefitting Changed Lives Christian Center and the Foundry Ministries. He followed Gus Malzahn, Nick Saban and Les Miles.
- "ESPN hires Paul Finebaum". USA Today. May 23, 2013.
- Finebaum.com: Finebaum's biography
- Carter, Robert (February 2, 2011). "FINE-GONE: Paul Finebaum ends syndicated column". The North Jefferson News.
- "Finebaum joins WJOX radio station". The Decatur Daily (via Associated Press). January 20, 2007.
- Wideman, Reeves (December 10, 2012). "King of the South: How Paul Finebaum became Alabama’s biggest booster". The New Yorker.
- Bishop, Greg (May 21, 2013). "Radio Host Paul Finebaum joins ESPN". The New York Times.
- "SI.com's Media Awards: Best, worst from 2012". CNN. December 19, 2012.
- "Ranking the 10 most powerful people in sports media". CNN. March 6, 2013.
- Barnes, Susan. (Summer 2005) "The Devil We Know". Tennessee Alumnus Magazine. Vol. 85, No. 3 – accessed April 16, 2006
- Paul Finebaum is "the most influential sports-talk personality in the Southeast" – Huntsville Times, August 21, 2003.
- "Paul Finebaum, the state's most influential sports columnist and talk-show host" – New York Times, May 4, 2003.
- Fowler, Jeremy. "Finebaum voted as one of the SEC's 10 most powerful people"- "". Orlando Sentinel, July 10, 2009.
- Paul Finebaum Official Facebook Page
- Paul Finebaum Radio Network official site
- BamaJunkee Alabama Message Forums
- MyFoxFinebaum.com (streamng video)
- FinebaumFan.com (Community Fan Site)
- Finebaum headed to WJOX, Birmingham News
- Cranehill Press "I Hate..." Series
- Paul Finebaum article at BhamWiki.com
- Listen to Paul Finebaum Show on RadioJunkee.com