For a time, it looked like the Fabulous Sports Babe might once again be out of a job.
Nanci Donnellan, better known to local sports talk fans as the pioneering radio personality the Fabulous Sports Babe, said Monday she was let go by CBS Radio, just before she was to start her 7 p.m. shift at the Tampa Bay area's first FM sports talk station.
But a CBS Radio official said Donnellan instead will work part-time on the weekends, freeing up the time slot for an effort to get better ratings. She's expected to take this weekend off and start the following weekend.
Donnellan was part of the inaugural lineup of Sportsradio 98.7 the Fan (WHFS-FM), when it debuted on Aug. 2, 2012. Starting on the 1-6 a.m. weekday shift, Donnellan was later moved to 7 p.m.
Known as the first woman ever to host a nationally syndicated sports talk radio show, Donnellan seemed to believe she was out of a job Monday. "Whether or not I had any good ratings or bad ratings, they'll always blame the talent," she said, noting that her show competed against radio broadcasts of Rays games.
"For me to go against the Rays every day, that was tough," she added, noting that she expected her audience reaction to improve once football season started. "With the Bucs, you have one game a week and five days to complain about it."
Gabe Hobbs, a former Clear Channel Radio executive who now represents Donnellan, said Monday he was surprised by the move, because the station had offered her a contract extension that they hadn't finished negotiating.
Brian Thomas, the vice president of programming for CBS Radio in Tampa, said part time hosts will work in the time slot until they pick a successor.
In the mid '90s, Donnellan was a star, with a syndicated show on ESPN Radio and an in-your-face biography; Newsweek then called her "the hottest new voice in the airstream." But health problems and declining ratings dimmed her star; in January 2012, she had a stroke.
Sportsradio 98.7 has faced its own instability; original program director Mike Pepper was reassigned then left the company. Ben Hill, the top CBS Radio executive in Tampa who oversaw changing a music station into the sports talk format, is leaving his post to be replaced by Steve Carver, an executive from Los Angeles.