Sports Radio's MVP

Sports Radio’s MVPScott McKinney is the Voice of College Sports

Scott McKinney is all talk – and countless sports fans throughout the South couldn’t be happier about it.

McKinney, 41, is a living, breathing catalog of all things college football. With his indisputable mastery of the game, as well as just about any other university sport you can think of, mixed with his bold opinions, razor-sharp wit and down-home charm, McKinney is the everyman’s sports talk radio host.

At the helm of “Southern Sports Tonight” – a show McKinney founded nine years ago that airs on WTKE 98.1 FM, “The Ticket,” in Destin – he talks college sports from 3 to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. McKinney’s program features notable guest hosts as well as about 70 callers per show.

A native of Mississippi (and a diehard Ole Miss fan), McKinney started his radio career in Memphis, Tenn., after spending several years in college sports administration. Now a resident of Santa Rosa Beach, his show airs in approximately 50 markets. He recently took a timeout with Emerald Coast Magazine’s Lori Hutzler Eckert to do what he does best: talk sports.

EC: Did you play sports in school?

SM: I did in high school, but once I got to college, I realized I was two small and too slow. There’s not much need for a 6-foot, 155-pound quarterback in the SEC. Those guys end up as the water boys.

EC: How did you get to Destin?

SM: My parents started coming here in the late 1960s, when there was nothing here yet. I was living in Memphis, and I just woke up one day and said, “It’s time for me to go to the Emerald Coast.” The area just always felt like home, and I love the people.

EC: How do you describe “Southern Sports Tonight”?

SM: “SST” is a cross between a Southern version of ESPN’s “SportsCenter,” “Hee-Haw” and the cooking channel. It is really all about the flavor and the pageantry of the South, particularly about Southern college football.

EC: What is it about college sports that makes the fans so loyal?

SM: There’s passion among every fan for their school. They have a deep love for their school, and most of the time it’s born into them and passed down from their parents. That passion is what carries the people. It’s why you see someone who is a respected attorney in town Monday through Friday driving around on Saturday with stickers and flags on his vehicle and bulldogs painted on his cheeks.

EC: What’s your outlook for state college football?

SM: I think Florida is in a little bit of a transition period. I think the Gators will be very good for the next couple of years, but the fact that they are so young this year caused them to have a few hiccups. It is almost as if Florida State is trying to position themselves for one last hoorah under Coach Bowden before he retires. So I think while it is a good year for college football in Florida, our best years are looming on the horizon.

EC: Basketball season is gearing up – any standouts we should look for this year?

SM: As far as basketball is concerned, I’ve learned to never count out Bill Donovan, coach at the University of Florida, even though he is totally rebuilding his team this year. The Seminoles are faced with a rebuilding effort of their own, but they had a great recruiting year. I don’t expect the Gators to win a third straight championship, but they may have a say so in who does … They could certainly be a spoiler.

EC: Even though there are times when some “Southern Sports Tonight” callers get a bit carried away, you are known for keeping the discussions calm and under control. What’s your secret?

SM: We are a caller-driven show, which means we value the input of our listeners probably more than any other show on any level. Our callers can be almost like guest hosts; they become characters in our sports soap opera. Every caller has a role on our show, but I do feel like a referee some days.