Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Oxford’s Cross Lives Dream Job Bringing Sports Talk to Community

By Finn Kempkes
IMC Student

While going through college, most people have an idea of what they want to do after graduation. Some might get a job offer before that fateful day. For even fewer, they start a job before finishing college.

Richard Cross. Photo courtesy of Telesouth.com.

Richard Cross is one of these select individuals. Before he even turned his tassel, Cross managed to land a position with Rebel Sports Marketing. 

Over the next couple of years, he ended up working everything from women’s basketball radio play-by-play to being a baseball color analyst. He also co-hosted the Ole Miss football pre-game and post-game shows. 

After transitioning out of working directly with Ole Miss, Cross started his own radio show, “Sports Talk With Richard Cross.” He broadcast from inside and above The Library Sports Bar on the Square in Oxford. 

“It was basically a one-man band,” Cross said. “I was the one person doing marketing, sales, producing, and the show.” 

From there Cross developed his brand and a following. Hu Meena, chairman and CEO of C Spire, heard Cross after his show expanded to a few more stations.

Meena and his group at C Spire were confident in being able to use the strategies learned from their show “Bright Lights,” a show based on high school football rivalries, to scale it to collegiate rivalries in Mississippi on radio. Most often these rivalries are between Rebels and Bulldogs, but it grew since its inception to include other Mississippi collegiate programs.

Matt Wyatt, a former Mississippi State quarterback, was also selected for the show. He was recommended by Meena. Without the help of Meena and the sponsorship he had given, Cross said it is unlikely he would be where he is today. The show is now called “Head to Head.” 

Wyatt is no longer with the show, but Cross is joined daily by fellow personalities Michael Borkey and Brian Hadad for the latest news on Sports Talk Mississippi.

“We have a statewide presence as we are in all 82 counties and on five days a week from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” Cross said. “It is an opportunity to communicate on a daily basis. A sports talk radio show is a dream of mine going back to when I was in high school listening to the old Southern Sports Tonight conference call. It had a really neat model, and we were able to focus just on Mississippi as opposed to all over the place.”

From a high school quarterback to a radio personality to working with the ESPN family of channels, Cross pushed through adversity, made his own show work through dedication and hard work, and created a radio show that has “probably three dozen fingerprints on it, from the sales guys selling ads to the people who are on the show every day.” 

Cross continues to work with Ole Miss football radio broadcasts, mainly in a role as an on-the-field color commentator.

One event Ole Miss participated in stands out for Cross, he said. That’s when the Rebels played in the program’s ninth Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 2016 for the first time since Jan. 1, 1970.

“To me, the moment that will stay with me forever as an Ole Miss fan is that night in New Orleans,” he said. “To play in the Sugar Bowl—which in my lifetime I had only heard about—to get to be there, to be on the field to experience the joy, not just for the team but for the fans. I was able to look up from the sideline about 25 rows up and there is my wife, my mom, my in-laws and two of my three kids.”

The final score was 48-20 as the Rebels defeated Oklahoma State. As Cross said, it was a special night for Ole Miss.

Cross hopes to do what he’s doing and where he’s doing it for a long time – in his hometown of Oxford.

“This is really the place we want to raise our kids,” he said. “I have been able to carve out a niche in Oxford. I love where we live. We have great schools, friends, and family. To be able to do exactly what I want to be doing and live exactly where I want to live is pretty incredible.”

Richard Cross, named Sportscaster of the Year in Mississippi by his peers for 2018, continues to host his current daily radio show on the Super Talk Mississippi stations despite the lack of current content the past few months. This truly speaks to how he lives, pushes through, and presses on, even not knowing exactly how the remainder of 2020 will turn out. 

“We need football,” he said. 

A lot of people agree with him on that.