LITTLE ROCK Fort Smith-based CBS affiliate KFSM-TV fired sports reporter Mike Irwin on Monday, ending a 37-year career at the station.
KFSM also informed sports director John Engleman his contract would not be renewed on Friday. Engleman had worked at the station since 2009.
Irwin and Engleman also co-hosted "SportsLine with John and Mike", a call-in talk show, each weekday.
"I had heard through the grapevine they were going to radically change their sports department," Irwin said Tuesday when reached by phone. "I'm fine with it."
Irwin said the move was not related to the station's decision to stream a University of Arkansas press conference introducing new football coach John L. Smith last Tuesday. Stations were permitted to carry the press conference live on-air, but were prohibited from any online stream.
Formerly the station's sports director, Irwin said he and Engleman had nothing to do with the decision to carry the press conference online. The issue has been discussed between KFSM and the university.
Despite the change, Irwin said he holds no ill-will toward KFSM, which hired him to cover UA athletics for its Fayetteville bureau in 1975. He said he hopes to find another job covering the Razorbacks, whether it be in TV or another medium. Engleman said he was pursuing other options.
A message seeking comment from KFSM station manager Van Comer was not immediately returned.
In an e-mail, KFSM news director Rick Bagley said that while he cannot comment on personnel issues, the station is "reorganizing its sports department to focus on better storytelling of local athletes and all local sports."
"We are not ending sports coverage," Bagley continued in the e-mail. "Our plan is to tell better stories about all local sports, including the Arkansas Razorbacks. Sports is and will continue to be an important part of our product on-air and online."
KFSM is routinely rated the top news station in the Fort Smith-Fayetteville market. Its signal reaches 15 counties in Arkansas, and also expands north into Missouri and west into Oklahoma.