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The rise in fall of WEEI

No one has ridden a winner, actually two winners (Red Sox and Patriots), better than WEEI (850 AM).

The station's ratings, already high, jumped in the fall ratings book, which was released this week. They put WEEI at a level unprecedented in sports radio.

Simply put: WEEI is No. 1 in the Boston market among adults ages 25-54 every day of the week, and in every part of the day. In the past, WEEI touted its strong numbers among its target audience, males 25-54. That dominance has been extended to the point where the station is No. 1 among adults, even though 'EEI ranks only 16th among women in the 25-54 demographic.

"The numbers are phenomenal and speak for themselves," said Jason Wolfe, WEEI's director of programming and operations. "It was a tremendous fall, between the Red Sox and the Patriots, and sports fans turned to WEEI for the best and most insightful commentary."

In morning drive time, WEEI's "Dennis & Callahan" finished its march from No. 8 (when the show replaced "Imus in the Morning" in 1999) to No. 1 by toppling Howard Stern in this ratings book. WBZ (1030 AM) remained third but gained 1.5 share points. At midday, "Dale & Neumy" is No. 1 with a 13.5 share among men and a 7.8 overall among adults. In the afternoon, "The Big Show" did a 15 share among men and a 9.0 among all adults.

WEEI also rules at night, which was the province of Red Sox broadcasts early in the ratings period and of Ted Sarandis's "Ted Nation" in the last half. Over the three months, WEEI was No. 1 with a 10.8 share.

Don't expect changes in listenership any time soon. With the Patriots playing Sunday night for another shot at the Super Bowl, WEEI will soon segue from football to baseball's spring training and then to another Red Sox season.

While all the station's on-air personalities stand to collect hefty ratings bonuses, especially the morning crew, the next beneficiary of the strong numbers may be midday cohost Bob Neumeier, whose three-year deal expires next month.

Eyes on the Eagles

Meanwhile, WEEI's Sarandis remains the public barometer of Boston College men's basketball.

It took only a couple of games into the 2000-01 season before Sarandis was touting "something special" building at The Heights. That Eagles team won its first 11 games, finished the regular season 23-4, then beat Pittsburgh in the Big East Championship game before losing to Southern Cal in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

This winter has been a repeat, as BC stands at 15-0, one of only four unbeaten teams in Division 1.

So far this season Sarandis has "called out" . . .

* Boston's college basketball fans to fill Conte Forum for the Providence game Jan. 8, when BC students were on winter break.

* The BC student body to fill Conte for Wednesday's game against Villanova, a 67-66 Eagles victory. "[The students have] been lukewarm since the 2000-2001 season," Sarandis said. "The school is going to have to put a premium on those seats or allot fewer to the students when BC goes to the ACC next season."

* His colleagues in Boston's electronic media. "The Sunday night shows. The nightly news," said Sarandis. "The lack of coverage contributes to the image that no one cares about college basketball here. Jayme Parker of NESN is the only one regularly at the team's games.

"BC has the fewest amount of games on TV since they joined the Big East," Sarandis fumed. Indeed, Wednesday's game wasn't televised. Tomorrow's game against St. John's will be, on Channel 56, at 7:30 p.m. Sarandis's love of college basketball is pure. He's been broadcasting games for 28 years, the last 10 at BC. Why all the drumbeating? "I just like to see people come to the games," he said.

Commercial potential

How big a Red Sox fan are you? Major League Baseball has an open casting call at Fenway Park tomorrow to select fans to appear in six "I Live For This" national TV commercials. The event runs from 8 a.m.-4 p.m., with candidates asked to take public transportation to the ballpark and enter at Gate D (behind home plate). Winners will be flown to Miami in mid-February to shoot the spots . . . The NFL Network has a big day today, looking ahead to Sunday's AFC and NFC Championship games. The league's cable TV outlet will televise news conferences involving all four participants today, starting with the Patriots (1:30 p.m.) and continuing with the Eagles (2:30), Steelers (3:30), and Falcons (5). The network's "Playbook" show will break down the matchups at 8:30 tonight, and last Sunday's Patriots-Colts divisional playoff will be shown in condensed form as an hourlong "Game of the Week" at 9 . . . Channel 5's "Patriots All-Access" will originate live from Pittsburgh tomorrow at 7 p.m., with a rebroadcast at 11:35, following the late news . . . How strong was the Patriots' impact on local radio? "On Sunday afternoons," said Greater Media Group's Kelley, "WBCN [104.1 FM] went from a 2.4 share to a 6.9 [third overall] among women 25-54." . . . A couple of firsts in ESPN2's ongoing Australian Open tennis coverage: Dick Enberg completed his personal tennis announcing Grand Slam when he called the Venus Williams-Shuai Peng match Wednesday night, and studio analyst/coach Brad Gilbert moved to the booth, working the match of former employer Andy Roddick (who split with the coach last month) vs. Greg Rusedski.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com 

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