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'I'm back, b*tches': Dallas sports radio legend Mike Rhyner has landed at 97.1-FM The Freak

The founder of The Ticket is leading a talk-heavy format change at the station formerly known as 97.1-FM The Eagle. Here's the new station's lineup.

DALLAS — The video at the top of this article originally aired in January 2020.

Updated at 3:20 p.m. on Monday, October 3: If all the context clues didn't  already confirm it, Dallas sports radio legend Mike Rhyner all but did so Monday morning: He's coming back to the local airwaves -- this time on 97.1 FM.

On Monday morning, Rhyner posted to Instagram a photo of himself holding a sign that read, "Mike's First Day Out of Retirement." But, more than that, it shared the following: "Employer: 97.1."

Then, at 3 o'clock on Monday afternoon, it became official: After a weekend of "stunting" by playing songs containing the word "freak" in their title, and a Monday morning with the station blasting Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' "The Waiting" on repeat -- an obvious nod to Rhyner's role as the frontman of a Tom Petty cover band called Petty Theft -- an IHeartMedia Dallas press release confirmed the full details of the switch.

The rock-and-talk-formatted 97.1-FM The Eagle will now officially be known as 97.1-FM The Freak, and it will feature a "hot talk" format that will, per the press release, "create a broad based personality radio station that connects in a personal way with the DFW audience."

Here's the station's new weekday programming schedule:

  • 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.: The Speakeasy (featuring Jeff Cavanaugh, Kevin “KT’ Turner, Julie Dobbs and Matt Cather)
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.: The Ben & Skin Show (featuring Ben Rogers, Jeff  “Skin” Wade, Krystina “K-Ray” Ray and Michael “Grubes” Gruber)
  • 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.: The Downbeat (featuring Mike Rhyner, Mike Sirois and Michael “Grubes” Gruber)

Will a shift in local talk radio allegiance follow? Time will tell.

Below is our original story, if you missed it last week:

Original story: Dallas sports radio legend Mike Rhyner is apparently coming back to the airwaves the same way he went out: with a long walk down a hallway.

Last week, Rhyner dropped a 25-second video that seemingly confirmed some radio rumors floating around North Texas this week. 

"I'm back, b*tches," Rhyner tells the camera, after a stroll down a darkened hallway.

The video then cuts to text: "The Old Grey Wolf Is Back!"

And with Rhyner's video -- an obvious nod to his 2020 retirement video, when he walked down the same hallway after announcing he left Sportsradio 96.7- FM/1310-AM The Ticket -- the North Texas sports radio landscape might be changing again.

On Sunday, Sports Illustrated's Richie Whitt broke the news that Rhyner was planning to return to the airwaves on 97.1-FM in Dallas.

Under a re-brand, according to Whitt's report, the station that's currently known as The Eagle, will be dubbed The Freak and make the change to an all-talk format.

The move would bring another local talk station back into the DFW market. 

To this point, nothing has been explicitly confirmed about The Freak outside of Whitt's report and some additional hints at the forthcoming changes. 

IHeartMedia, which owns 97.1-FM, has not publicly confirmed the new format or personnel, and Rhyner did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.

Even Rhyner's video made no mention of the rumored new station The Freak or how exactly he plans to be coming "back."

But it doesn't take much reading of the tea leaves to know something is up.

For example, just last week, Rhyner tweeted about his Tom Petty cover band's upcoming gig at Lee Harvey's by posing the question, "Where all my freaks at?"

Then, on Wednesday morning, a press release from iHeartMedia landed in the inbox of the WFAA newsroom. It included an invitation to "a very freaky celebration!" on Monday night (their underline, not ours), featuring Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and iHeartMedia region president Paul Corvino.

The release included no other details about the celebration; it was just an invitation. But using some context clues here -- the timing of recent reports, Rhyner's tweet, the supposed freakiness of the event and 97.1-FM being the radio station that broadcasts Mavs games -- could this all be related to a reveal of The Freak? 

We'll see.

A return to the air for Rhyner would alone mark a substantial shakeup in the local radio scene. Rhyner founded The Ticket and hosted its "The Hardline" afternoon show until his retirement in 2020.

If he joins 97.1-FM as all signs suggest, he'd now be in direct competition with his former station.

And what might be just as interesting to diehard Ticket listeners are the rumors of the other moves that could come with The Freak.

Whitt's report named former Ticket personalities Julie Dobbs and Mike Sirois as two more additions expected to join the revamped 97.1-FM, along with former host on 105.3-FM The Fan host Jeff Cavanaugh.

Dobbs and Sirois left The Ticket earlier this year amid a rash of station departures that also included Danny Balis, Rhyner's longtime producer on "The Hardline."

Those departures led to a series of staff shuffling at The Ticket, with "The Hardline" adding to its team a third host in Dave Lane, a longtime contributor at the station.

So, after a summer of DFW radio changes, it seems the biggest shifts might still be on the way.

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