Back in 2012, a phone call from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame traveled right up the road in Springfield to a local TV station.
That station is now KOLR 10/Fox 49/KOZL Z27/OzarksFirst.com, and its then-TV Vice President and General Manager was Leo Henning (MSHOF President’s Award 2020), who had barely arrived to town.
And on the other end of the line was Jerald Andrews (MSHOF Legend 2022), at the time the CEO & Executive Director of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
Talk about the start of a great working relationship, one that continues to this day. That’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly honored KOLR 10/Fox 49/KOZL Z27/OzarksFirst.com with the John Q. Hammons Founder’s Award for 2023.
The award is presented to organizations that champion the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and sports in general in the Show-Me State.
The station has long been a corporate sponsor of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, by supporting induction ceremonies and fielding teams in Celebrity Golf Classics and other events.
Additionally, it has gone above and beyond the call of duty in promoting the Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper, as the PCCC supports more than 50 Ozarks charities annually. The PCCC has gifted more than $19.4 million since its inception in 1990.
The station not only sponsors teams in golf pro-ams but also provides tremendous coverage of almost all 30 fundraising events tied to the tournament. That has enhanced fundraising and, thus, helped charities meet their missions.
The latest energy put into those efforts comes from someone who has been a great friend of the Hall of Fame. That would be Mike Spruill, who has led Nexstar Broadcasting’s Springfield media portfolio since 2020 as General Manager. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
And much of the groundwork was laid a decade earlier.
In 2012, Henning sought to expand the community outreach of KOLR 10 and its other media entities at a time when Andrews hoped to ensure more exposure for the Hall of Fame.
Henning retired in 2020. Previously, he saw to it that the station became a corporate sponsor of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and a lead sponsor of the PCCC. Both are 501(c)(3) not-for-profits, and in the early 2000s had received some support from KOLR 10.
“I really believe when you are an individual new to a community, you are not going to have much relevance in the community if you don’t get out and be a significant part of it,” Henning said. “With (Andrews’) portfolio of events, it made sense for us to be involved.”
Understand the power of KOLR 10 and its media contingent. In essence, Henning helped the Hall of Fame’s ongoing success through sponsorships of all events – the Enshrinement, Celebrity Golf Classics, and Sporting Clays Classic.
Additionally, Nexstar greatly promoted the PCCC.
“I’m proud to call Leo a friend,” Andrews said. “His leadership showed how a media outlet can help make a difference in the community. The Ozarks have always been a wonderful place to live, and he helped make it better.”
Henning had previously worked 33 years for Quincy Media – he held every role imaginable – before spending six years with Barrington Broadcasting, in which he oversaw 10 of its properties.
When he hit the Ozarks, the country was digging out of the Great Recession, so the challenge was significant. For instance, Nexstar had lost the local FOX affiliate.
In time, Henning enhanced sports programming across the company’s media outlets. KOLR 10 became the official broadcast partner of Missouri State Athletics and agreed to be the main source for Kansas City Chiefs coverage for three other Nexstar stations. He also brought back FOX KRBK TV in 2019.
To Henning, the Hall of Fame and PCCC helped pave the way to the success.
“For a newcomer, (the events) were tremendous networking opportunities,” Henning said. “From a purely selfish standpoint, it was a great investment for the TV stations, and we saw great returns.”
Henning also made certain that KOLR 10’s personalities became more involved in the community, including with Hall of Fame and PCCC events.
He also praised the entire crew at Nexstar’s Springfield media outlets, considering each staffer created an impactful farewell tour of sorts in the business.
“With Springfield, it was the most professionally and personally rewarding time in my career,” Henning said. “It was the most talented group of people at the station I’ve ever worked with. It was important work done by everyone in that building and, for whatever reason, they bought into what I was trying to accomplish.”
Fortunately, Spruill has carried on that tradition. He, too, received a call from Andrews not long after his first day at the station in 2020.
Spruill certainly wanted to carry on the working relationship between the station and the Hall of Fame, and has dispatched the station’s 117 employees to make it happen.
“I arrived at the Hall of Fame not too long after Mike Spruill arrived at KOLR 10,” said Byron Shive, the new Hall of Fame CEO and Executive Director. “I got to know Mike pretty early on through his involvement with the Governing Board and his enthusiasm, passion and support for the Hall of Fame and the Price Cutter Charity Championship is obvious every time that we talk. He never fails to let me know that he and his team are behind us all the way and always tells me to let him know if we need anything. I look forward to a great continuing partnership in the future.”
“My predecessors, Mark Gordon and Leo Henning, had formed a strong partnership that aligned our cluster of stations with an outstanding organization,” Spruill said. “From that day forward, our partnership continued to grow. The leadership at the MSHOF has great vision, outstanding relationships, a commitment to charities in our community, and is poised for growth.”
Sports had been part of Spruill’s youth, as he played on teams at Hickman Mills High School in Kansas City and later played football at Missouri Western State University.
To him, the impact on charities through the Price Cutter tournament has been one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. He has seen to it that the station, two weeks ahead of the tournament, invites charity directors to its lifestyle programming to discuss their organizations and the commitments they have to the community.
“We are fortunate to live in a community where there are resources and charities that are committed to the betterment of our region,” Spruill said.
Spruill has continued to keep KOLR 10 involved beyond the tournament. It supports the Boys & Girls Club of Springfield, and has a biannual food drive with Price Cutter Supermarkets for Convoy of Hope, Crosslines and Ozarks Food Harvest. It also supports the Sertoma Chili Cookoff, the Discovery Center Festival of Trees, American Cancer Society Southwest Region and Community Partnership of the Ozarks.
“For me, I get to peek around the curtain early on as I am working with so many of these organizations throughout the year,” Spruill said. “The PCCC (Celebration of Sharing presented by The McQueary Family) and check distribution is so touching as you get to see the leaders of each organization receive their donations.”
Spruill also appreciates the Hall of Fame for carrying on traditional values at ceremonies, such as opening luncheons with an invocation, the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem.
“It’s such an honor to receive this award as it is for our entire organization, which is one big team,” Spruill said. “There are so many people that, day in day out, are involved in putting our product on the air seven days a week and deserve recognition as well. This award is a reflection of the leadership and employees of the last 15-plus years who knew that involvement in our community was not an obligation but a commitment. KOLR/KRBK/KOZL employees are committed in so many ways it is a blessing to have others see the involvement by so many.”