John Popovich Retiring From WCPO-TV In December

Oct 28, 2019

Here's the story behind John Popovich's series of "Cleaning Out The Desk" photos on Twitter: He's retiring as WCPO-TV sports director on Dec. 27.

Popo, as everyone calls him (it's also his Twitter name), marked 40 years at Channel 9 in July.

"I'm done at the end of the year. That's something that's been planned for nearly three years," he says.  Popovich took over as main sports anchor when Dennis Janson retired in 2013. His 40 years spans more than half of the history of the WCPO-TV, which celebrated its 70th anniversary in July. On his station bio he jokes that he came here in 1979 "soon after the dinosaurs left."

WCPO-TV's primary anchor team (from left) Steve Raleigh, Craig McKee, Tanya O'Rourke and Popovich.
Credit Courtesy Tanya O'Rourke

Sports Of All Sorts, the city's longest-running sports show, was started in 1980 by Popo. That was a year after he was hired by WCPO-TV. Popovich broadcast SOSA live every Sunday night for 33 years until handing off to Ken Broo, who jumped from WLWT-TV to WCPO-TV in 2013.

Popo will be missed. He's the best storyteller on Cincinnati TV, and I don't just mean TV sports. I was struck by his talent after watching New York TV stations cover Jets and Giants games chronologically back in the 1980s at my in-laws' New Jersey home. Instead, Popo mixed locker room interviews with game videos explaining the key plays.

He also used WCPO-TV's marvelous Cincinnati history video archives better than anyone at the station.

Popvich, Carol Williams and Dennis Janson at the Bengals' 1989 Super Bowl in Miami, Fla.
Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

Popo is the latest in a generational change in Cincinnati television, as baby boomers retire. In the past three years we've said farewell to Broo, Carol Williams, Tom McKee (WCPO-TV), Lisa Cooney (WLWT-TV), Deb Dixon, Jeff Hirsh, Joe Webb, Larry Davis, Rob Braun and Rich Jaffe. (WKRC-TV). Cammy Dierking joins the list in December.

Popo is so respected that the LaRosa's High School Hall of Fame presented him a Lifetime Media Achievement award in 2016. His LaRosa's profile said:

Carol Williams posted this photo on Facebook when the LaRosa's High School Hall of Fame announced in 2016 that Popo would be inducted.
Credit Courtesy Carol Williams

"He hasn't shot a basket, swung a bat or drawn up a winning play on the sidelines to win a big game, yet Ch. 9 legendary sports anchor John Popovich has likely done more for Greater Cincinnati High School sports than any one athlete or coach over the last 40 years.

"A true advocate and champion of high school sports throughout his professional career in Cincinnati, Popovich becomes only the second member of the sports media to be inducted in to the LaRosa's High School Hall of Fame. It is an honor much deserved.

"A true sports pioneer, Popovich launched a Sunday-night feature called "Sports of All Sorts" in 1980. He was told it wouldn't last more than 13 weeks. Thirty-seven years – and hundreds of high school sports' features – later, it is still going strong."

Popo and Ken Broo in 2018 as Broo was retiring.
Credit Courtesy WCPO-TV

Popo grew up in Struthers, Ohio, near Youngstown. He started in radio in 1965 at Struthers High School's WKTL-FM, and worked at WOUB while earning a broadcast journalism degree from Ohio University. His professional career began with stops at WDBQ radio in Dubuque, Iowa, and WOC TV/radio in Davenport, Iowa.

His WCPO-TV bio is unusually candid and humorous. That's Popo.

What are you most proud of when it comes to your work? I've been able to change with the times. The business looks a lot different than when I first started, so there had to be adjustments along the way in order to stay relevant. I've tried to maintain excellence even as staffs were cut, duties were increased and standards were lowered.

What do you love about living in the Tri-State? I like watching Cincinnatians drive in the snow and rain. Drive like hell then slam on the brakes. I'm amused by this.

For years Popo has amused us, and informed us, with depth, perspective, professionalism and delightful archive video. Thanks, Popo.