Bob Smizik of reports that a new advertising partnership between Fox Sports WBGG (970), 84 Lumber and the Nemacolin Woodlands Resort may help level the playing field for the station, which persistently lags ESPN’s WEAE (1250) for listeners.

“Fox Sports Radio 970 has been chasing ESPN in the ratings ever since it came into existence,” Smizik says. “It was that way when Stan Savran had the afternoon drive-time slot and it remains so with (Joe) Bendel doing the show. The ESPN brand is so persuasive that listeners turn to it regardless of the quality of the show.

“That’s not to suggest the shows on 1250 ESPN aren’t good,” says Smizik, who notes right up front that he appears on Bendel’s show every Tuesday. “Some of them are very good. But Bendel’s show from 3 to 7 p.m. is a clear winner over ‘The Drive,’ the ESPN entry from 2 to 6 p.m.”

Beginning this week, WBGG’s shows are broadcasting from the “Nemacolin Woodlands Studios built by 84 Lumber.” Both Nemacolin and 84 were founded by Fayette County businessman and philanthropist Joe Hardy.

It’s a naming-rights agreement similar to the deal that earlier this year put KDKA (1020) into the “Lexus of North Hills Studios” (and before them, competing news-talker WPGB-FM).

Of course, WBGG isn’t actually relocating to the posh Nemacolin resort. (But wouldn’t that be fun?)

As a result, Smizik says, “listeners to the station will be hearing a lot about the resort. It won’t change the programming but it might help narrow the gap with ESPN.”

If he’s talking about revenue, we bet Smizik is on the money.