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Channel 4 reporter-anchor Craig Nigrelli has left the CBS affiliate without getting to say goodbye on the air.

Nigrelli, who has been working without a contract for more than a year and searching for an anchor job, has landed as the morning anchor at KOAT-TV, the ABC affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M.

"It happened so fast," said the Town of Tonawanda native, who spent almost seven years at WIVB-TV and evolved into one of the best television reporters in the city.

Nigrelli said he received the job offer last week and gave Channel 4 a one-week notice. He worked his final shift as the anchor of "Weekend Wake Up" on Sunday morning.

"I have to move cross country and be there for the February (ratings) book," said Nigrelli, who flew to New Mexico a few weeks ago for an interview that obviously went well.

"It was like landing in a postcard," said Nigrelli. "The Southwest is gorgeous."

As far as market size, Nigrelli is making a lateral move. Albuquerque is the No. 48 market, a few spots behind Buffalo.

But Nigrelli is getting something in New Mexico that he couldn't get at Channel 4. A regular anchor seat.

"They have always valued me at Channel 4 as a reporter first, anchor second," said Nigrelli. "I'm going to a station that likes me as an anchor."

Channel 4 was aware of Nigrelli's ambition this summer when it went out-of-town to hire Ryan Andrews as its weekday "Wake Up" anchor. Nigrelli said that job would have been tough to turn down if it had been offered. It wasn't. Channel 7 had some interest in Nigrelli, too, but a potential move to the rival station in June was blocked by a non-compete clause.

Though it couldn't find a regular anchor spot for Nigrelli here, Channel 4 did try to help him land an anchor job at other stations owned by LIN Television. He said that he applied for jobs at two different LIN stations in the past six months without success.

"It is time to move on," said Nigrelli, 33.

A graduate of Rutgers University, Nigrelli has left his hometown before. But it never gets easy.

"It is very, very sad to leave family and friends, but I've prepared for this for almost two years," said Nigrelli.

Speaking of morning anchors, Channel 7 General Manager Bill Ransom said today that he will soon meet with Sheila Mahoney to discuss her return date to "Good Morning Western New York." He doesn't expect Mahoney to be back for the February sweeps.

"She still is in doctor's care," said Ransom. "She still is in some pain from her foot."

Mahoney, who went on maternity leave in February of 1999 and had subsequent foot problems, is no longer featured in the program's opening.

"It was so confusing to the viewer," said Ransom.

Jean Hill has been "temporarily" filling in for Mahoney for the last year.

What do this year's Super Bowl teams, St. Louis and Tennessee, have in common? Neither played on ABC's Monday Night Football this season, which is one reason why the NFL is trying to figure out a way to get surprise teams on the prime-time showcase. One option: Holding off its December schedule of national games until a month before they are played.

Good timing award goes to Fox's John Madden, who suggested "someone is going to make a play" before the end of the game just as St. Louis' Kirk Warner hit Ricky Proehl with the game-winning touchdown in the Rams' 11-6 NFC title victory over Tampa Bay Sunday.

However, neither he nor play-by-play man Pat Summerall questioned whether Proehl was juggling the ball before he went out of bounds. The Bills' Peerless Price lost a reception in the Tennessee game that looked similar to the catch. Tampa Bay, which already lost a very close instant replay challenge, didn't challenge the Proehl catch.

Later in the game, a Tampa Bay reception was overturned in the final minute by the referee, even though Madden and Summerall thought Bert Emmanuel clearly caught the ball. Someone should have explained the obscure rule that led to the reception being overturned. There have been so many times this season that announcers have wrongly predicted instant replay decisions that ABC would be wise to hire a referee for the Super Bowl to stay in the booth and explain what his colleague is looking for.

Just wondering? Is the salute to Barbra Streisand on the Golden Globe Awards over yet? It was longer than some of her movies. Seriously folks, the Golden Globes -- which are picked by about 80 foreign journalists -- are getting much more attention than they deserve. They were a joke until NBC started inflating their importance. It was amusing, however, to see the Streisand salute going on for so long Sunday and then to see Brad Grey, the powerful Hollywood producer and agent (and University at Buffalo graduate), being rudely interrupted after saying a few words after "The Sopranos" won as television's Best Drama.

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