WCCO-TV has won the Jason Matheson sweepstakes, returning the popular local talent to the station where he began his TV career.

"I know he was coveted," WCCO-TV news director Michael Caputa told me Wednesday. "We're excited. He's excited. He wanted to work here, and we wanted to have him join us. He will join us March 31. He's going to contribute to us for our 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. news with a lot of promotable content, things people are talking about that day. Then he'll do taped pieces for our morning show."

Matheson's one-year noncompete with Fox 9, where he worked for 13 years, expired March 1, as the little old ladies who kept calling my voice mail reminded me.

When he and Fox 9 could not come to terms on a new contract, Matheson left the station where his career took a trajectory he could not have imagined. He started at Fox 9 as an entertainment producer, eventually did on-air pieces as "The Buzz Boy" and left co-anchoring the Fox 9 early morning news show, co-hosting "The Buzz" and anchoring "Weekend Buzz," the entertainment show.

While contractually barred from being on Twin Cities television, Matheson has maintained a profile at MyTalk 107.1 FM that was not always recognizable on the streets as he indulged in beard-growing. His return to TV will mean cutting the beard, but he'll continue his morning drive show with Alexis Thompson. Matheson's former Fox 9 boss Bill Dallman, now the man at Fox Sport 1 in Los Angeles, first allowed Jason to stick his toe in the radio world. Matheson turned an appearance on a Saturday show into a popular weekday afternoon program that led to his current drive-time spot.

"I'm so excited," said Matheson, who demonstrated that with multiple false starts in the sentence department.

"Let me start all over. I am so blank, blank, blank excited," he laughed. "WCCO is where I started. I've always wanted to go back [since leaving in 2000] so today really feels like a dream come true, like coming home. It's where I started when I was 22 listening to police scanners on Friday and Saturday nights. I look at everyone at WCCO like family. Amelia [Santaniello, anchor] is like a big sister. Frank [Vascellaro, anchor] is like a big brother with really good hair," he laughed. "And [morning show anchor Jason] DeRusha is the brother I never thought I wanted. I'm excited to grow as part of the WCCO family."

KSTP-TV, which like FM107.1 is owned by Hubbard Broadcasting, had the first right of refusal in the bidding war for Matheson's TV talents. In the end, KSTP-TV, KARE 11 and Fox 9, which reportedly wanted him to anchor an evening show, could not match WCCO-TV.

In the end, I understand that KARE 11 couldn't meet the deadline Matheson had for his return to TV broadcasting. Just as well Matheson didn't end up specifically at KARE 11, as WCCO-TV represents returning to colleagues who like him as much as he likes them.

Cast changes at KARE 11

Word has it that everybody at KARE 11 is happy about the comings and goings associated with anchor Diana Pierce's 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. shows.

Pierce is losing co-anchor Pat Evans on "KARE 11 Today." Evans, who did weather, too, is being replaced by meteorologist Laura Betker and co-anchor Bryan Piatt, who'll do interviews and traffic when necessary, I suppose, like on "Sunrise." Pierce and Evans will continue to co-anchor "KARE 11 News @ 4 p.m." and afterward at 5 and 6 p.m. Evans is expected to do more entertainment/arts scene reporting.

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9's "Buzz." E-mailers, please state a subject; "Hello" does not count. Attachments are not opened.