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Q&A with ESPN's Joe Schad

joe schadThis week’s interview subject is Joe Schad, who is the national college football reporter for ESPN. Previously, he worked for the Orlando Sentinel and the Palm Beach Post. He’s all over ESPN’s various platforms, so he needs no introduction. We’d like to spend a special shout-out to Schad for actually providing a good photo. Below: His lengthy Saturdays, Teddy Dupay, LeGarrette Blount, Charlie Weis, Jim Tressel, and the best SEC town for single guys to visit. 

Q: Take us inside a Saturday in September/October for you. Are you up early and traveling? Are there breaks? Glued to a TV for 12 hours?

This season, I’ll be the sideline reporter for every ESPN Radio National Game of the week on Saturdays. Working with Bill Rosinski and Dennis Franchione has been great so far. On most weeks, I travel into the college town of the home team on Thursday and we meet with coaches and players on Friday. Being a part of a broadcast team gives me a great opportunity to interact with these people on a different level. I also enjoy watching games from field-level and being able to listen into what coaches and players say to each other in the heat of the moment. I’m sure the sometimes 100,000-people in the stands would do almost anything to be in that enviable position. It’s something I probably don’t think about enough. Obviously I watch games all week as well as before and after our game, whichever it may be. Before I leave for the radio broadcast, I appear on ESPN shows like College Football Live, Sportscenter and ESPNEWS. This week I’ll be with the radio team at Auburn (hosting West Virginia) and look forward to seeing the War Eagle under the lights as it is one of my favorite venues.

Q: How much of a leap was it from newspapers to ESPN? You went from covering a team as a writer to covering a sport – on TV – for ESPN. You were kinda of thrust onto TV rather quickly. Did you take any TV classes? Did anyone help guide you through the world of TV?

It’s hard to believe this is my fifth season covering college football at ESPN and being on TV. Honestly, I never thought I would be on TV. My primary ambitions were always to be a writer for newspapers and magazines and to write a book (which I have not done yet). I had and still have a passion for writing. But equally I have passions for newsbreaking, reporting and storytelling. What I’ve learned is the power of the medium of television. With so many of my talented friends in the newspaper writing business looking for work, it appears I made a move at the right time. I’ve also learned that something you say in 30 seconds on TV or perhaps in a three-minute feature piece can be as powerful, moving or impactful as a 3,000-word story. As for the transition, it definitely took some time. I was constantly reminded that some of my peers at ESPN weren’t particularly “smooth” in their first few years at ESPN but that it becomes easier. I’ve made mistakes. And I’m sure I felt at times that I wish those mistakes hadn’t been on the biggest of stages. You obviously open yourself up to criticism, some of which I’m sure was warranted. You have to figure things out. I definitely feel more comfortable than ever in front of the camera and that’s mostly the result of time, I think. You have to try to be yourself as much as possible. I’ve also been impressed that my company now has developed a support system of resources for talent that will help people like me if they were to now make the transition from print to ESPN.

Q: One of the primary roadblocks we foresaw happening with ESPN’s blog idea was the potential of stepping on toes when it comes to sources. You, with an SEC history, became the national guy with the TV presence. How did you, Chris Low, Mark Schlabach and the rest of the bloggers deal with potential source issues?

Each of us has and will continue to develop our own relationships and sources. Sometimes there is communication between reporters and our supervisors to ensure that we are not overlapping or hammering a school with the same questions on a particular story, for example. But for the most part, we are all on our own to break the stories we can get first. I’ve always thought that internal competition is healthy. And, at its best, teamwork on a story of significance, can be impactful.

Q: Apparently, you’re credited with discovering Jeff Darlington of the Miami Herald while he was a UF undergrad. How’d you find him?

When I covered the Florida Gators for the Orlando Sentinel, many of the seven-or-so newspaper reporters based in Gainesville were allowed to select an undergraduate that would be paid by our newspaper as a “correspondent.” Having a competent “correspondent” was actually more significant than you might image, so the pressure was on to find one as early as possible. I read one story Jeff wrote for the student newspaper, The Alligator, and knew he had the natural talent to be someone worth mentoring. I actually went to the next Florida gymnastics event, offered him the position and the rest is history. Jeff is one of my best friends and will actually be a groomsman in my wedding next June. He’s as good a friend as he is a reporter.

Q: The fall from grace for Teddy Dupay has been swift, sad, and he can’t find a parachute to save his life. You covered Dupay during his time in Florida? What was he like off-the-court?

I actually really liked Teddy Dupay because he had an interesting personality (I remember he once saved the life of a classmate who had an allergic reaction to a bee sting) and he was an overachiever. He was scrappy, gritty and determined, a lights-out shooter and was hated by opposing fans, which I thought was cool. Even though I was a part of the newspaper investigating that led to Dupay’s dismissal on gambling-related charges, I’ll respect that Dupay was always respectful to me. Even when I saw him after at “The Swamp” restaurant in Gainesville, he was cool. I think Teddy realized I had a job to do, and even though he might not have loved everything I reported, he respected I worked hard, too. Steve Spurrier was like that, too. He might not have loved if you found out one of his players had failed a drug test. But he wouldn’t lie to you when you pulled him off to the side. He’d say, “Well, looks like you did your homework there…”

Q: Why hasn’t Steve Spurrier been able to find any success at South Carolina? Do you think the the school invested wisely in him? The TV appearances are there, and they’ve played in some bowl games, but they still lack that breakthrough season, and remain an afterthought in the loaded SEC.

Spurrier has one of the more difficult coaching jobs in the SEC. It’s easier to win at: 1) Florida 2) Alabama 3) Georgia 4) LSU 5) Tennessee and 6) Auburn. That means, that, at best, Spurrier has the seventh-most difficult coaching job in the SEC, and the fourth-most difficult college coaching job in the SEC East. Spurrier’s coaching record at South Carolina is actually favorable compared to all coaches of recent past. I think it is also fair to say that the lack of a star QB has hurt him, although Stephen Garcia looked improved last week. Unfortunately for Spurrier, when the Gators won a national championship, most of the recruits he’s trying to lure now were just kids. Fortunately for Spurrier, he did recently land a strong recruiting class that gives him hope.

Q: Ohio State’s Jim Tressel is 0-6 in his last six games against Top 5 opponents. He beats Michigan, dominates in the Big 10, and before 2007, he had success in bowl games. What has been his problem since the 2007 bowl loss to Florida that began this downfall?

Well, firstly, quality of opponent. Obviously Jim Tressel has built a program that can consistently be in the Top 10 or 15 programs in America each season. But does he have the athletic offensive linemen and overall speed to match up with what SEC and USC, for example, have brought into those matchups? If you look at the record of many coaches against Top 5 opponents (Pete Carroll is an exception, and his success against top opponents is remarkable) they’ll be skewed to the negative because of the quality of opponent. Also consider conference play. Perhaps the level of competition in the Big Ten hasn’t been on par with that in the SEC and Big 12, for example.

QUICK HITTERS:

Q: As a St. John’s graduate, who is your favorite basketball player in Redmen/Red Storm history? 1) Malik Sealy 2) Ron Artest 3) Chris Mullin.

Q: If you were a single guy looking to enjoy a weekend in an SEC town, where would you advise this person go? 1) Oxford, Mississippi 2) Gainesville, Florida 3) Athens, Georgia 4) Knoxville, Tennessee 5) Baton Rouge, La. You must check out The Grove at Ole Miss before you die.

Q: You’re the Pac-10 commish for a day. How much of a suspension would you have given Oregon’s LeGarrette Blount? I would have given him 10 games, with the possibility of re-evaluating it after eight games based on his progress with anger management, etc. I think you want to give Blount a carrot at the end of the road, a glimmer of hope to play again. That said, I understand fully Chip Kelly’s actions. He’ s a first-year coach who can’t tolerate that type of behavior. After all, it was his first game. And he can’t have THAT be the precedent.

Q: Is Charlie Weis coaching Notre Dame next year? If not, who is? Yes, because Notre Dame wins nine or ten games.

Q: Please, please tell us you are in favor of scrapping this lame BCS business and implementing a playoff system? Of course I’m in favor of a 4- or 8-team playoff system. Aren’t we all?

 

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