This week we spoke to Dave Revsine, the Big 10 Network studio host who also can be heard doing play-by-play. You may remember him from his 11-year stay at ESPN. The sports casting thing nearly didn’t happen, though – Revsine, a Northwestern grad, got a perfect score on his LSAT and while wondering if law school was the right move, he spent a year as a financial analyst in New York City. We talked to him about that job, his days at ESPN, the plodding nature of Big 10 football, whether or not it makes financial sense for Notre Dame to get into the Big 10, and his fraternity brother, pro baseball player Mark Loretta.
Q: Your path to the Big 10 Network could be called unusual – Phi Beta Kappa at Northwestern, financial analyst for a year in New York, ESPN, and now the Big 10 Network. Was announcing sports always the dream?
I had always wanted to be a sportscaster. I think I was one of those classic stories of a kid who is about 7 or 8 years old and figures out they love sports but they aren’t necessarily going to make a living playing sports. So what else can you do? I was one of those kids who would turn down the sound on the television and call play-by-play.
But by the time I got to college, I had talked to enough people and was realistic enough to know that a sportscaster job was a bit of a crap shoot, so I knew that I needed other stuff to fall back on. I was a European history major in college and I didn’t take a single broadcasting course. But I did play-by-play for the radio station, and I tried to get involved in internships to keep my hand in it because I knew it was something I wanted to do.
I have deferred every graduate school under the sun. At one point I was deferring law school, business school and journalism school all simultaneously. After I got hired at ESPN, I got a random phone call from some guy who goes, ‘I’m your roommate at Penn law school.’ I said, ‘I got great news for you man, you got a single!’
I didn’t want to do something where I’d languish and find myself unhappy and be 30 years old and have to start all over. I just don’t have the patience for that. So I kept giving myself artificial deadlines. ‘Ok, if I haven’t moved on in a year, then I”ll look to go to grad school.’ I was really fortunate – three years in the business and I got to ESPN. I kind of lucked out – it was at a time when the business was really expanding
Q: How did you wind up at Chase Manhattan Bank in New York after college?
A: It’s a bit of a long story – I went abroad for a year after getting this scholarship through the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship program. If you kind of mumble it, it sounds like you’re a Rhodes Schloar. That was the first thing that was appealing about it. It was sponsored by the local rotary club and they pay for you to spend an entire year aboard. You have to live in a country where you speak the language. Since the only language I speak is the one we’re speaking now, I was somewhat limited in my options.
I went to Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and was an ambassador of goodwill and understanding. You speak at rotary clubs and tell people about yourself … and then you get home and go to rotary clubs and speak about what you learned. It is a fantastic program. While over there, I was applying to law school because I thought that was where I might be headed. Had I got into Yale, I would have gone there. But they did not accept me. I got weight listed at Harvard and I didn’t get into Stanford, and I decided to differ the best place I got in, which turned out to be Penn, and figure out what I wanted to do in the interim.
I wanted to be in New York due to a relationship I was involved in – of course, that whole thing exploded about four months after I got there. I was in New York and there was a recession going on, and there weren’t a ton of jobs. I got one as a financial analyst in the corporate sector of the bank. Honestly, I don’t know what the heck I did there. I kind of sat at a computer and waited for the day to end so I could get the heck out of there. I was absolutely miserable.
It reinforced for me that you have to like what you do. I figured out that I wasn’t cut out for that kind of world.
Q: You left ESPN in 2007. How would you characterize your 11 years in Bristol at ESPN?
A: Fantastic. A great learning experience. The brainpower around that place is great – they totally understand what they are doing. You’re kind of at the epicenter. And hey – they plucked me from total obscurity. I was the weekend guy at the worst station in the 88th market in the country.
They just know what they’re doing. I know there are people who aren’t crazy about their product and the “ESPN-ification” of sports, but at the end of the day, they are really savvy business people. I think they understand what fans want. There may be some fans who don’t want what ESPN is giving them. But in the aggregate, its what fans want, otherwise it wouldn’t be as successful as it is.
Q: Did you see any of that culture that has occasionally plagued the network over the last decade, resulting in the firing of some high-profile on-air talent? We keep hearing that a decade ago, pre-blogs, cell-phone cameras and youtube, it was much more bawdy than it is today.
A: I really didn’t. But I’m the wrong guy to ask – I’m not one who would be .. my girlfriend, now my wife, had moved there with me. I kind of led a boring, suburban, Connecticut existence. I would say … there’s obviously some stuff going on there. But it’s no different … I worked at Chase and they sent me on a business trip and I’m with some VP about an hour outside of Tampa. They get us a car to go into Tampa and this guy orders three bottles of Dom and gets so hammered that he was puking at the side of the road on the way home. I had to help the driver drag the guy up to his hotel room. The next day he was so physically ill, I had to represent Chase in the meeting because he was passed out.
I guess my point is that there are people who do that stuff everywhere. It’s just higher profile at ESPN. I’m not saying it’s unfair to point that stuff out – you’re a public figure. I guess I’m saying, I think there are a lot of corporate cultures where you’re going to find isolated people who perhaps don’t necessarily have their moral compass aligned in exactly the right way.
Q: Do you think anything needs to be done at ESPN to clean this up? The continued public relations hits lately have been pretty bad. Or do these problems just come with the territory?
There’s a responsibility that comes with a job like that. Each individual person needs to know that they are representing the company – ESPN or whatever company – and needs to make good decisions. I think we’re all in positions all the time where you’re in a public and you just have to understand that people are watching you whether you know it or not. And you have to make the right decisions. If you make poor decisions, there are going to be ramifications, and I think that’s what we’re seeing here.
Q: You’re at the Big 10 Network, so I’m sure you hear critiques like this often – Big 10 football is plodding and boring and heavy on the defense. The games are often ugly. What is your opinion on state of Big 10 football?
It’s pretty cyclical. We’re only about three years removed from, at the end of the year, having a game between No. 1 and No. 2, an absolute classic between Michigan and Ohio State. At the end of that game, people were saying, ‘you know what? It’d be pretty good if that were the national championship.’ This stuff is cyclical.
Is the plodding stereotype fair? The teams right now in the big 10 – Ohio State, Iowa, Penn State – they rely more on defense than offense for their success. But if you look back through the years, Purdue was innovative offensively in this decade, Northwestern was, too. Troy Smith won a Heisman trophy … I think we always want to paint with a broad brush and say ‘this is what the Big 10 is, or this is what the SEC is.’
There was a low-scoring, somewhat plodding SEC game last week between Tennessee and Alabama. The Florida-LSU game was low-scoring … I guess I feel like for whatever reason, that is the perception of the Big 10 right now. Whether that’s fair or not is another question.
Q: The SEC has been unwatchable at times recently. Alabama-Ole Miss was dreadful, too. Florida-LSU was a snoozer.
A: I think so. Ole Miss turned out to be a bit of a fraud.
Q: What about the sentiment that cold weather affects Big 10 recruiting? That athletes from warm-weather locales aren’t going to want to go to cold-weather cities to play college football? That the elite athletes would rather bask in the sun in Southern California or Florida?
I’m not sure it’s so much the weather, but rather the distance. The population centers have kind of shifted. I think there’s a trend – if you look at recruiting – of kids wanting to stay closer to home as a general rule. It’s not always the case; you can find exceptions. But by and large I think kids want to stay close to home. A kid living in Florida might say he’s not going further than LSU or Alabama … how do you woo that kid up to Penn State or Ohio State? I think that’s more of an issue.
To me … look, buy a coat. I can understand wanting to be close to home and wanting your parents to be able to drive and see all your games. I think that’s a bigger challenge for the Big 10 than the weather.
Q: Does the Big 10 need a championship game like the SEC has, like the Big 12 has, and like the ACC has?
No. I think if anything, a championship game might hurt the Big 10. Look at the success the Big 10 has had getting two teams into the BCS. You go through the years – nobody has had more success than the Big 10 doing that. That’s ultimately where you’re going to get your biggest financial windfall. Why would you want to jeopardize that for the sake of having a championship game? Now if you can get the right team – Notre Dame, let’s say – to join your conference then its a totally different story. But just for the sheer sake of having a championship game? No. I don’t see what advantage there is.
Q: What about Notre Dame in the Big 10? This has been discussed for a few years … are you a fan of this move? Would you like to see it happen?
A: Commissioner Delaney made no secret of the fact that the league extended Notre Dame an invitation and Notre Dame turned it down. I think if Notre Dame goes a number of years without reaching the BCS, and given the nature of their TV contract … does NBC continue to re-up for Notre Dame football? It all depends on the ratings and whether or not it is financially worth it for NBC. If that contract isn’t worth as much as it once was … given the favorable TV deal the Big 10 has, maybe Notre Dame’s position changes, and maybe it feels like it needs a conference, whether it be the Big 10 or someone else.
I think Notre Dame is the most logical fit in the Big 10, there’s no question about it.
Q: Who needs who more? Does the Big 10 need Notre Dame more, or could Notre Dame, which has been down for a few years, use the Big 10?
A: I think you could make an argument either way. Notre Dame is the Tiger Woods, the New York Yankees … even when they’re not all that relevant in terms of wins and losses, they’re still relevant because everyone has an opinion on them. You either love them or you hate them. From that point of view, Notre Dame would help any conference.
Does Notre Dame need a conference? They’ve been wildly successful for all those years … now, if you get the right guy in there and you’re 12-0, 11-1 and playing in a BCS game game every year, then you don’t need a conference. But might a conference help them? I don’t know. I don’t pretend to be an expert on finances at Notre Dame, and ultimately, that’s what all of this stuff comes down to.
Q: Three favorite cities in Big 10 country. Chicago. Madison, Wisconsin. And State College in Pennsylvania.
Q: Should there be a college football playoff? If yes, how many teams?: I would say no. The only playoff I could see is one with four teams. That’s the max.
Q: Favorite Harold Baines baseball moment. I did love Harold Baines growing up. Unfortunately, he didn’t have any great individual moments because the teams were so bad. I just loved his consistency and the fact that he went about his business. He just came in and did his job.
Q: Scariest movie you’ve ever seen. Not really a big scary movie guy. Let’s go with The Shining.
Q: You are fraternity brothers with MLB veteran 2B Mark Loretta. Got a good Mark Loretta story? We had this incredible intramural football team. Loretta didn’t play all year, but then he showed up for the Championship game. He was the backup QB. We had an awfully good QB.