Yesterday, I had the opportunity to speak with the lead anchor of the Big Ten Network, Dave Revsine, both for AA and the new Big Ten blog that we just launched at Bloguin, Delany’s Dozen. Double D just started up, but it’s got a great team of writers and your humble AA friend will write there from time to time. It’s been 4 years since Big Ten Network launched and Dave Revsine has been there since the very beginning. Below are some excerpts from the full interview you can check out here. Dave talks to us about his decision to leave ESPN for Big Ten Network, his time at Bristol, where BTN can still improve amidst its success, and the future of the conference with Nebraska’s addition.
Q: What interested you in sports broadcasting and how did you get your break in the business?
A: I always wanted to be a sportscaster since the time I was very young. Like many, I was interested in sports but I realized at an early age that I wasn’t going to make money as an athlete. I was always fascinated with sportscasting. I grew up in Chicago at a time with a lot of great sportscasters and I just thought it was really neat and a way to stay around sports.
In college I did play by play for the college radio station, I didn’t major in communications or journalism, I actually majored in European history. I kept my hand in it and did some other things. I spent a year in Ireland on scholarship, came back and got a job with Chase as a financial analyst and hated every minute of it. I didn’t want to resign myself to doing that. I wanted to pursue sportscasting and see where it would take me. I had a buddy in Sherman, Texas just north of Dallas. I called him and basically said, could you hook me up somehow. He was going to Tulsa for a job and the station actually hired me for their next job that came open. I was down there four months later as a general news reporter and if something came up in sports I could move there. I went from there to the Quad Cities and from there to ESPN.
Q: What went into your decision to leave ESPN and join Big Ten Network?
A: Originally I didn’t think I would leave. I went into the interview process with Big Ten Network thinking it would give me leverage at ESPN. I felt you needed leverage internally to get where you needed to go. I was a Northwestern grad and grew up in Chicago, so I was interested. There was some hesitation because it was a startup, but I met some people in Chicago and was really blown away. I bought into the vision and had dinner with Jim Delany… and was impressed and thought about all the innovations that he’s thought of and how he’s always a step ahead of the game.
They had a 20 year agreement to run it, so it made sense for me on a lot of different levels. I had a chance to be the #1 guy and I’ve never had that. Even in my two local jobs I wasn’t the number one guy. I don’t know if there’s a #1 guy at ESPN, but it certainly wasn’t me. There were a lot of factors that made me feel like if there was ever a risk worth taking, then this was the one.
Q: How would you compare working at ESPN to working at Big Ten Network?
A: I was not one of those guys who left ESPN bitterly. There have been guys like that through the years, but I wasn’t one of them. I loved it. I was the weekend guy in the Quad Cities, they took a chance on me and I really enjoyed it. The one thing about being in Bristol is you are at the epicenter of sports broadcasting. The difference though is you’re involved at arms length. I was fortunate enough to go out and be a part of it, got to go out and do play by play and have the College Gameday radio show and visit campuses and be at big events. If there’s any frustration in Bristol it’s that you’re in the epicenter, but you’re so far removed from the games because you’re always in the studio. I was one of the fortunate guys there to have that mix.
I just left because I felt like this was a good opportunity and a chance to try something different. I was excited to be in on the ground floor and that’s the neat thing about Big Ten Network. I’ve had such an active role in helping to shape it. What do we want to show every day, what do we want to convey to our viewers… here it’s a smaller operation (than ESPN) and I can give input and it’s been great all along to help shape something.
Q: In your opinion, what has Big Ten Network done well so far, and where can it improve?
A: I think we’ve done a great job. I try to be as objective as I can – we have good days and days that aren’t as good, and I felt the same way at ESPN. Overall I feel really good about the direction we’ve gone… I wouldn’t trade my analysts for anyone. I’d put our football studio show up against anybody. Jim Jackson for instance has been unbelievable and I feel like we’re getting better and better. We’ve connected with the schools and I feel that is really important. They need to see you as a partner and someone that can help the profile of the program.
Going out and doing our preseason practice tours and going at a level that has never happened before – that is where our advantage is, we know these 11, soon to be 12, programs better than anyone. We’ve seen the 4th and 5th running backs at practice, that’s what differentiates us.
I still think we need to reach fans better in our shows. We’re making a real active effort to be more interactive or do social media differently. It’s been a challenge but we’re taking steps, the network has created a fan council. Including the voice of the fan more is one thing we can do, and I believe we’re getting there.
Q: What does the future hold for Big Ten Network and the conference as a whole?
A: Nebraska was a homerun addition. Think about regular season games in the conference now – Nebraska v OSU, Nebraska v Michigan, Nebraska v Penn State… these are games where if you would have told somebody these teams were playing, that will get people fired up nationally. I think that’s incredible. The entire quality of the conference gets ratcheted up and by extension it helps the network. We get those games every week and it’s one more chance to have one of these great teams on the air. Where we sit it’s great as well as for the league and the fans. I can’t imagine the type of excitement that will generate.
Again, for Dave’s thoughts on more topics including the Big Ten’s reputation nationwide, the Jim Tressel situation, and some great thoughts on the NCAA Tournament, check out the full interview at Delany’s Dozen.