ESPN's corporate layoffs that were reported to be in the hundreds were given a disheartening public face on Wednesday when it was reported by John Koblin that longtime stats guru Howie Schwab was one of the longtime ESPN employees cut loose by the company. Schwab had been with ESPN since 1987 when he started as a freelance researcher. He famously moved in front of the cameras with the trivia show Stump the Schwab and had appeared on air as recently as last month as part of UNITE's Schwab Tournament. Ironically enough, UNITE and its staffers are also reportedly on the ESPN chopping block.
I had a chance to talk to Howie Schwab a couple weeks ago for this profile piece in the lead up to the UNITE final. Schwab was everything you wouldn't expect from his TV persona – soft spoken, genuine, and very complimentary of all the college students that participated and got the chance to visit Bristol. In fact, he noted that his favorite part of the entire experience was the time off the air showing the finalists around the ESPN campus and spending time taking to them about a future career in the business. Most of all, Schwab spoke of his joy of working at ESPN – from stats research, to Stump the Schwab, to his work with Dick Vitale, and even MCing the ESPYs red carpet.
After the news broke, Schwab posted this message to his Facebook page, which received numerous positive comments from in and out of Bristol. If you visit the link, you'll see several recognizable names leaving their condolences and well wishes.
Several current and former ESPNers also made their thoughts known on Twitter:
Seeing Howie Schwab in the hallways at ESPN with his jersey du jour and a big bag of chips was always a delight. #thatsucks
— Michelle Beadle (@MichelleDBeadle) June 12, 2013
Sad that HowieSchwab was let go at ESPN. To me he was ESPN. He gave me a shot when no one else would. He's much more than just a trivia whiz
— Bruce Feldman (@BFeldmanCBS) June 12, 2013
Sad that my buddy Howie Schwab was part of the cutbacks due to financial decisions. Howie has been a great help to me – wish him the best!
— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) June 12, 2013
We hung with Howie Schwab Monday in North Carolina. He was with Vitale. Great guy. Always helped the @dpshow when we all worked in Bristol.
— Paul Pabst (@PaulPabst) June 12, 2013
— Tim Brando (@TimBrando) June 12, 2013
Another anonymous source who worked in Schwab's department at ESPN sent us this e-mail:
"I didn't have too many personal dealings with the Schwab but I worked in his group (Stats & Information) for five years.
I never heard one bad thing about him. He was regarded very well both professionally and personally.
So, you're right, his on-air persona was much different than his actual one.
Very sad day for that place. Twenty-six years. Thanks for the positive coverage of him. He deserves it."
The numerous testimonies to Schwab show the impact this move will have both inside and outside Bristol. Schwab was the ethos of the most redeeming qualities of ESPN and worked there for 26 years, most of which were spent well away from the limelight. Just two weeks I talked to him about how much he loved his work at ESPN. Now, he's gone.
Given his following and popularity after being on "Stump the Schwab" Howie Schwab will become the public face for these layoffs and the people who have given decades of service to ESPN only to be laid off due to their high salaries. It's nothing but unfortunate.
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