Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine and Madison

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Posted by on November 13, 2008 at 15:11:45:

Behind the Mike: Dad's communication skills made an impact on Dave Revsine

You might expect Big Ten Network studio host Dave Revsine to be a little biased about Madison. After all, he was educated here. Kind of. He went to kindergarten at Shorewood Hills Elementary School, while his dad, Lawrence Revsine, was a visiting professor for two semesters at the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1970s.

Fact is, Dave Revsine almost worked in Madison television. At least, he wanted to work here. "I begged Jay Wilson to give me a job, but he didn't have any openings at the time," he said of his interview at WKOW/Ch. 27 with Wilson, who's now the sports director at WISC/Ch. 3. "I don't know that Jay would even remember that I came up here."

Revsine hasn't forgotten the circuitous route that he has taken to the Big Ten Network, whether it was his upbringing in Northbrook, Ill., his schooling at Northwestern, his year studying abroad in Ireland, his stint as a financial analyst in New York City, his TV stopovers in Sherman, Texas, and the Quad Cities or his nearly 11 years at ESPN.

Throughout all of these chapters in his life, he was influenced by his dad, Lawrence, a distinguished professor of financial accounting at Northwestern. "I took an accounting course and I went to get some help from him because I had no idea what was going on," Revsine recalled, "and he joked with me, 'Clearly the accounting gene was recessive.'"

But the elder Revsine was such a skilled communicator, some of it was bound to rub off, he deduced wistfully. In addition, his dad lectured on "always keeping your options open," which served his son well during his deliberation over a career path. "I had a great job at Chase Manhattan Bank," he said. "But it was not a great fit. I was not a big finance guy."

After considering law school and journalism school, Revsine heeded the advice of a high school classmate who convinced him to "get his feet wet" right away by taking the plunge into small market television. That appealed to Revsine, who had done some radio play-by-play on Northwestern's student station. So he joined his friend in Sherman, a Texas town of less than 40,000 located an hour north of Dallas.

Beyond marveling at the density of pickup trucks in parking lots, Revsine loved his job and ended up meeting his wife during his two-year stay. The Quad Cities offered more exposure -- a jump of 90 market sizes -- but fewer amenities. Workers at the economically strapped station were reduced to utilizing recycled resume tapes as shooting tapes.

Revsine added to his resume tape by hooking up with ESPN after one year in Iowa. His timing was impeccable, since the cable sports giant was hiring on-air talent for the launch of ESPNews -- for which he became an anchor. It didn't take long for Revsine to branch out; his assignments ranged from "College Gameday" to basketball play-by-play to "Outside the Lines" to "SportsCenter" to studio host.

"It was really good for me in terms of my responsibilities and the variety of things that I got to do," Revsine acknowledged. "It was such a good experience and it was neat to be at the epicenter, where everything was happening. I truly enjoyed every minute. I've likened being at ESPN to being a kid in the candy store. But you don't want to be told you can only eat the licorice. You want a little bit of the chocolate, too."

Although the "SportsCenter" anchors carry a high profile, he took himself out of the weekend mix to be the host of a college gameday show on ESPN radio. "I love college football and I wanted to talk about it and this was my opportunity," Revsine said. "Was it the best career move? Maybe not. But it worked out great for me in terms of getting this job."

With the Big Ten Network. Mind you, Revsine was not looking to leave ESPN. He liked what he was doing. Plus, he and his wife had raised their three children in Connecticut and they were very comfortable living there. But there was something about the BTN that intrigued him, beyond the opportunity to return to the Chicago area.

After visiting with the management team -- president Mark Silverman, executive producer Leon Schweir and Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany -- Revsine was sold on their vision. What he hadn't counted on was the early distribution problems. Not even his mother got to see him, because her home was surrounded by trees and that prevented her from installing a satellite dish.

"When I lived 700 miles away, she was able to watch me every night (on ESPN)," he lamented. "And now that I'm 15 miles away, she can't watch me. That was frustrating."

Especially since Revsine felt so good about the product and the chemistry that had developed with his studio co-hosts, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith. "You couldn't have stronger leadership and I believed in Mark and Leon and commissioner Delany," said Revsine, who was confident that BTN and the cable providers would strike a deal -- which finally happened in the summer of 2008, almost a year after launch. "I believed that they would somehow figure it out and get it done."

He has one regret. He got the contract offer from the BTN on a Friday. On Sunday, his dad went into intensive care, and Dave never got the chance to tell him that he was taking the job and coming home. Lawrence Revsine was 64 when he died. "He was a really good communicator," Dave Revsine said, "and I think that was something he passed on to me. Or, at least, I hoped he did."

(Mike Lucas, 77 Square)

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