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OTE Chats With Dave Revsine Of The Big Ten Network, Part 1


[Editors Note: This is the first of a two part interview conducted on Friday, before we found out about the tragic news on the passing of Joe Paterno. Part II discusses JoePa's legacy, and will be posted soon...Ted]

Back in August, right before the beginning of the season, we were fortunate to be able to sit down with Dave Revsine, the studio host for the most popular shows on the Big Ten Network--the football Saturday pre game and post game wrap ups. How that happened, I'll never know, so imagine by stunned surprise when he agreed to sit down with me again and review the B1G 2011 season. He must've forgotten that my interviewing skills are little bit below Chris Farley's when he's got Paul McCartney one on one, but he probably realized that once we were about 10 or 11 seconds into the interview.

Seriously, Dave was very gracious with his time on Friday, and we spoke for almost 45 minutes. Due to the length, we've got this split up into two parts. On today's segment, find out his take on the Pac-12 partnership, modifications to the bowl system, ESPN bias, and if he was King For A Day, whether or not he would be a benevolent dictator or not.


First off, thanks for sitting down with us again. Most of what we're going to talk about is on the field stuff, but Commissioner Jim Delany made some news off the field recently. He and Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott announced a sports partnership that has fans from both conferences excited. What's your impression of that deal?

I think it's brilliant. I didn't totally understand what it was going to be until I sat down with Commissioner Delany when he came into the office and explained, in so many words, that it's an alternative to expansion. It's a way to improve the reach of your conference, in terms of the scope of it. You become relevant in another area of the country, you increase the value of your TV package because you have some more appealing games, and you do this without sacrificing who you are. I didn't really get it until I sat down with him and talked about it, and it just reinforced my belief that he's a really brilliant commissioner. He really gets it on a lot of different levels, and this was an example of that.

With the Pac-12 partnership, Commissioner Delany has said that the 9 game conference schedule will be abandoned. Is that a good decision, or bad one?

I think it's a good decision. I always had hesitation with that, because the coaches I talked to were very concerned about the inequities of the years when you had five road games. With the schedules being made so far in advance, let's say you're playing five road games against teams that are better than you thought they'd be--there were worries about having an imbalance there. The football schedule is as much about who you play as who you don't play, and you also had schools that want to try to have seven home games, so it seemed like it was a combination of all these factors.

A guy like me, who's in the television business, would've supported it because we'd have better games. But when you look at it from the coaches perspective, in a system that already you're not going to play everybody, there was a randomness there that everybody accepts (the 8 game schedule) because there's no other way you're going to do it because you have a conference of this size. But to add in this other variable where there can be such a challenge in the differences of the schedules (between the schools) I don't think a lot of people thought it was a great idea.

So to me, (the Pac-12 partnership) is a really great alternative. You know that you're going to have nine really interesting games, and it's a way to accomplish all those other things he was talking about that a ninth conference game wouldn't have achieved.

Commissioner Delany has said he supports a modification to the BCS system as long as the B1G is still tied to the Rose Bowl. It sounds like some sort of ‘Plus 1' playoff will be implemented soon, but there's no new format in place yet. If you were King For a Day, what would the Dave Revsine ideal scenario be to determine a college football champion?

Well, I might be a dinosaur in that I don't dislike the system we have nearly as much as most other people seem to. I do see limitations in it, though. For instance, this year I will admit that if I had my way, the championship game would've been LSU against Oklahoma State. Now everyone is saying that Alabama was the best team. Well, they were the best team in New Orleans, but they weren't the best team in Tuscaloosa. My belief is that what the college football system tries to do, and it's something that most people don't grasp, is that it's not necessarily trying to find the best team at the end of the season, but it's trying to take the breadth of the season in college football and figure out who was the best team over the course of the entire season.

And you know, there's no better example for me this year than in the Big Ten. Someone was saying to me ‘why wouldn't you want an 8 team playoff? Why wouldn't you want Wisconsin as the eighth seed against whoever', and I kind of cut them off. I said stop right there--I've watched every minute of every game Wisconsin has played, and they're not the best team in the country, and I don't need a playoff to tell me that. Now, I would love to see the B1G win the National Championship, of course I would, but Wisconsin wasn't the best team in the country this year. And that, to me, is what you're trying to achieve.

I understand that different sports do it differently. Obviously, no one is going to say ‘do away with the World Series', but look at the Cardinals over the course of this season-were they the best team over the course of the year? Absolutely they weren't. [ED Note-as an avid Cards fan, I interjected an emphatic, ridiculously homerish YES THEY WERE RAWRRRR. Dave disagreed. Since he was my guest and I really want to interview him again, I let Dave win the argument. At least that's my story and I'm sticking to it. There's no audio proof that he schooled me on baseball, too. Okay, there might be, but you'll never hear it.] Were they the best team in 2006, when they won 83 games in the regular season? Absolutely they weren't but they were the best team at the end of the year, and that's what baseball tries to achieve-who was the best team at the end of the year. And that's fine, that's great. But to me, college football has tried to do it a little bit differently, and that's what people can't wrap their arms around, because they're the only sport that does it that way.

I'm not saying that this system is perfect-far from it, I'd be fine with a Plus One if that's what people want to do. But if we had an 8 team playoff, I think you're changing what your definition of your football national champion is. Now you're making your national champion whoever the best team was at the end of the year, and if that's what everyone wants, that's fine, but I have always been of the belief that what made college football great was that you're taking the breadth of the season into account.

So would you be in favor of going back to the old bowl tie in system, where the champion is just voted on, or do you think some sort of on the field solution, whatever that may be, is the way to go?

Once you open up a door, you're not going to be able to close it, and that's what I think people who don't want a playoff fear, at least in terms of going to a Plus One--will an 8 or 16 team playoff be inevitable? But I also don't see them going back to the old bowl tie in system, either. So I'm not necessarily opposed to it, but where is it going to stop? If you want to do a Plus One, but again, I like the bowls, I enjoy feeling like the regular season matters, and I think if you start putting in a ton of teams it does diminish the regular season. I know people don't want to hear that, it's not a popular opinion, I certainly understand that.

But to answer your question, if I were King for a day, I think a Plus One would be in the conversation. You have to listen to the fanbase, too. If you're the King, you don't rule as an autocrat, I want to be a benevolent dictator (laughter), but I think that if you do a playoff, you'll diminish the regular season.

You mentioned the Alabama-LSU rematch, and I want to ask one last off the field question, because I've been hearing this a lot more this year than in years past from almost all the fanbases in the B1G. We think that there is a bias from ESPN against the B1G for whatever the reason may be. Do you think there's anything to that, or am I just perpetuating this Consiracy Theory?

Well, as a guy that worked at ESPN for 11 years, I feel that I'm somewhat in a position to answer that question. I was a college sports person for the last 7 or 8 years that I was there, so I was pretty actively involved in their coverage, and no ever told me what to say, what to believe, or what ESPN's official stance on different leagues was. I was on the radio over the course of several years with Mel Kiper, Todd McShay and Gerry DiNardo, and we were the college football people at ESPN radio, and no one ever told us what opinion to espouse, or came in and said ‘I can't believe you said that'.

I think all in all, it was a good year for the B1G on the field-an inaugural conf. champ game, 10 bowl games, and two BCS bids. What was your overall impression of B1G football on the field in 2011?

I thought we had a good year, not a great year, but the best is yet to come. I'm really excited about the direction the league is taking. Obviously the Urban Meyer hiring helps a lot at Ohio State, and I think Michigan is headed in a really good direction. I think it's always good for the league when the marquee programs are good, and I think 10 bowl teams speak to the depth of the league. But ultimately, you're going to be judges on how your top teams do. If you're the B1G, you're going to be judged by those BCS games, and obviously, having Michigan win a BCS game helped the B1G, and Wisconsin certainly represented itself well. You had a great Michigan State-Georgia bowl matchup. You had a team that played in the SEC championship game and didn't win it against a team that played in the B1G championship game and didn't win it. It was an equal matchup and a great game that went in to overtime to decide it. It turns out Michigan State won, but even if they hadn't, I don't think it proves anything other than both Georgia and MSU were two really solid teams that were really evenly matched. So I think if you go through those top tier bowl games involving B1G teams, I thought the B1G did great.

To me the issue is you're going to have to be a little bit more competitive at the bottom. For whatever reason, historically some of those teams have not done great in bowl games. We saw Northwestern lose another bowl game, and you're just waiting for a breakthrough from some of those programs. But I think ultimately it's the top tier teams you're going to be judged on, and I think the B1G represented themselves well there.

Part II will be posted tomorrow, and in it we talk about the conference from top to bottom.