BTN Bus Tour Makes Lincoln Stop
Dave Revsine, the lead studio host for the Big Ten Network, has joined analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith on the annual BTN Bus Tour, an 18-day trip with stops at each Big Ten school during fall football camp. The crew began at Indiana and will end at Northwestern later this week. Monday, Revsine, DiNardo and Griffith stopped in Lincoln and watched practice in preparation for their reports on BTN. Revsine took time to visit with Brian Rosenthal of Huskers.com for this Q-and-A about the tour in general and his impressions of the Nebraska team.
BR: What do you enjoy most about these tours?
Dave: “It’s hard to categorize just one thing. I would say the entire thing is a blast. I think it’s really educational in that you can eyeball, in theory, every player in the league, whether or not, pragmatically, you can do that. Sometimes that’s challenging to do. But you at least get a sense for every position group and what everyone’s doing. In terms of preparing for my job, that part of it is great. And I love football, so that’s fun. Hanging out with Howard and Gerry is fun, too. We have a really good relationship. It’s 13 years we’ve been doing this together, and I’ve known both of these guys a long, long time. We get along really well, but it’s tough to be away from your family for 18 straight days. I have twin daughters starting high school today and I’m not there. That’s definitely tough. But watching football and being with these guys and doing something I love, it’s tough to beat that.”
BR: What’s the origin of the bus tour? How did it begin?
Dave: “So the first year of the network was 2007, and we were not on the air until the Thursday night before the season started. But Gerry and Howard and I felt it was really important to go and show our faces, introduce ourselves and kind of explain who we were and what we were going to be doing. So we actually went around, the three of us, to all what was then 11 schools and just watched practice. We taped some observations afterward that went on a web site that no one knew existed because nobody was really thinking about the network. The next year the thought was to do a training camp tour. But that year we got around on our own. Some places you fly, some places you drive, and then the next year – I don’t know who even came up with the idea – we said let’s do it on a bus, let’s have everything together. Of course, it’s so much easier. The big thing I’d say is I get a ton of work done on the bus. Yesterday we were on that bus for 8 hours, so I spent a lot of time going through, reading what people are saying about different teams, going through kind of my notes and prep work and all that. And then it’s fun. It’s indisputably a good time. It’s a lot more fun when you don’t worry about, ‘How are we getting to Penn State again? Is this flight going to go?’ and all of that kind of stuff. So the bus tour has been kind of a breakthrough. This is the 11th year that we’ve been just on the bus.”
BR: Have the schools always been cooperative with giving you access?
Dave: “Yeah, it’s been great. You know, it varies, depending on the place. As you get closer to game week, sometimes the schools play it closer to the vest. I think we’ve gotten to the point now where everybody understands the network is an extension of the league and this is a partnership. That’s not to say we’re not going call it like it is and say what we see. If a team’s deficient at a certain position, we’re going to say it. Otherwise you lose all credibility if you go out there and say every team’s great. You can’t do that. But I think they understand that we’re going to be fair, that we do our legwork, that we’re here, so we’re speaking from a position of knowledge. We’re not just sitting in the studio repeating what we read out of a magazine, that we’re actually here and taking the time to talk to players, talk to coaches, talk to people around the team and lay eyes on the team. Everyone understands that what we do is fair. It was a bit of a process the first few years, but nobody has kicked us out of practice or anything. It’s been pretty smooth sailing, and I give a ton of credit for that to Jim Delany. He helped people understand from the very beginning what this could be and help us understand our roles. His vision for it was probably a big part of it, along with Mark Silverman, who was the original president of the network.”
BR: Do you follow the same route every year?
Dave: “We have been recently. It used to vary a little bit, but now it seems like we’ve gone east first for the last number of years and then come back west. You see teams at different phases of camp. When you see Indiana first and they’re only three practices in, you don’t have as good a sense of how position battles are going to play out. We account for that. I would say when we were at Ohio State, I didn’t think Justin Fields had a great day, but he’s four days into camp. Who knows what he looks like right now? You kind of take that into account. I always look at it as this is not a totality of camp. This is a snapshot. This is one day. We’re parachuting in. Some guys might be nicked up. Some guys might have had a tough day the day before and eventually recover. There’s a million things that could be going on, so I never look at it as being a definitive look at this team. It’s more broad strokes of what a team will look like.”
BR: Do you have a favorite city or favorite spot on the tour?
Dave: “Each place has its own appeal. We have found places we like to eat, places we like to hang out in every town. I happen to love Madison. I just think it’s a great city. I’m a runner, and I found a great running path I like to take. I think part of what makes this league great is we have found really good places to hang out and kind of unique characteristics in each one of these cities. People treat us great. It’s a great league, and I think that’s reinforced along the way of all the places we go. There’s something good to do and something good to see.”
BR: What are your impressions of Lincoln and the fan base here?
Dave: “This is a place in Lincoln where more people come up to us and want to talk to us. It’s pretty clear the network is heavily viewed here. People always coming up to us and saying hello and thanking us for doing our job. The fan base is very passionate, in a really positive sort of way. It’s clear Nebraska fans love this program and love this team and they want to see it back in its rightful place in college football, which is from what I’ve seen today, not very far off. Just a warm reception. Nebraska fits in our league really well. I think it was an easy transition. The first time I came here it just felt like a Big Ten school, it felt like a Big Ten city. It has a certain kind of Midwestern sensibility that the Big Ten has and Nebraska fits in with really well. This is a great, great place. We always stay down in the Haymarket and eat well and have a great time.”
BR: Based on what you’ve seen so far today, what are your initial thoughts on Nebraska?
Dave: “Physically, this team has made huge strides in the last year. What it looked like last year and what it looks like now, I don’t want to say it’s night and day, but it’s a significantly noticeable difference, particularly along the line of scrimmage. They’re physically more impressive. Last year we were here and they really didn’t know the quarterback spot, and it was obvious that Adrian Martinez was a really talented kid, so they come in looking at that differently this year. They have more difference makers at running back. Dedrick Mills is going to be an important addition. Wan'Dale Robinson, in whatever way they use him, is clearly a really talented kid. They have a lot of answers. This division, this side is going to be really balanced. Minnesota looked good when we were there and has a very manageable schedule. Wisconsin has improved significantly and has a far less-manageable schedule. So to me, that’s kind of the balancing act: Where are these teams in terms of just how good they are, and who do you have to play from the other side? Because that’s a huge part in determining who wins the West.”
Reach Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @GBRosenthal.