Leistikow: Dave Revsine dishes on Hawkeyes, Big Ten West during BTN Bus Tour
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Dave Revsine was born in Champaign, Illinois; went to kindergarten in Madison, Wisconsin; and spent his high school and college years in and around Evanston, Illinois.
He quite literally grew up surrounded by the Big Ten Conference.
“This league runs through my veins,” Revsine, 50, says. “I have a great passion for it.”
There may be no more fitting lead studio host for the Big Ten Network, the role Revsine has held from the network’s humble beginnings in 2007 to its current juggernaut status in 2019.
“There are 6 million living Big Ten alums,” Revsine says. “And I’m the one who gets to sit in that seat. I see that as a massive responsibility.”
On Tuesday, for the 13th straight summer, Revsine rolled into Iowa City alongside studio analysts and friends Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith to get an inside look at an Iowa football practice. The trio got together even before the BTN launched a minute of programming, and they've been together since.
In 2007, they were three guys in a car making the rounds to introduce themselves to coaching staffs. Now, their big, blue tour bus has become a recognizable symbol that the TV cameras are in town for a day.
The annual BTN Bus Tour — officially in its 11th year (there wasn’t actually a bus in 2008, although their practice stops were televised) — cranks out one of the network's most anticipated pieces of preseason programming: on-location, one-hour studio shows with interviews and closed-practice footage of your favorite Big Ten team.
Revsine, as the network’s lead voice, is well-schooled about the history and current issues facing every Big Ten program. He jokes that it’s not that difficult (“We only have to know 14 schools”) but acknowledges the value of each of these tour stops — even if it's tough being away from his wife and three children for most of three weeks every August.
“Gerry, Howard and I really enjoy one another quite a bit. So that helps a lot. And we just learn a ton,” Revsine says. “I don’t know how you can do this job and NOT do this. Because this is how we know about the teams. If we don’t know more about our teams than anyone else, then we’re not doing our job.”
While the overall thrust of each tour stop contains a positive spin (after all, it's the conference's network), keen eyes can detect when the veteran trio has concerns about a team’s trajectory.
A year ago, the crew arrived in Madison expecting to see the preseason No. 4-ranked team in the country. It departed with a different opinion.
“Last year we pumped the brakes on Wisconsin. I don’t know if everyone picked up on that,” Revsine says. “But we walked out of there and were saying to ourselves, ‘There’s no way this is the fourth-best team in the country.’”
Their skepticism came to fruition. The Badgers staggered to a 7-5 regular season after being a unanimous media pick to win the Big Ten West.
So, once again, these bus stops can contain valuable tells for the season ahead.
That’s one reason I was interested in talking to Revsine on Tuesday, and he couldn’t have been more accommodating to make time during his short stay at the Hansen Football Performance Center. A well-respected broadcaster (who has been greeted by Kirk Ferentz at each of these bus tours) would have a good feel for not only the Hawkeyes, but the rest of the Big Ten West.
He, DiNardo and Griffith view Iowa as West contenders. No surprise there. But there wasn't a strong vibe that this had the makings of a special Iowa team. A day earlier on their show from Lincoln, the tone was considerably more bullish about Scott Frost's second season in Nebraska (with DiNardo reversing an earlier opinion that the West-favored Cornhuskers were being overhyped).
“This is a vastly improved league,” Revsine says, with stops at Illinois and Northwestern remaining. “Minnesota is way better on the line of scrimmage. Wisconsin is better, particularly on that defensive line. They’re way better. I think they’re better at quarterback. Purdue has improved.
“What is making the West interesting is that everyone we’ve seen so far, you could construct an argument for everyone being in the race.”
As a revealing aside, the crew sees similar parity among the top four teams in the Big Ten East.
“A lot of times we walk out of Ohio State and (know) they’re clearly the best team,” Revsine says. “I’m not sure that’s the case this year, particularly if (Justin) Fields gets hurt.”
So, back to the Hawkeyes ...
The BTN’s concerns are in line with what I’ve mentioned a lot this offseason: The run game, defensive tackle and free safety. They seemed a tad more skeptical about Iowa’s passing game than I expected.
“They’re a good solid team that’s going to be capable of beating anybody on any given day,” Revsine says. “And then it’s just a matter of, do you win those close games?"
It’s clear throughout our conversation that Revsine was born for this job, as he details the fact that Iowa lost three straight games a year ago by 12 combined points. He knows the Hawkeyes, through and through, just like he knows the rest of the Big Ten.
As we parted ways, Revsine offered one final helpful tip, which perfectly summarized what he's seen so far on the BTN Bus Tour.
“You better know the tiebreaker formula," he says, "backward and forward in the West.”
Hawkeyes columnist Chad Leistikow has covered sports for 24 years with The Des Moines Register, USA TODAY and Iowa City Press-Citizen. Follow @ChadLeistikow on Twitter.