Crispin fitting in nicely with BTN
Hundreds of men and women handle color commentary duties on major college basketball games for dozens of radio and TV networks across the country, and the comparisons about who’s good and who’s not or who works at some major network as opposed to a regional outlet can consume some of them.
That’s because some broadcasters worry a bit more about their career progression than actually doing their jobs.
Not Jon Crispin. The former Penn Stater who works for the Big Ten Network has a different perspective on pressure and success.
Crispin’s schedule includes 40 color commentary opportunities and 45 studio shows for BTN during the regular season.
When the NCAA Tournament begins, he’ll serve as a game analyst for Westwood One, which carries March Madness on radio.
“People are so concerned with the appearance of being successful that we don’t do things that serve our best interests. I want to work for people who value me and have a role that allows me to grow. I have that with what I’m doing,” Crispin said. “I get to be myself. If you’re overly concerned with appealing to popular opinion and pleasing the masses, you end up becoming a puppet.”
With his focus on the Big Ten, Crispin continually shares expertise and insights with viewers. He knows the conference well, and that’s reflected in his work. That’s a result of consistent preparation (watching every conference game, sometimes twice) and making the most of pre-game and shootaround interviews with coaches and players.
While he’s not concerned about pleasing people, Crispin knows his job.
“I’m not hired to be an opinion guy. I’m hired to have a perspective,” he said. “I understand my unique perspective gives me value and the trust that the things I see are worth being pointed out.”
Crispin, 38, played his freshman and sophomore seasons at Penn State and was a member of the team that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in 2001.
He transferred to UCLA and finished his college career with the Bruins before embarking on a two-year professional career that included stints in Ireland, Spain and the United States (in the ABA).
Crispin moved into broadcasting while living in California after his playing career ended. That included efforts with Fox Sports Radio and even ESPN. He’s comfortable at BTN, though, and comfortable with where broadcasting fits overall in his life, which includes business and real estate interests.
“Broadcasting basketball was a hobby at first, a fun hobby that allowed me to be me. That’s a big reason for why I enjoy it and have been successful,” he said. “Cream rises, and if you’re really good at your job you’re going to have an opportunity.
“I’m not worried about being Jay Bilas or the next whomever. I’m just being the best version of myself, and I feel like I’m always going to be able to work. At the same time, I’m not sure broadcasting is ever going to be the first thing mentioned in my obituary. There a lot of things I’m interested in and value, including my family.”
Crispin maintains an apartment in Chicago during basketball season to help ease travel. He lives in his childhood hometown of Pitman, New Jersey, with his wife, Morgan. Their yard backs up to that of his brother and fellow former Penn State standout Joe Crispin (the coach of Division III Rowan University) and his family.
n Penn State spring football practice starts March 13. The Blue-White Game that concludes things will kick off at 3 p.m. April 13 and be televised at 8 p.m. that night on Big Ten Network.
n Unlike the PIAA, the NFL keeps partnering to make more of its programming available. The NFL Draft, already on ESPN and the NFL Network, will air on ABC this year. That’s April 25-27 from Nashville. The first two nights will be coverage unique to ABC and the third day will be an ESPN simulcast.
n Former Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley will be featured on ESPN’s “Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL” as he makes his bid for a professional career. One of the show’s producers, award-winning Penn State alumna Shannon Furman, often finds good sources at her alma mater, and McSorley seems to fit the profile. He’s not a No. 1 pick like Saquon Barkley last season, but a potentially late-round draft status will add an interesting storyline to the TV show. His presence is good for the Penn State football program, too.
n A potentially interesting TV Q&A program, “The Art of Conversation with Dan LeBetard,” made its debut on ESPN last week with show’s namesake host interviewing Pat Riley of the NBA’s Miami Heat. In such a forum and with quality access, LeBetard’s many skills shine. He’s curious and smart. That’s good for him and the all-sports network — especially because LeBetard also drives a weekday radio show and a daily TV show. Still, the mix of silliness on radio and the character and/or vibe he drives there as an anti-company man and irreverent voice sometimes makes it hard for him to have the credibility he should have in all forums. When you’re trying to be both a silly clown and an insightful sports journalist it can be difficult for fans and viewers to know which one to trust.
Sampsell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.