ESPN anchor who helped usher in a new era of sports coverage to speak at Commencement
‘SportsCenter’s’ Gary Striewski will speak to MSU Denver graduates about transforming the media landscape.
The year is 2018. Penn State’s Nittany Lions are hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes in a Big Ten powerhouse Big Ten football matchup. Beaver Stadium — 100,000-plus strong — roars to life.
But as Gary Striewski, the face of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” on Snapchat, joins the fray, he quickly realizes the commotion isn’t just for the action on the field.
“It was bonkers,” he said. “Every kid was shouting, ‘Holy (smokes), it’s Gary from Snapchat!’ I knew then and there this (social media) phenomenon was the real deal and wasn’t going anywhere.”
Now also an anchor on the weekend “SportsCenter” with co-host Randy Scott, Striewski will bring his story of personal and professional transformation to another stage: the Commencement ceremony for Metropolitan State University of Denver students celebrating their own victory Dec. 16.
The return to his alma mater is a bucket-list item for the 2010 Journalism and Media Production graduate — so much so that when he got the email invite while golfing with an ESPN producer, he had to take a moment to let it sink in.
“This has been a life goal of mine,” Striewski said. “So, after I made sure it wasn’t spam and was legit happening, I just had to sit there in a moment of gratitude.”
Striewski credited the journalistic principles, ethics and moral conduct he honed at MSU Denver for helping him garner an organic following. It’s also why he takes pride in showing up authentically as himself on- and off-camera.
“It wasn’t too long ago when I was the one emailing the journalists I looked up to while a student at MSU Denver,” Striewski said. “You remember what it was like to get that cold shoulder sometimes. I never want to be that guy who doesn’t make you feel like you’re worth responding to.
“It’s just being a regular person, you know?”
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One of the biggest challenges and opportunities of being a generation bridge has been the divergence of media streams across demographics, he said. Striewski recalled being on the sideline when an excited teen tapped his father on the shoulder to ask if he realized who was there with them.
The father was none other than Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Tony Dungy.
“I’ve seen it happen so many times in so many different instances,” Striewski said. “Whether it’s Tony Dungy or (current Indianapolis Colts coach) Jeff Saturday, or (ESPN NBA insider) Adrian Wojnarowski saying, ‘Hey, anytime you want me to be on Snapchat let me know, because my teenage son watches the show all the time.’
With an average of 1.5 million to 2 million viewers per episode, the platform has vast engagement, Striewski said, noting the channel’s ability to provide real-time stats to advertisers. Viewers who told him they started watching “SportsCenter” on Snapchat now tune in to catch him hosting weekends on TV, he added.
“That interlinear movement is not something you build overnight,” he said. “Regardless of the format, we always ask, ‘How can we be creative and deliver this in a way our viewers are going to come back to us again and again?’”
Striewski was quick to acknowledge his supporting team of producers, writers and editors who work tirelessly overnight, day-in and day-out, to deliver the all-star product that viewers have come to expect for over four decades.
And whether the screen is in portrait or landscape mode, he’s equally at home behind the big desk when those three timeless words drop:
“This is ‘SportsCenter.’”