Power Rankings: Marquette Sports Journalists

Johnston Hall

Johnston Hall, home to Marquette’s best and brightest since way too long ago.

While stuck on a train in some severe weather last week, I saw that Jen Lada, a Marquette alum, was moving from CSN Chicago to ESPN. Not Marquette basketball news, per se, but interesting nonetheless. That got me thinking, though, at just what a powerhouse Marquette was in the sports journalism field, relative to its size.

The Marquette Twitter account graciously reminded me of an article that appeared in the Marquette Magazine in 2012, highlighting this point. So I started making a list of alumni in the industry to prove that point. The list was so long, it didn’t fit in one Tweet, so I thought it would be best to do in on here, since content has been harder to come by than rain in California.

Of course, what good is any list if you don’t rank it. So I introduce the first annual Paint Touches alumni in sports media power rankings. There’s no real criteria and there’s a lot of bias. Other than that these should be ironclad. If I forgot anyone, just drop a comment or Tweet at me, and I’ll make amends.

1. Charles Pierce – ’75 – @ESQPolitics
Esquire, Grantland

Known more recently for his political writings (like this piece on Charleston which might be in line for some end-of-the-year hardware), Charlie is the standard upon which all future MU journalists will be measured. An eight time “Best American Sports Writing” selection, he’s in a league of his own, with a prose almost Shakespearean in tone and flow. The best part, as a Marquette alum, is that you can almost guarantee he will drop an Al McGuire, #mubb, or Milwaukee reference at one point or another, no matter what the topic. If you’ve never read his work, start here and thank me later.

2. Steve Aschburner – ’78 – @AschNBA

When the clock hit zero and the Golden State claimed the 2015 NBA title, the biggest questions still lingering was who would end up with the Finals MVP. This particular award, voted on by the media, hadn’t gone to a player on the losing team since Jerry West, but LeBron James was the favorite among the Twitterati. When the results came out and the choices of the 14 voters made public, who was on that list but Steve Aschburner himself. Click the link and take a look at the names on that list. Zach Lowe, Marc Stein, Jeff Van Gundy, it’s a who’s who of NBA media. Steve has covered the NBA most of his career and is now one of the elite members of that club. As such, he’s No. 2 on our list.

3. Steve Rushin – ’88 – @SteveRushin
Sports Illustrated

Named the 2005 National Sportswriter of the Year, Steve has three books to his name and had a weekly column in Sports Illustrated for almost 10 years. Writing for SI is an honor in and of itself, holding a column for a decade deserves tremendous recognition. You can still find him on a monthly basis as the anchor of SI, a coveted position, where he blends his profound wit seamlessly into whatever topic he may be covering. As if his literary achievements weren’t enough, he’s married to WNBA legend Rebecca Lobo. And if you’re still not convinced, take 15 minutes and read his 2007 Marquette commencement address. Gold, Jerry.

4. Chris Sheridan – ’87 – @SheridanHoops
Sheridan Hoops

If there is any controversy in these fictitious rankings, it’s having Chris so high up on here after calling Mallory Edens (the daughter of the Bucks’ owner) a trophy daughter and having to publicly apologize multiple times after being called out by Mallory herself. Don’t get me wrong, he has the skills and national cache. A long time AP writer and ESPN reporter, Chris runs his own website now and was the first journalist to lay it on the line and report, not guess, that LeBron was headed back to Cleveland. His style is crass and leads to confrontation, but there’s no denying he knows his stuff. He was telling the world Thibs had lost the locker room back in January, a report mocked in Chicago until it was confirmed at the end of the season. Ignore him at your own cost.

5. Nancy Armour – ’91 – @NRArmour

I’m not going to lie, I didn’t know much about Nancy before starting on this project, and now I feel foolish for it. Being a columnist in the most distributed newspaper in the country is no small feat, and neither is lasting in the Associated Press for two decades. She was awarded the United States Sports Academy Reagan Media Award earlier this month and has earned plaudits all of her career. Her coverage of the Women’s World Cup has been phenomenal as well.

6. Trenni Kusnierek – ’99 – @Trenni
Comcast Sports Net New England

An Emmy Award winning reporter and anchor, Trenni has thrived in Boston after working for the NFL Network, MLB Network, Big Ten Network, ABC, FOX Sports Wisconsin, NBC… you get the picture. More importantly, she may be the most courageous journalist on here, revealing her battle with depression, and never shying away from speaking her mind on Twitter. 

7. Len Kasper – ’93 – @LenKasper
Cubs, Comcast Sports Net Chicago

The voice of the Chicago Cubs since 2005, Len has one of the most prestigious positions in baseball media, taking over from Chip Caray who had been given the mic when Harry Caray passed away. He’s also worked for the Brewers, Marlins and Packers. I don’t really know much else about him, but seeing as he’s held on to his high profile job since 2005, he’s gotta be doing something right.  

8. Mary Schmitt Boyer – ’77
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Mary has been a cornerstone of the Plain Dealer for over 19 years now, a number that speaks to her quality. So does this anecdote: “Mary wanted McGuire to know how much he impacted her journalism career. “I wrote him a letter telling him that if he hadn’t made covering the basketball team so easy and fun, I would have become a nurse,” she says. “When he was dying, he sent out the little tin soldiers he’d collected as mementos. He sent me a little tin nurse. It is one of my most prized possessions.”

9. Brad Galli – ’11 – @BradGalli
WXYZ-TV Detroit

Most media interns are lucky to get a blog post to themselves once in a while, a welcome break from the rote tasks that the internship usually entails. Most media interns aren’t Brad. He was doing full segments in a major media market, setting the stage for his deserved ascension. If you like #mubb, you’ve seen his Marquette Basketball Weekly shows that were better products than anything FOX Sports Wisconsin or TWSports were doing at the time. He’s currently a reporter and anchor in Detroit, but it’s only a matter of time until Bristol comes calling. That is no wishful thinking. It’s a guarantee.

10. Jen Lada – ’02 – @JenLada

The initial subject that started this project was her move to ESPN from CSN Chicago, so it may be a bit surprising to see her at No. 8. With a bigger audience and a larger platform, there’s no doubt she will be pushing up higher soon. Her interview style is friendly, yet probing, drawing candid answers few can get.  

11. Mark Strotman – ’12 – @MarkStrot
Comcast Sports Net Chicago

The only reason Mark is this low is that he’s still not at a national publication. Yet. I’m horribly biased, as he was a groomsman at my wedding and the brains behind this site for years, but Mark is as good a writer as I’ve ever seen. He will gather info into wee hours of the night and plug away into wee hours of the morning until he’s got 2,500 words of analysis that rivals that of Zach Lowe. He’s also tremendous at cultivating contacts, getting information from broad swaths of sources that he deploys wisely, when needed, a very underrated skill in the sports industry. I don’t have to point you in too many directions to find his work. Click around and you will find all you need to know.

12. Sophia Minnaert – ’09 – @SophiaMinnaert
FOX Sports Wisconsin

Enough said.

13. Chris Chavez – ’15 – @Chris_J_Chavez
Sports Illustrated

If you haven’t heard of Chris yet, just wait. He’s barely a month out of Marquette and he’s already led ESPN’s coverage of track and field both online and in video. He “signed” with Sports Illustrated and will more than likely be a key component of their Rio 2016 Olympic coverage next year. Did I mention that he’s not even a month out of college? Before you think I’m fawning too hard, I should let you know that I have embarrassing pictures of him from his freshman year shenanigans that I plan to sell back to him at a future date. I have a vested interest.  

14. Tony DiZinno – ’11 – @tonydizinno
NBC Sports

Racing may not have the widespread popularity of most of the sports covered by the journos on this list, but for those in the know, TDZ is one of the leading American sources for F1 and IndyCar coverage, as well as some NASCAR news. He’s so respected, he even gets blamed for the weather. Racing fans made him his own #blametony meme on Twitter that is still going strong to this day.

15. Sarah Barshop – ’14 – @SarahBarshop
Sports Illustrated

You probably don’t know her, but you should. She’s a writer at Sports Illustrated that was entrusted to cover NHL Finals games with only a year under her belt. That’s not to say she isn’t experienced. She became an indispensable part of the team at ESPN Milwaukee, working in all sorts of positions and constantly overachieving. Her quality is only topped by her personality, as she may be the nicest person you ever meet.

Honorable Mentions

Dan McGrath: As a kid, my dream was to be a sports columnist at the Chicago Tribune. When I was told one of the sports editors on staff was a Marquette alum, I had grand visions of institutional nepotism. Alas, Dan moved on and my grand visions never hatched.

Tess Quinlan – Digital Producer, USA Today Sports

Don Burke – Sports Copy Editor, New York Post 

Brian Hanley – Radio Host, 670 The Score

Mike Nadel – 16-year AP Sports Reporter 

Paul Hoynes – Reporter, Cleveland.com

Matt Trebby – Reporter, WISports.com, 620 WTMJ

Tom Keegan – Sports Editor, Lawrence Journal-World 

John Borneman – Assistant Sports Editor, Pioneer Press

Chris Cwik – Writer, Yahoo! Big League Stew

Michael Wottreng –  Commentator, Carson-Newman University

Jeff Falconio – Host, 620 WTMJ

Brian Henry – Producer, FOX Sports Arizona

Tim Van Vooren – Reporter, FOX6Now Milwaukee

Mark Freund – Reporter, KTIV 4 Iowa

Eric Compton – Copy Editor, Erie Times-News

Chris Altruda – Editor, STATS LLC

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7 Comments on “Power Rankings: Marquette Sports Journalists”

  1. Steve Aschburner
    June 29, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    Flattered to be included, never mind the lofty perch. I encourage current journalism (ahem, communications) students to knock all of us current spot-holders off via their own dynamite careers.

  2. Jon Beatrix
    June 29, 2015 at 1:53 pm #

    Honestly, I am floored by the Fact Jen Lada is ranked 10th and Mark Freund is not on the list. Freund constantly provided high color commentary on the most relevant sports. As a big fan of his(I still follow his work in Iowa) I am very mad. How is Quinlan ranked higher? I smell a conspiracy-JB

    • Jon Beatrix
      June 29, 2015 at 1:54 pm #

      Quinlan is a great reporter! I just feel they were equals at Marquette. Both great! and continue to do great things!

  3. jimco
    June 29, 2015 at 6:47 pm #

    Gerry Ahern… VP Content USA TODAY Sports Media Group… MU 1988 I believe.

  4. June 29, 2015 at 6:50 pm #

    Thanks for the recognition. Diane Pucin of the Los Angeles Times also should be included!

  5. Jim
    July 6, 2015 at 11:18 pm #

    No Gerry Ahern (VP at USA Today) and Jeff Maillet (deputy sports editor at Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)?

  6. schak
    June 15, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    David Marran has been the sports editor of the Kenosha News for 20+ years. He took over the post in his early 30s.

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