Producer at ESPN, coach of a high school soccer team, and head of the Center for Sports Communication at Marist College. Those are three seemingly disparate roles, yet each of those titles belongs to Chris Riviezzo.
A Marist graduate and former adjunct professor, Riviezzo was named interim director of the Center for Sports Communication in June after former director Jane McManus left to take a similar position at Seton Hall University.
“I’m really excited to get started with everything,” Riviezzo said. “It’s kind of been in talks for a few months now. And obviously, the first priority is with students and getting to work with people and getting there day-to-day and working with everybody to get this stuff laid out and mapped out and [to] provide as much guidance and help and information as I can.”
Riviezzo grew up in nearby Spackenkill and played soccer at Marist, graduating in 1996 with a degree in radio, television, and film. He broke into the television industry, working at a station in Arizona as a sports producer before transitioning to ESPN in 2001. He has worked on studio productions of Men’s and Women’s FIFA World Cups, the Rose Bowl, and the NCAA Women’s Final Four, among other events during his time in Bristol.
Balancing his new role at Marist with his existing responsibilities as a coach and an ESPN producer will certainly be a challenge, especially when considering his commute from Connecticut, but it’s one that Riviezzo believes he can handle.
“It will certainly be more of a juggling act for me, but I think the hybrid model, and the remote working has allowed all of us to understand how to do it better,” he said. “That’s sort of a model that I’ve been working with at ESPN for the past 20 years. So it’s something that I know how to do well.”
Riviezzo will be the third director of the Center for Sports Communication, following Keith Strudler, who was the founding director, and McManus, who has filled the position since the fall of 2018. Strudler specialized in media studies and McManus came from a journalistic background, while Riviezzo will be the first director with a background in production.
“I’d say it’s going to be very similar to what Jane did with a little modification sort of tailored to my strengths,” he said. “We can continue building on what was already in place with the former directors and Keith and Jane, and I know I feel competent and still feel confident that I can handle both, and staying at ESPN will only make this role better.”
Riviezzo is already using his television connections to bring in a series of guest speakers with experience in the industry.
John Brickley, who is a studio host at ESPN, will be coming to Marist for a three-part guest lecture on play-by-play and studio hosting. Riviezzo also confirmed that John Lasker, ESPN vice president of programming and acquisitions, will be doing a guest lecture in October.
Riviezzo, who will still continue to teach his sports broadcasting class while serving as the interim director, also wants to take a hands-on approach and involve more people in working with the television studio equipment in Lowell Thomas.
One of the ways he hopes to bring more traffic into the studio is through MCTV’s “Halftime on the Hudson” show. He wants to see more student involvement and is working with the Red Fox Network to have a student-produced studio show air during halftime of Marist sporting events.
“From what I’ve seen over the past couple of years in teaching as an adjunct [professor], it is completely under-utilized. I think that the more studio productions we can do, the more people will get involved and we can produce shows with better quality… I want to take my experiences from college football, the World Cups, college basketball, women’s Final Fours, and all the studio coverage that I do and produce. I’d like to bring some of that experience to this project and get that up and running on a more frequent level.”
Riviezzo remembers his time as a student fondly but notes the main difference from his time on campus nearly 30 years ago.
“What I think Marist has really improved upon, is they had great instructors with great knowledge of television,” he said. “And I think now with myself, with Freddie Coleman, with Leander [Schaerlaeckens], among others. We have that sort of real-world experience.
“I think that the one thing that I didn’t have a good sense of when I was a student, is what is this industry like? And I think that hopefully, we are sort of trying to bridge the gap in information to prepare the current students for hitting the ground running with whatever job they may find.”
Despite the differences that exist between the roles of a coach, producer, and director of sports communication, they are more similar than one might think.
“I think that it all [sort of collides] with that teaching and coaching philosophy. And that’s what I’m trying to do in all aspects of it to different degrees, obviously, on the soccer field. It’s completely coaching and teaching in the classroom. It’s that with some career advice, and then at ESPN, it’s you know, the job is producing good television and in the meantime, the coaching and teaching of newer staff members also has to be there.”
While the interim tag still remains, Riviezzo is confident about what lies ahead.
“I know what this school is about, obviously being a part of it for the past couple of years and, and following it. So I know what the expectations are. And I’m confident that the people, the workshops, the lecture series, the information, the direction, and the guidance, will all sort of lead to a more permanent role if both sides think that that’s going to be in the best interest.”
Edited by Luke Sassa
Photo from Chris Riviezzo