Known by millions as simply, “The Schwab,” St. John’s University alumnus and FOX Sports personality Howie Schwab ’82SVC has spent most of his adult life enjoying something he could only dream of as a child—a gratifying career in sports media.
“I was always told to do what makes you happy,” said Mr. Schwab, who grew up in Baldwin, NY, a short drive from St. John’s Queens, NY, campus. “As a huge sports fan, the notion of being able to study and then work in sports was very alluring to me. St. John’s athletic administration program (now known as Sport Management) had an outstanding reputation, so I followed my heart and my instinct and enrolled.”
Mr. Schwab attended the University at a time when the St. John’s men’s basketball program was on the cusp of greatness. “They were a big-time team, with names like Reggie Carter and Wayne McKoy,” he said. “As a fan, I spent much time going to games in Alumni Hall (now, Carnesecca Arena).”
Among his fondest memories of St. John’s was writing for the University’s student newspaper, The Torch. That experience nearly got him into trouble when, as an ambitious young sports writer, he broke news about a top recruit from Brooklyn who was coming to play in Queens.
“I got a scoop from a reliable source that Chris Mullin was going to commit to St. John’s,” he said. “Coach (Lou) Carnesecca ’50C, ’60GEd, ’00HON read the story, and he was not happy with me. He called me into his office and said, ‘It is not a done deal. What if he changes his mind?’”
Mr. Schwab stood behind his story and offered to publish a letter of apology and then resign from The Torch if Chris did not sign. “I love Coach Lou,” Mr. Schwab noted, “and needless to say, Mullin signed with St. John’s the very next day.”
In addition to writing for The Torch, he also worked on WSJU Radio and “soaked up every bit of information” that he could.
“I learned so much during my time at St. John’s, both in the classroom and in different organizations,” he recalled. “It really prepared me for the future.”
In 1987, Mr. Schwab joined an upstart sports network called ESPN. “They did not actually have a research department at the time,” said Mr. Schwab, the first statistician in the history of the network. “It was an emerging area, so I helped develop the department and eventually became director of the unit.”
Content to work behind the scenes, his savant-like knowledge of sports was well known throughout the network’s Bristol, CT, campus. This led to an unexpected offer to move to the other side of the camera. “One day, they called me into a meeting and said, ‘We are starting a new show, and it is called Stump the Schwab.’”
Hosted by the late Stuart Scott, the show aired from 2004 to 2006 and featured three contestants who were pitted against Mr. Schwab in a sports trivia contest. Over the course of three rounds, contestants did their best to try to beat "The Schwab," with the lowest-scoring player eliminated after each round. After two rounds, the remaining player faced Mr. Schwab in “The Schwab Showdown.”
“I had fun,” he said, noting that people still recognize him from the show. “That show opened doors for me.”
Mr. Schwab stayed at ESPN until 2013, earning three Sports Emmy Awards along the way—two for SportsCenter and one for Outside the Lines. After leaving ESPN, Mr. Schwab worked behind the scenes with famed basketball guru Dick Vitale and as a consultant on NBCSN’s Sports Jeopardy!, hosted by Dan Patrick, another ESPN alumnus.
Today, Mr. Schwab works at FOX Sports, where he can be seen this time of year as the network’s official “bracketologist.” In this role, he projects which teams will be in or out of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, widely referred to as “March Madness.”
Often asked by aspiring sports media professionals for career advice, Mr. Schwab encourages them to always stay positive. “Number one, do not get frustrated,” he offered. “It is hard work, but if that is your dream, you need to keep moving forward and fighting for it. If it is meant to be, it will work out.”