SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/People and Pop Culture

My first job in sports: Burke Magnus

Executives recall their first job in the industry



Among the accomplishments for Magnus (center) at ESPN is the launch of Longhorn Network.
Photo by: UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS ATHLETICS / ESPN
Burke Magnus has spent most of his professional life rising through the ranks at ESPN, where he leads college sports acquisition and programming across all of ESPN’s platforms. “I happened to be fortunate enough to land in the exact industry and area of the industry that I ultimately wanted to be in, which I think is kind of rare,” he says. “I didn’t have anything … except the enthusiasm and energy and passion to transform my love of sports into a career.”

CATCHING A CURVEBALL: While I was at
CBS … they lost the NFL to Fox. I was cruising along in my internship; things were going great. I was like, “This is fabulous. I love what I’m doing, I think I’m going to get a job here, the people I’m working for really seem to like me,” and then “Boom!” they’re out of the NFL and Fox is in. So instead of transforming my internship into a job, it
Magnus specializes in college sports, but NASCAR and the NFL have touched his career.
became that I was watching people who had been working there for 20-plus years being laid off and leaving, and the reason I was staying was because they weren’t paying me any money anyway.

WHAT ARE FRIENDS FOR: The interesting part of the internship is that I interned for a guy who I then went on to work with at ESPN for many years, a guy named Len DeLuca. … He had me involved in all kinds of stuff. He’d bring me along to really high-level meetings, for me at the time, [given] the people I was sitting with at the network and in the leagues. It always just kind of blew my mind that he would think enough to bring along an intern and at least just let me be a fly on the wall.

PERSONAL SPACE: I shared a cubicle, which is not easy to do, with [DeLuca’s] administrative assistant. I don’t know it to be a fact, but I’m sure she was none too pleased to have me there. One thing that was sort of an eye-opener was how small of an operation it was. It was so high profile when you watched sports on television, but when you got there, it was basically half a floor. So anyway, that was my assignment: They said, “Well, you can sit over here,” and they literally had to brush papers out of the way to create an open space for me and then wedged a chair in there.

TIMES HAVE CHANGED: Every Thursday, I had to physically walk from CBS to the NFL to hand-deliver the maps for the regionalized NFL games that weekend, which we did all by hand, not by a computer program. It was a blank map, and we drew by hand the regions for the NFL games. All of the execs were around the table, and I was the intern drawing colors all over the map. When it was finished, everyone would literally sign off on it, I rolled it up and walked it over to the NFL. I remember thinking it was funny, walking the streets of Manhattan carrying in my hand what people passing by me would watch on Sunday.

See also: Debbie Yow, N.C. State University

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