As a BYU broadcasting student, Dave McCann earned a $1,000 scholarship from KSL, which he used to help fund an internship in Indiana. He didn’t return to the KSL building again until he was walking in wearing a Nordstrom suit as the nightly anchor for the leading Salt Lake City station in May 2012.
Dave was taking over the chair from Bruce Lindsay and his predecessor Dick Nourse who had anchored KSL News — and the state’s consciousness — for half a century.
And now the mic was on Dave’s lapel after he had spent the previous 20 years in Las Vegas, mostly as a sportscaster.
“Opportunities like this don’t come around very often, and when they do, you say ‘yes’ and then you figure it out,” Dave says.
Although seven years ago this Orem High alum was new to nightly news watchers along the Wasatch Front, Dave was not unfamiliar to BYU fans. This father of five began broadcasting and calling games for BYU as a college student, and now he’s starting his 30th year following the Cougars’ play-by-play with co-host Blaine Fowler.
“He’s my fifth brother,” Dave says. “I have four, and then I have Blaine. We know each other’s style and rhythm so well. Like clockwork. Like teamwork.”
The McCann name has been synonymous with Cougars for decades. Dave’s dad, Dale McCann, is in BYU’s Hall of Fame for leading the Cougar Club and BYU boosters for 24 years. He passed away 21 years ago of pancreatic cancer at age 57, but Dave “walks in with him” every time he enters LaVell Edwards Stadium or the Marriott Center, where he began calling games shortly after Dale’s passing.
“His death was the single most devastating thing that has ever happened to me,” Dave says. “I like to look at my dad’s Hall of Fame picture on campus. He’s still part of me every time I call a game. It’s my thing. He wasn’t perfect, but he was pretty close. He was a great example of managing a house and a career even though he was sick most of his life. He coached our teams while feeling lousy. We have the opportunity to do these things feeling pretty good. I never want to take it for granted.”
As the third of 10 children, Dave is squarely in the middle of the McCann clan. And that’s just the way he needs it.
“Sunday dinner is where it’s at for the McCanns,” Dave says. Nine of the siblings live nearby, and whichever 60ish family members are available each Sunday get together for food and wiffle ball — marrieds vs. kids.
“They are my greatest supporters and my biggest critics,” Dave says. “If I can avoid embarrassing that group, I’ve succeeded. All of us are Orem Tigers, and almost all of us are BYU grads. We have a lot in common and we’ve worked hard to maintain our connections.”
Feeding a McCann roster is done via assignment. For seven years, Dave was single — which meant he was only trusted with drinks and ice.
“They knew I couldn’t mess that up,” he laughs. “When I remarried, my wife started bringing salads that the really good eaters will eat and the rest of us will just look at and admire. This Sunday tradition is my favorite time of the week. At the end of a busy Sunday, it’s time to relax and talk about who has a performance at school, who has a play or a game.”
Dave missed this Sunday night tradition during his two decades in Las Vegas, and he’s been making up for lost time ever since returning in 2012.
“We’re all older, but we’re all still the same,” he smiles. “We have the exact quirks we had as kids. But our strengths as a group have helped us maneuver this giant family through good times and bad.”
Dave says they regularly apologize to the neighbors because “it’s not a quiet gathering.”
One thing Dave didn’t confide in his McCann focus group was his transition to glasses.
“I hadn’t worn glasses a single day in my life for 52 years, and one night on the news I popped them on,” he says. “My mom had the hardest time with it because it’s so different. But my sisters were cool with it, so I knew it was going to be OK.”
Dave loves fall, and it’s only partly because of football. He savors Jonathan apples and looks forward to Halloween.
Each August, Dave starts “six glorious work-days a week until March.”
“It’s a marathon and a sprint all in the same race,” he says. “But it’s not like I’m building houses six days a week and exhausting my body. It’s a fun mental strain.”
On Tuesday’s BYUtv program “After Further Review” — as well as BYU’s football and basketball games — Dave’s job is to make his co-hosts “look good” and serve up conversation starters. Dave is the first string broadcasting quarterback.
“Every year, we’re excited about BYU’s possibilities,” he says. “We have a really good team. On ‘After Further Review,’ optimism is strong no matter what. But if we go 9-4, that’s more fun for us than going 4-9.”
After three decades together, Dave and Blaine are a fluid duo. They travel together and golf together. But they don’t eat together before a game.
“Blaine has a strict ‘no-eating-three-hours-before-gametime’ rule, but I have no problem with it. He watches me eat,” Dave laughs.
A Career in 4 Quarters
Most 52-year-olds need a two-page resume to summarize their career. Dave’s path includes four stops.
He used his KSL scholarship money to fund an internship at an Indiana television station where the news director had BYU ties. Dave lived in the basement of the elders quorum president in the local ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The college junior had an all-access pass to the Indy 500 and an all-access pass to getting experience and collecting clips. He was offered a job to stay. But he envisioned his storyline to include a BYU degree, so he returned to Provo.
“I wanted to be a BYU guy,” he says. “Having that degree knocks down so many barriers before you even show up. Employers know what you’re going to do and who you’re going to be. My daughters all went to Utah State. But I remind them that BYU paid for it.”
During Dave’s senior year as a Cougar, he was selected as ABC’s first student reporter and traveled the country doing projects for Good Morning America.
“I wish I had that opportunity now!” he says. “I had no perspective on how amazing that was at the time.”
Upon earning a bachelor’s degree, Dave’s experience at Good Morning America helped him land a job in the Las Vegas market. And after 20 years of high-profile work in the Nevada desert, KSL called to see if he was interested in the anchor desk. When they agreed to work around his BYU broadcasting commitments, the deal was inked. And Dave headed north up I-15 and returned to the community where he’d thrown morning papers and learned to ride a bike. He was coming home.
Finding a Co-anchor
Dave came to Utah as a single dad. Working nights — and most weekends for the Cougars — made it difficult to date. Then he saw an “attractive picture on Facebook” just before he started a newscast. He sent a message to the woman suggesting a lunch date.
Three weeks went by. Dianne Long finally wrote back. And then he defined “lunch”: In-N-Out Burger at 11:30 p.m.
Their relationship developed over burgers and over time, and when they married they blended Dianne’s seven children with his five. Dave’s fifth grandchild is due this December and his wife has three.
“Our house is an intersection with no stoplights,” he says.
That’s Why We Play the Game
Anchoring the news or a sports event is a lot like playing the game.
“Sometimes on the newscast, we fumble, turn it over and get a penalty. When we stumble and bumble, it bugs,” he says. “But that also means there’s great satisfaction when we do it clean. The fear of embarrassing my mother has kept it fresh all these years.”
During commercial breaks at KSL, Dave walks to the recycling bin and tosses scripts from the previous segment. He wipes the glass desk with a towel. And he comfortably banters with his teammates of seven years.
News anchors are human, but in some ways they have to pretend they are not.
“I could be having the worst day ever — flat tire, house on fire,” he says. “But at 5:57 p.m., I’m in the studio with my makeup on ready to shine and be professional, calm and happy.”
Time. Dave is keenly aware of time.
“I’m rarely late to anything because my whole life is ingrained with the idea of being on time,” he says.
Thanks for Watching!
The job of an anchor is equal parts journalist and public figure. And when the first job is done well, the second job grows over time.
“We want people to watch because that means we get to keep our jobs,” Dave says. “If I walk into your home via the television as a stranger, I’m doing it wrong. And strangers can be replaced easily.”
For this reason, Dave appreciates it when people recognize him and tell him what they enjoy about KSL news or BYU shows such as “After Further Review.”
“Even if people tell me I’m great, I know for a fact I’m not that great. There are a hundred people lined up to take either of my jobs and I’m always grateful when I get to keep doing what I love,” he says. “And for that to happen, I need to connect with people. I want them to feel comfortable welcoming me into their homes and into their lives.”
Dave knows his lifestyle isn’t for everyone.
“I tell students that being in broadcast journalism is hard on relationships. It’s difficult to be gone at night,” he says. “If you want to be the bishop or a teachers quorum advisor, this might not be the job for you.”
Even the roles of fatherhood and nighttime anchor frustrate each other.
While in Las Vegas, Dave switched to the morning show so he could coach his son’s Little League games at night. Their championship trophy and team picture sit on his KSL desk to this day — right next to a Def Leppard album cover that the son of meterologist Kevin Eubank found for Dave at a garage sale.
Prepping the Y
Dave and his BYU co-host Blaine pride themselves on their preparation and their pronunciation.
“We want viewers to have a pleasant experience, and so we focus a lot of our attention on the non-BYU viewers,” Dave says. “Part of the mission of BYUtv is to bring the audience back again. So Blaine and I aren’t ‘homers.’ You can get that other places, but we share background stories and information on both teams. We present the game so both audiences are entertained.”
Dave is fortunate that his extended dinner break between KSL broadcasts allows him to study BYU and upcoming opponents. During the fall season, Dave has plenty to prepare for. He keeps a list of two-deep for both offense and defense in front of him during live shows. Height, weight, years in school, hometown. He has a week-long system of preparation.
“It’s a process and you can’t cheat the process,” Dave says. “Viewers know if you’ve just shown up without doing the homework. Most of the time, we walk out of the game having not used half of the stuff we prepared.”
But there’s always a chance every last stat will be needed. Dave learned this thorough lesson while calling a BYU basketball game in Albuquerque. The backboard shattered, and there wasn’t a replacement at The Pit. KSL stayed on the air during the entire one-hour delay, and Dave used every single note he had in front of him.
“Being prepared doesn’t mean I am not nervous, but it means I can roll with anything,” he says. “It means being in the chair early and changing out any words that might trip me up. It’s practicing names, because their mother will know if you get the name wrong.”
Dave knows the power one person showing interest and respect can have and the feelings that can stick for a lifetime.
When he was about 12 years old, he waited after a game to get a book signed by legendary broadcaster Paul James. When Dave reached the front of the line, Paul was kind to Dave. It was their only conversation. But for 40+ years, Dave has remembered Paul as being a really nice guy.
“If people only have one interaction with me or only see me call one game, I want it to be positive,” he says.
This One’s For the Boys
While Dave’s glasses are a sign of aging (and of the text on the teleprompter shrinking … wink wink), the spectacles are also seen as distinguished — as is gray hair on men and even a few pounds added since college graduation. The standards aren’t the same for women in front of the camera.
“I could wear the same dark suit and white shirt for weeks and nobody would notice, but viewers comment — if Deanie (Nadine Wimmer) wears the same dress in a two-week period,” he says. “As long as we’re shaved and our hair is combed, it’s hard for men not to look presentable. It’s unfair and I don’t know it’s that way.”
But Dave is expected to be in a suit. Always.
“I ran into a guy in his 20s recently, and he was stunned I wasn’t in a suit,” Dave laughs. “He said he’d never seen me in anything else. It’s not like I sleep in a suit.”
Happy Happy Valley
When Dave returned to Utah to anchor full-time for KSL, he debated about whether to land in Utah County or the heart of Salt Lake. But Provo and Orem are home. He purchased a large townhome on the Provo bench and accepted the commute to the Triad Center in downtown Salt Lake.
“My other job at BYUtv is five minutes away from my front door and I do 65 events a year. All of my family is here in Utah Valley except for my married daughters living in Logan,” he says. “I grew up here, and I want my kids to live here. Having 45 minutes to unwind isn’t all bad. We cover heavy news, and if I was home in 15 minutes I might still be processing it. But the drive home allows me to prepare to be home. And if I-15 ever gets finished in Lehi, I might get home 15 minutes sooner.”
Life Isn’t A Game
Perspective can be hard to find when an entire state knows your voice, your name and your tie collection. But life has a way of being real.
Dave lives next to a terminally ill neighbor who has provided Dave his own “Tuesdays with Morrie” experience — on Mondays.
“I go over on Monday mornings and read to him the life story he has written about his 78 years of life,” Dave says.
The broadcaster’s familiar voice reads back this man’s experience losing his first wife, raising a family and seeing how earlier experiences prepared him for his future.
“He is going to pass away, and I still think I’m going to go on forever,” Dave says. “His goal is to live to see BYU beat Utah in the season-opener. Being part of the last leg of his journey has given me incredible perspective on life and on relationships. Football is just football, but the magical part is that it has created amazing opportunities and relationships in my life. It’s part of my family legacy. It’s part of my legacy. But I will say it’s a lot more fun when it’s a winning season.”