Brent Brisben, Todd Stewart, Jake Jolivette: WCPO proteges find gold in different careers

CINCINNATI - They descended on us every June, eager to fill their summer breaks with something different from the traditional internships secured by their classmates.

9 On Your Side Sports Director John Popovich and I made the work we did together for 29 years look like the fun it actually was. And there was never a shortage of eager collegians who besieged John with requests to serve in an unpaid capacity in the sports department. Three come to mind as I’ve seen them recently and because The Boys of Summer pursued such disparate careers. Though it isn’t much of a stretch to suggest that two embraced reclamation projects.

By way of background, interns like Todd Stewart, Jake Jolivette and Brent Brisben did a lot of grunt work. But the enthusiasm they brought from Miami, Xavier and UC, respectively, made it palatable. They logged tapes, answered phones, compiled scoreboards and such. We’d even press them into service as reporters, sending them to news conferences to gather interviews. They learned to edit and generally be our backstops when the inevitable glitch happened.

Considering Todd’s dad was an assistant basketball coach at Austin Peay,  the Sycamore and Miami University grad was destined for a sports-related career. We were his summer way station on a journey through the SID’s office at Tennessee, where he earned his Masters degree. Then followed a stint as assistant media director with the Indianapolis Colts before hiring on as Director of Communications for the Browns upon their reentry to the NFL.

A change in Cleveland’s ownership launched his administrative career, as he transitioned to Associate  Commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference. Then the big leap to athletic director at Western Kentucky. That is where he’s made his boldest move to date: plucking disgraced Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino off the dusty shelf of scorn. It is proving to be a transformative hire.

Salvaging gold doubloons off the sandy bottom of the Atlantic Ocean is a long way from Fifth and Central, which is where we first encountered Brent Brisben. He came on board as an intern during his senior year at UC and he took to the role as a duck takes to water.  Brent, a Moeller grad, had a total grasp of what Tri-State viewers sought from their local sports outlet. And he was tenacious in pursuing stories. It’s the same passion he’s brought to heading a salvage operation that is reclaiming artifacts from the Queen’s Jewels Treasure Fleet that was scuttled by a hurricane in 1715 on the shoals off Sebastian, Fla.

Culling through acres of sand during the brief diving window between June and September is exhausting, expensive but ultimately rewarding. You can see some of the fruits of his labors when he guests on 9 On Your Side’s noon report Friday Dec. 27. Set the recorder as you won’t want to miss the 24-carat glow that creases Brent’s face as he provides a look at the priceless treasures he’s recovered from the sea. 

A seat on Air Aikman is one of the invaluable perks to Jake Jolivette’s position as associate director for Fox Sports. The Hamilton High grad joined us during his junior year at Xavier and, like Brent, transitioned into a full-time position as sports producer for 9 On Your Side. With an encyclopedic sports mind and penchant for producing riveting video features, he yearned for a bigger arena, so off he went to Los Angeles where his brother Vince was toiling in the film industry. Jake got his break with an entry position at FOX and the rest, as they say, is history. He ascended through the ranks to a highly coveted role producing opening segments for some of the network’s highest profile franchises, like their award-winning Daytona 500 coverage.

Jake is in charge of rolling $4 million commercials during FOX's Super Bowl coverage. He’s also the go-to-guy for Troy Aikman and Joe Buck (“Silk Suiters” as Pete Gillen used to refer to such broadcast icons) during the NFL season. Troy’s fondness for Jake is evident when he provides him a seat back to wherever on his private jet. Suffice to say, Jake Jolivette has come a long way from between-show dinners at the Mt. Adams Bar and Grill. And the same can certainly be said for Brent and Todd.

Despite their far-flung pursuits and bourgeoning families, they all call the Tri-State home and we couldn’t be prouder of their success and enduring ties to WCPO-TV.

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