During KGUN Channel 9's farewell segment last Friday, Dec. 23, for longtime sportscaster Dave Silver, anchor Jennifer Waddell joked about Silver's youthful appearance. "It's hard to believe Dave has been here for 28 years," Waddell said on the newscast. "He's only 35."
Indeed, it seems as though Silver, 53, has hardly aged, even after nearly three decades of covering Tucson sports. He arrived on the scene when Lute Olson did, and watched as the Wildcats men's basketball team made trips to the NCAA Tournament routine.
"I got here Lute Olson's first year. I was here for the entire stretch," Silver said. "I talk to so many of my peers around the country, and (for me), it's, 'Oh, here we go; we've got to go to the NCAA Tournament again in March.' They're saying, 'We've never been,' and I'm telling them, 'We go every year.' It really was something to look forward to, and it keeps you going."
Silver worked two broadcast jobs in California, one in Palm Springs and the other in San Luis Obispo, before joining KGUN. But priorities other than work helped keep him here.
"It's not necessarily the reason I stayed, but when we got here, my wife was pregnant. ... We had the child, then a second one in '87, and they started to grow up, and we built a lot of friendships," Silver said. "It was one of those things personally where we had no reason to run away. The kids were growing up; we liked the schools. They were born and raised here. (Now) they're gone, and I'm still here."
When Silver arrived at KGUN, he was more than just a reporter. He also handled color commentary for coverage of UA football games, a position now almost never held by professional journalists, because former athletes pretty much hold a monopoly on the role.
Silver also did something now unfathomable in light of technological advancements: He physically brought back tapes of the game to the studio for broadcast.
"Up until '85, they were not allowed to be on live TV (as part of the team's NCAA sanctions under former coach Tony Mason), even if they were in a road game in Corvallis," Silver said. "We used to tape the games. I'd be on the charter and call the station to tell them when I'd be there with the tapes. I'd literally drive from the airport to the station, drop off the tapes and say, 'OK, here you go.'"
Silver's final color-commentary broadcast was a legendary game in 1986 against ASU, when Chuck Cecil ran an interception 106 yards for a touchdown, a play that sealed a UA win and knocked the team up north out of Rose Bowl contention.
Not surprisingly, Silver's career has spanned numerous technological changes, from shooting events on film, to using videotape, to digital. There also has been a steadily expanding focus on using the Internet for reporting. The business model has changed dramatically as well, but Silver was able to weather the industry's numerous cutbacks along the way.
"We're in a tough time economically, but personally, in sports, we've been really lucky," Silver said. "They have enough faith in me that I know what's going on. I'm not going to get thrown for a loop. My experience and contacts have been a benefit. People trust me. They'll call me and tip me off if there's something important about to happen."
While the 28 years at KGUN gives Silver one of the lengthier on-air stints in the market, others at KGUN have rivaled his tenure, including longtime news anchor Guy Atchley.
"He got here just a little bit after me," Silver said. "We've been here a long time and know everything about each other. We've worked side by side for 27 years or so. There are a few people at the station who have been there longer than me. They're the guys you see every day, (but) not the people out in front of the camera. ... It was tough to say goodbye to them."
Silver now is saying hello to another chapter in his life: He is joining the UA Foundation in a fundraising capacity.
"When you start adding things up, and you see that I'm still young enough to work for another 15 years or so, it's a great time to try something different," Silver said. "There are over 200,000 alumni spread out all over the country and the world, and most of them have never been spoken to face to face, especially the ones in a position to give back to the school.
"The department is relatively new. There are about five or six of us given regions of the country. We're responsible for reaching out, physically going to these areas and touching base with (alumni). We won't instantly ask for a gift, but see how they want to stay involved, whether it's financially or (by) offering jobs to students—giving them a way to give back to the school in the way they want to. It's pretty exciting. It's different from what I've done, but they noticed when we were talking that I had some of the skills coming from broadcasting, reporting and listening to people's stories. Those are some of the skills necessary for this type of opportunity."