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By Mandy Housenick
GoLeopards.com Featured Columnist
When the NFL preseason action kicks off tonight, Beth Mowins '89 will have her pen, notepad and computer set up in the Oakland Raiders broadcast booth alongside Hall of Famer Tim Brown and Lehigh Valley native and former Penn State and Raiders standout Matt Millen.
As just the second female in history to call play by play for an NFL game, it will be only natural if Mowins, 48, has a few butterflies before Oakland's first preseason game against the St. Louis Rams.
You won't hear the nerves in Mowins' voice, though. Her fingers won't be shaking as she jots notes down. Mowins' experiences at Lafayette College made sure of that. Her days on College Hill prepared her to handle high-pressure moments and challenging endeavors.
"I was always pretty confident on the court," said Mowins, who was a guard on the Leopards women's basketball team. "My dad was a basketball coach and I grew up with three brothers who toughened me up at a very early age. So when I arrived at Lafayette, that was one thing I brought with me. But I didn't really have that off the court.
"My first semester I read everything and studied everything. I cut no corners. I was so worried I would fail out of school. And one thing I give Lafayette a lot of credit for is it gave me confidence academically and socially. I was a totally different person my senior year than my freshman year. Lafayette was a time of tremendous growth for me."
Mowins, a member of Lafayette's Athletics Hall of Fame, continued to grow so much while getting her master's degree at Syracuse University's S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications that she was honored by Syracuse with the third annual Marty Glickman Award for Leadership in Sports Media on July 29 at the Time Warner Headquarters in New York City.
Mowins is a play-by-play commentator with ESPN, for which she calls men's and women's college basketball. She is the only female play-by-play announcer on college football, has called Women's World Cup soccer and NCAA women's championships in basketball, soccer and volleyball, and has been the voice of the NCAA Women's College World Series softball for two decades.
"One thing I give Lafayette a lot of credit for is it gave me confidence academically and socially. I was a totally different person my senior year than my freshman year. Lafayette was a time of tremendous growth for me."
Beth Mowins '89
The Syracuse native was the first woman honored with the award. Previous winners were Marv Albert and Bob Costas, who presented Mowins with the award.
John Nicholson, who has known Mowins for 25 years and was one of her professors at Syracuse, listened proudly from the front row as she spoke to a crowd that included ESPN colleagues Holly Rowe and Doris Burke. According to Syracuse University's website, video messages came from SU alums Laurie Orlando, ESPN senior vice president, talent development and planning; Sean McDonough, ESPN play-by-play broadcaster of college football and basketball; Mike Tirico, ESPN play-by-play announcer of college basketball and professional golf, and Gayle Sierens Martin, the only woman ever to have called play-by-play of an NFL game on a network (NBC in 1987.)
CBS announcer Ian Eagle, Ron Wechsler, Senior VP of NBC Sports Group; and Damon Amendolara of CBS Sports Radio, all of whom are SU alums, attended.
"She has spoken to God knows how many of my classes over the years," Nicholson said. "You'll never see a guy raise his hand and say he wants to be a sideline reporter. A woman will raise her hand and say she wants to be a sideline reporter, but Beth will say, 'Aspire to be more.' And Beth shows them you can be so much more. I shed a tear or two when she gave her speech. She connects with everybody. She inspires."
She so inspired the Oakland Raiders brass that Vittorio De Bartolo, the executive producer of broadcasting for the organization, tracked down Mowins this spring with the hopes she could win over Mark Davis, the Raiders owner.
"Honestly, I can't believe she hasn't already been given this opportunity," De Bartolo told Richard Deitsch of SI.com. "People want to say, 'Oh, she's a female.' No, she's a damn good broadcaster."
She may be a "damn good broadcaster," but she has stayed in close contact not only with her Syracuse roots, but her Lafayette ones as well. Mowins praised Kirby Sports Center, the beautifully-appointed and technologically updated home of Lafayette's men's and women's basketball and volleyball teams.
"I don't know how you get to class with that on your campus," joked Mowins, who was just there this winter for a men's game. "It's fantastic for student-athletes to be able to take advantage of that."
And even with all the incredible games she has called, including games on the radio when Michael Jordan was with the Chicago Bulls and the men's Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden, one of her favorites is still the Patriot League men's championship game between Lafayette and Navy in 2000.
"It's OK, especially for young women, to be ambitious," she said. "It's OK to aspire to something, work hard and then achieve it and hopefully that inspires others. There are so many men who gave me an opportunity or a pat on the back to get me going. I've always appreciated that from the guys I've had a chance to work with. Young women now have a lot of young women they can look up to. There are women all over SportsCenter now and getting involved in roles not traditionally open to women in the past."