Loran Smith on ESPN’s Holly Rowe

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Loran Smith on ESPN’s Holly Rowe

Loran Smith
Loran Smith

Holly Rowe, one of the most accomplished women of our time, was in Athens recently doing her homework—not housework, but she does that, too, when such detail is required—about the start of football season.

When Georgia and Clemson line up for the forthcoming opening game in Charlotte next weekend, she will be on the field with the big boys, joining Chris Fowler and Kirk Herbstreit to help narrate the story of this renewed rivalry to a national television audience via the ABC network. She has joined ABC’s No. 1 college announce crew. No question, Holly has paid her dues. She belongs.





She is the doyenne of television sideline announcers, having become ESPN’s full-time football sideline reporter in 1998, a female in a male-dominated pursuit. She is a cancer survivor, a single mom, and appreciates the good things that have come her way. She is a Mormon (“but don’t judge me for drinking coffee”), a graduate of BYU with a penchant for taking in sporting events when she is not working.

When the network did not assign her pre-season scouting responsibilities, she has been known to book a flight on her own and travel to certain campuses to prepare for a high-profile opening game. The motivation: To be as prepared as possible to do her job. That would be akin to a salesman underwriting the cost of sales to get the order.
ABC did not send her to cover the funeral of Florida State coach Bobby Bowden recently, but she thought enough of him to pay her way to Tallahassee for the celebration of life service for this coaching icon.

Bowden did not cold-shoulder her in the days when the business was pretty much a “men only” era. She never forgot his kindness to her when she established herself as a reporter who knew her stuff. He and others, from network executives to seasoned football analysts to doting fans, saw her as a hardworking reporter. She was driven toward excellence without a hint of ego or vanity.





She watches football practice with a dedicated eye to connect with the inside story. She is eaten up with due diligence. She studies game tape and can glean a trend or pattern from time spent on the practice field.

There is no self-serving passion to bowl you over with a juicy scoop or a sage and colorful comment—just good solid reporting that accents the storylines of the broadcast as it unfolds. A yeoman effort and unwavering consistency characterize her work.

Drawing on her many experiences, she often refers to the abundant notes and journals she has accumulated over the years. Her hallmark, beyond an impactful work ethic, is her resonating integrity. She gives you her word; you can take it to the bank. If a coach confides in her, she is as tight-lipped as a CIA agent when she is around an opposing coach.
While her focus is her broadcast assignment, she enjoys speaking opportunities. A couple of years ago, she spoke to touchdown clubs in Athens, Atlanta, and LaGrange—the first woman keynote speaker to appear before those groups. Initially, there were skeptics, but she blew them away. Her insights, poise, and easygoing manner brought her high praise.

“The best speaker we have had all year,” many said. They saw that she genuinely enjoys her work and is grateful for her role in the college football landscape. She connected with them when she, with a heartfelt stance, told them how proud she was when she became a Heisman voter. She is about tradition, color, bands, cheerleaders, majorettes and tailgating, and X’s and O’s.

Holly’s father, Del, took her to the ’92 Rose Bowl, Michigan versus Washington. They camped out in Pasadena, saw the parade, and then the game. In the 2006 Texas vs. USC thriller, she was able to take him to the game as her guest.
On her most recent visit to Athens, when it came time for lunch, I suggested we grab a sandwich at ADD Drug in the Five Points section of Athens. She loved the scene, the atmosphere, and the ambiance. She envies those of us who live in college towns.

At lunch, some recognized her; some didn’t. One who did was attorney/Dawg fan John Noel. He is as avid of a college football fan as there is. He noted that this typist was in the company of a “pretty girl,” which prompted Holly to remark: “I am wife approved.” She has been our house guest and frequent dinner companion in the past.
French fries accompanied her pimento cheese sandwich; the tasty meal garnished with football conversation. College fans admire and love her from coast to coast. I am happy to be a passionate member of that club.
Holly Rowe didn’t knock down the barriers that restricted women for so many years, but she is proof that if you give a woman with credentials and a dogged work ethic a chance, she can do almost anything.





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