She’s earned her spot having done the job in college and preseason games.
In the NFL’s upcoming regular season premiere, Beth Mowins will serve as ESPN’s first female play-by-play broadcaster in the network’s history of airing NFL games. She will be just the second woman ever to get the call for an NFL broadcast, with the first being Gayle Sierens, who pulled booth duty nearly thirty years ago on the final Sunday of the 1986 season for a Seahawks-Chiefs game.
Mowins is no stranger to NFL broadcasting, but thus far, her announcing skills have been limited to Raiders preseason games for the past two seasons. She’s also been a fixture in the booth for NCAA games throughout the college season.
Last year, during a symposium on sports broadcasting, NFL reporter Andrea Kremer put ESPN President John Skipper in the hot seat, asking why it’s taken so long to get a woman in the booth for pro football games. He responded (via Sports Illustrated):
“I think we will get there. We are committed to it. Look, we have women calling NBA games, we have women calling college football games, and we look for opportunities to put women in the booth … There is no reason not to do it now. It is one of things where people are making progress and that would be seen as there is no limit.”
Though the news of Mowins’ appearance in the booth does show commitment, it’s, thus far, a one-night-only engagement. She’ll be tackling the Chargers-Broncos matchup alongside recently fired Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan as part of a doubleheader that night.
Even if her performance is an unqualified success, her prospects for upward mobility at ESPN are limited. The network broadcasts just one game per week and has a proven and popular team installed. However, a strong performance calling the game could open up prospects at other networks and warm football audiences up to the long overdue recognition that a woman can call a game just as well as as a man.