Beth Mowins, a mainstay calling the Women’s College World Series, primarily works women’s sports but is ESPN’s only woman who will do play-by-play of national college football games.
Mowins began her career as sports director for WXHC-FM radio in Homer, N.Y. A member of the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame, Mowins played three sports (basketball, softball and soccer) in high school. She also played basketball at Lafayette College and earned a master’s degree at Syracuse University.
One of my favorite Christmas presents was a Mr. Microphone when I was 6 or 7. My Dad was a basketball coach and I had three brothers. We had a big field behind our house. My older brother would play football with older kids. I would broadcast the games on the Mr. Microphone back to my mom on the radio. I knew early this is what I wanted to do. I loved sports and I loved to talk.
At parties or a wedding I was always the first one to grab the microphone and do interviews. My Dad being a coach and a teacher, I got to be the P.A. announcer when I was in middle school. I had to stop doing it when I made the JV team.
Playing sports growing up helped me understand the language. It comes very natural for me. It’s very comfortable for me to call softball or soccer or basketball, even football because I used to sit in front of the TV and pretend I was calling the game. I feel I understand the athlete, what they’re going through in preparation or when they step into the box or are dribbling late in a tie game. But I learned a long time ago to allow the moment speak for itself.
To show you how far the game has come, my junior year in high school our softball team beat the top-ranked, unbeaten team in the semis. Back then, there wasn’t enough interest or money to actually play a state championship game. The year ended with two teams still standing. To this day, we still kick ourselves for not having our coaches call each other and play that game.
My favorite playing memory as a player was two years straight we lost to our archrival — Liverpool High School — in the regular season but beat them both times at the state basketball tournament. One of those, I had two free throws with less than five seconds left. I made them both to beat them 40-39 to advance to the Final Four that year.
In my high school yearbook, you write down notes as a senior and give shoutouts to your friends. It’s actually written in my yearbook that I wanted to do sports on TV.
I’ve checked off some things off my list. I grew up in Syracuse, so I always wanted to do a basketball game in the Carrier Dome. I got a chance to do that. I always wanted to call a Michael Jordan game. I was doing some NBA radio and got to do that, actually against Charles Barkley, who has been in town this week with TNT.
One of my most memorable games was here in Oklahoma City at the Myriad. I was a sideline reporter for CBS at the Bryce Drew game when he hit that game-winning shot. As soon as the shot went in, as a former player I had made that shot a million times in our driveway. It was just a natural question to ask him about that. Just to see the smile on his face, you could tell he was living the dream of every kid who picks up a basketball.
It would be a dream come true to do a Yankees game at Yankee Stadium and a Notre Dame home football game, maybe a game at Cowboys Stadium (in Arlington). That would be the Triple Crown for me. Syracuse used to be the Triple-A team for the Yankees. My Dad was at the stadium watching Mickey Mantle and had to be paged on the loud speaker that his wife was in labor (with me). I was destined to be a Yankees fan literally from birth.
It speaks a lot that younger girls don’t even talk about Title IX anymore because they’re getting opportunities because of that legislation. I think we’re only going to see continued growth. Their brothers and their fathers want the same opportunities for their sisters and their daughters. You see the results, how much more self confidence those women have after their careers are over, how much more willing they are to take on leaderships roles in life they never would have if they hadn’t played on a team.
I remember when we used to come here (for the WCWS) and we’d only televise one game. Now we have an entire compound of production trucks. We drew almost as many people for the opening round on Thursday as went to the Thunder-Spurs game. The ratings for softball are through the roof. It’s incredible to see the growth of the sport. People that walk up to you at the airport or a hotel, whether they’re a 10-year-old girl or a 60-year-old guy, saying they love watching the athleticism and spirit is great to see.
Working college football games, I was given the opportunity to prove myself. It’s been a lot of fun to be able to do what I dreamed about as a kid. There’s nothing quite like a college campus on a Saturday morning. It gives you chills to do what you love doing. To be part of that has been very satisfying.
Being inducted into the Syracuse sports Hall of Fame was a great night for my Dad, who was born and raised in Syracuse. Some of his buddies were in the Hall of Fame. All of his friends were there. He didn’t have many opportunities growing up. Everything he got he had to fight for. I was thrilled to be the next generation, opportunities my Dad gave me and my brothers. In my mind he went in the Hall of Fame with me that night.
My advice to young athletes is quoting Mark Twain: ‘Why wouldn’t you go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is.’ That’s how I’ve approached my work and live my life. You have to go after the fruit but you have to go out on a limb to get it.