LOS ANGELES – Television airwaves across the country in 1975 saw something never seen before when Phyllis George was hired as part of the CBS broadcast team for The NFL Today.
George, a former Miss Texas (1970) and Miss America (1971) became one of the first women to hold a prominent on-air position in national televised sports broadcasting at the time. She remained in that role, despite having a limited television background, for three seasons before being replaced by Jayne Kennedy.
It was long enough to make an impact on a young girl not far from the CBS Studios in New York City George sat in while challenging for a spot in what had been a male-only club of broadcasters,
Beth Mowins sat in front of the family television just outside of Syracuse, N.Y., and took notice of history being made by George.
The daughter of a high school basketball coach, Mowins was introduced to basketball at an early age and was introduced to a whole other world while sitting on the floor in the family living room on Sunday mornings watching George talk football.
“(George) proved that sports broadcasting was something that women could do, and I decided early on that it was something I wanted to pursue,” Mowins said.
Little did she know she would eventually become a pioneer much like George. And her impact on sports broadcasting in general, and women’s sports, in particular, is now secure for all time.
“With my dad being a coach and having three brothers, it seemed like I was always playing some sort of sport,” Mowins said. “You name it, I played it.”
She excelled at basketball, softball and soccer while attending North Syracuse High School before graduating in 1985 and going on to play basketball at Lafayette College for four years (1985-89).
The five-foot, seven-inch guard captained the Leopards in her final season and played in 117 games (115 starts) during her time at the school. She finished her career as one of the top scorers in school history with 1,156 points (9.9 ppg), including a team-best 423 points (14.6 ppg) during her final collegiate season.
Mowins was an accurate shooter from the foul line where she connected on 382 of 507 (.753) attempts. She made 145 foul shots as a senior and also shot 48 percent from the floor during her playing career. She left the school as the all-time assists leader with 715. She topped the team charts in that statistic each of her four seasons in a Leopard uniform.
Mowins graduated from Syracuse the following year with a master’s degree in broadcast and digital journalism before embarking on her history-making broadcast career.
After finishing work on her master’s degree at Syracuse, Mowins launched her career in 1991 by becoming the news and sports director at WXHC-FM Radio in Homer, N.Y., a small village 30 minutes south of Syracuse.
Three years later she joined ESPN and helped at the network played a key role in the explosion of women’s sports on television, something that is still lagging among other networks.
Mowins, who usually is at the call for women’s sports, has become the on-air voice for a number of sports, including basketball, soccer, volleyball and softball and has covered the Women’s College World Series each year since 1994.
And her work at the increasingly popular event has not gone unnoticed.
“She has meant everything to women’s college softball,” said legendary University of Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea, who stepped down after the 2021 season after spending more than 40 years at the school and leading the Wildcats to eight NCAA national titles.
“She is incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about the game … and that can be seen by her work in the broadcast booth,” the popular coach said.
Candrea’s former counterpart at rival Arizona State echoes the respect Mowins has garnered throughout her career.
“She’s done so much for women’s sports,” ASU coach Trisha Ford said. “(Mowins) is not only a pioneer, but she has become a mainstay and softball has benefitted greatly because of her.”
Mowins has expanded her role in recent years. She became just the second woman to handle play-by-play duties for nationally televised college football games (2005) and began play-by-play announcing for National Football League games in 2017 after announcing preseason NFL games for the the-Oakland Raiders in 2015. In 2017 Mowins became just the second woman to call a nationally televised NFL game when she teamed with Jay Feeley on ESPN’s broadcast of the Monday Night Football season opener between the Los Angeles Chargers and Denver Broncos.
Gayle Sierens was the first female play-by-play announcer for an NFL regular season when she did a game in 1987 for NBC.
The game between the Browns and Colts made Mowins the first woman to do play-by-play for college basketball, the NBA and the NFL in the 58-year history of CBS Sports.
Mowins, who was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame in 2009, boasts other accolades as a leader in the broadcasting profession.
She became a fill-in announcer for Chicago Cubs game on Marquee Sports in 2021 and later that year became the first woman to call one of the team’s regular season games. She also announced softball at the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo.
While the end of Mowins’ career appears to be years away as a mainstay of sports broadcasting, she looks back on her life’s work with appreciation.
“I appreciate all the moments along the way and all the games have been special,” the personable Mowins said. “Basketball was my first passion and remains a very important part of my life.
She also admits to admiring the work of some to legendary announcers in sports history.
Names like Mike Tirico, Pat Summerall and Jim Nantz. Throw in names like Vin Scully and Keith Jackson and it’s a virtual Who’s Who of broadcasting greats who have made an impact on Mowins.
“Keith Jackson … he was college football,” said Mowins, whose preparation for broadcasts is simple and without plenty of opinions.
“The thing any broadcast must keep in mind is that you have to have fun and you have to be passionate about what you are doing,” the broadcasting pioneer said.
A native of Bismarck, N.D., Ray is a graduate of North Dakota State University where he began studying athletic training and served as a student trainer for several Bison teams including swimming, wrestling and baseball and was a trainer at the 1979 NCAA national track and field championship meet at the University of Illinois. Ray later worked in the sports information office at NDSU. Following his graduation from NDSU he spent five years in the sports information office at Missouri Western State University and one year in the sports information at Georgia Tech. He has nearly 40 years of writing experience as a sports editor at several newspapers and has received numerous awards for his writing over the years. A noted sports historian, Ray is currently an assistant editor at Amateur Wrestling News.