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SMITH COLUMN: Holly Rowe is one of the best

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, she 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 a person who appreciates the good things which have come her way. She is a Mormon (“but don’t judge me for drinking coffee”), a graduate of B.Y.U. with a penchant for taking in sporting events when she is not working.

In times past 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 own 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 kindnesses to her when she was establishing 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 who 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 story lines 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.  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 most anything.