ESPN’s Beth Mowins will reportedly become the first women to call the play-by-play for an NFL regular season game since 1987. Mowins is said to be working the second game of ESPN’s Monday Night Football season-opening double header on September 11, Richard Deitsch of Sports Illustrated reports.
The last woman to call play-by-play for an NFL game was Gayle Sierens, who broadcast a Seattle Seahawks-Kansas City Chiefs matchup for NBC on December 27, 1987.
ESPN had no comment on the SI report.
Mowins has previously called college football games and preseason Oakland Raiders game. Deitch reports that she will “likely” be joined by Rex Ryan for the Los Angeles Chargers-Denver Broncos game which will follow the New Orleans Saints-Minnesota Vikings showdown. Ryan was quickly scooped up by ESPN after he was fired as the Buffalo Bills head coach. He will be a regular color commentator for Monday Night Football. He and Mowins broadcast the Florida State spring game together back in April.
“Beth will show up and do a game and do as good a job as any of the men,” Mike Tirico, the longtime ESPN MNF broadcast who now is with NBC Sports, told Deitsch’s SI Media Podcast in January. “She is a ceiling-breaker, a pioneer and there will be more women going forward.”
ESPN has also assigned Doris Burke, Kara Lawson, Jessica Mendoza, Mowins and others to games as they push for more diversity on-air.
Sierens received favorable reviews for her 1987 broadcast, but never called another NFL game. She was offered six more game during the 1988 season, but as a newlywed pregnant with her first child, she declined the opportunity.
“You’d be getting a great job; unprecedented for a female,” her co-anchor, Bob Hite, recalled telling her in a Tampa Bay Times interview. “On the other hand, you’d be giving up a lot.”
Sierens has said she still questions the what-ifs of her career, which ended in 2015 when she retired from Tampa’s WFLA.
“I don’t know why a woman hasn’t been able to break into that,” she said. “It’s sad for me. It’s sad that it didn’t happen sooner. I hope that my performance was good enough that it merited other women being given the chance. But maybe it wasn’t. Maybe everybody thought it was fun and cute and a great idea, but that’s not really how we want to hear our games. I don’t know. I may never know the answer to that. But I surely hope that someone soon gets an opportunity.”
Mowins, 49, became only the second woman to call nationally televised football games for ESPN in 2005.