‘Seasoned pro’ Kate Scott ready to make Pac-12 play-by-play history
Kate Scott grew up dreaming of playing college soccer.
A serious knee injury suffered in high school ended those plans. At that point, Scott could have never imagined what lay ahead.
Certainly, Scott didn’t think she’d grow up to do television and radio play-by-play for football, basketball, soccer, softball and volleyball games.
“If nobody looks or sounds like you,” she said, “why do you think you can do it?”
Saturday, Scott will accomplish another first. The onetime soccer standout will call the Arizona Wildcats’ season-opening game against Northern Arizona on Pac-12 Arizona. The 34-year-old Scott will handle the play-by-play duties, with Glenn Parker — a former UA and NFL offensive lineman — serving as the analyst. It will mark the first time in Pac-12 Networks history that a woman has called a regular-season football game.
But Scott, a Fresno, California native and Cal graduate, is no stranger to football. She called two 49ers preseason games on the radio a year ago. Scott began her career working high school football games for Comcast Hometown Network, a television station.
“I love football,” Scott said. “It seems like an opportunity not to pass up. Going into the first high school football game I called, I wondered how I would feel after calling it. It was, ‘Oh yeah, this is fun!’ Play-by-play wasn’t a goal until I saw (ESPN’s) Beth (Mowins) and Pam (Ward) doing it and I thought maybe that is something I could do. I didn’t know this is where I’d end up.”
Scott has been a little reluctant to talk about her place in Pac-12 history. Yet there are only a handful of women who have put on the headset and called college or professional football on TV. Mowins will call a Sept. 11 NFL game, making her the first woman to do so since Gayle Sierens in 1987.
Mowins called Scott’s accomplishment “terrific.”
“Kate has worked hard for this and earned it,” said Mowins, who will call the “Monday Night Football” game between the Chargers and Broncos alongside former coach Rex Ryan. “She is an excellent broadcaster. She’s got a bright future and understands the craft. She’s developed an understanding of what it takes to be good at play-by-play.”
Calling football, with 22 players moving at lightning speed, can be a challenge. Arizona doesn’t huddle and substitutes on the fly, making an already tricky job even more challenging. But Scott understands the mechanics and the pace of football, Parker said.
“She’s a seasoned pro, a talented broadcaster and phenomenal at play-by-play,” he said.
Scott knows how important it is to have role models in athletics. A women’s basketball game between powerhouses Stanford and Tennessee sparked something in Scott when she was young.
“I saw players I could relate to and I could see myself being like them one day,” said Scott. “So I was a big Stanford fan for a while. Then, I visited Cal and knew I wanted to go there. But before that I wanted to be at Stanford at play basketball for Tara (VanDerveer). It’s pretty cool now that I call games of someone I looked up to and is one of the best (coaches) of all time. I pinch myself now when I cover her games. That says a lot coming from a Cal girl.”
The knee injury in high school was one of many turning points in her life. Another came when David Menendian, one of her Clovis High School teachers and faculty adviser for the student newspaper, suggested she cover sports.
“I fell head over heels” with sportswriting, Scott said. “It was so fun. A few months into it I was editing and covering wrestling in Bakersfield. It was learning how to chase a story, how to frame a story and how important it was to get connections with the water boy or girl, managers, and parents — where the stories are.
“I knew I wanted to be in sports journalism. It combined my two passions: sports and storytelling.”
Scott has always hustled. In fact, there aren’t many Bay Area sports teams she hasn’t covered. She was a traffic reporter and news update person on the radio and sideline reporter for Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes, Major League Baseball’s San Jose Giants and the Pac-12 Networks. She was, for a time, a sports anchor for KNBR, the Bay Area’s most iconic sports radio station.
The 49ers and KNBR tabbed Scott to call two preseason games last year.
The NFL experience “opened a lot of doors for me,” she said. “There could have been backlash for them, but they weathered it. They told me I earned it and I wanted to prove them they were right, that I was ready to call sports on the radio. It was a ton of work.”
The Pac-12 Networks noticed. The conference’s television empire also employs Ann Schatz, Mary Murphy, and Cindy Brunson, well-known figures in sports broadcasting.
Jessica Mendoza calls “Sunday Night Baseball” games on ESPN, and Sam Ponder and Doris Burke cover the NFL and NBA, respectively, as well as anyone. But Scott says the growth has been slow, noting that her heroes — Linda Cohn, Robin Roberts Hannah Storm, Michele Tafoya and Bonnie Bernstein — took years to reach broadcasting’s pinnacle.
“If I can change it for one little girl, it is all worth it,” she said. “It’s important that the little boys see this as not a big deal — seeing women call games. One day, they will see (Mowins) call a Super Bowl and not think it’s not a big deal. My hope is that all the kids watching know that if you are good at what you do, you will get an opportunity to do it.”
Parker, who will call Saturday’s game just feet from Scott, says he’s been inspired.
“As a father of three girls, two of them have played or are playing DI sports, anytime someone breaks the barriers and looks like you, it’s uplifting,” he said. “I know my daughters will be watching.”