ESPN History

NFL official’s debut adds to list of women in sports milestones on ESPN

A woman will be part of an NFL officiating crew for the first time Thursday, and she will make her debut in a game airing on ESPN.

Shannon Eastin, who has been a referee in the NCAA’s Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, will officiate the preseason game between the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers (Thurs., ESPN, 8 p.m. ET).

This milestone for women in sports will be one of many that ESPN has telecast over 32 years.

Sunday on ESPN2 (see video above), two female NHRA racers set the pace as Courtney Force (visit her espnW blog) and Erica Enders won in the pro classes on the same day for the first time in NHRA history.

Curious about other sports milestones that have aired on ESPN, we consulted a long list compiled by our ESPN Communications colleague Dave Nagle. Colleague Hannah Worster helped pare the selections.

By no means is this list complete, but, on the heels of ESPN’s comprehensive tribute to Title IX, it does give a glimpse into the historic female accomplishments the network has been honored to share with fans.

Jan. 16
Connecticut (ranked No. 2 in nation) defeats top-ranked Tennessee 77-66 in a game women’s basketball media have called a milestone in the sport’s recent growth of popularity. UConn went on to a 35-0 perfect season (the second in women’s Division I history) in winning the national championship, also over Tennessee and on ESPN.

June 19-July 10
ESPN/ESPN2 combine to present unprecedented coverage of 30 matches of the memorable 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the most successful women-only sports event.

March 16
Annika Sorenstam becomes the first woman ever to shoot a 59, in the second round of the Standard Register Ping in Phoenix.

March 22
Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt wins her 880th game, passing Dean Smith’s Division I record. The 75-54 win over Purdue in a second-round NCAA Tournament game was aired on ESPN2 and ESPNU; joined by ESPN, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS and ESPN Deportes for the final moments, the post-game celebration and a Coach Summitt interview.

April 19
Danica Patrick wins the IndyCar 300 at Motegi, Japan, the first woman to win a major open-wheel race, aired live on ESPN Classic.*

Jan. 24
Kelly Kulick becomes the first woman to win a PBA Tour event, the 45th PBA Tournament of Champions from Red Rock Lanes in Las Vegas.

Dec. 19, 21, 30
ESPNU televises the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team’s 88th straight victory (81-50 over Ohio State at Madison Square Garden), tying the Division I record set by UCLA in 1974, followed two nights later on ESPN2 with their 89th consecutive win (93-62 over Florida State) in Hartford. On Dec. 30, the streak ends at 90 with a 71-59 loss at Stanford on ESPN2.

April 3
Capping their undefeated season in the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship Game airing on ESPN and ESPN3, Baylor became the seventh women’s team to run through a season unbeaten and the first in NCAA history to win 40 games.

*Race originally scheduled to air on ESPN2, aired on ESPN Classic after rain delay

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