EDITOR’S NOTE: ESPN Senior Vice President, Tina Thornton, is responsible for overseeing the network’s extensive coverage of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament, culminating with the Final Four, Sunday and Tuesday. In this piece for Front Row, Thornton explains how some last-minute potential weather conditions led to some changing commentator assignments.
“You can’t control the weather” is a commonly used expression that is directly applicable to a situation ESPN is facing over the next few days.
As a result, we are making some adjustments to our Women’s Final Four commentator plans.
Versatile play-by-play commentator Dave O’Brien was scheduled to call his seventh consecutive Women’s Final Four on ESPN from Indianapolis, alongside analyst Doris Burke and reporter Holly Rowe. The National Semifinals are Sunday night followed by the Championship Game on Tuesday. On the Monday between games, Dave had planned to head to Cleveland for that day’s MLB opener between Cleveland and Boston where he will make his regular-season debut as the new television voice of the Red Sox on their regional network, NESN.
That’s where the weather fun begins.
Monday’s forecast in Cleveland, originally calling for snow and steady rain, could put that opener in jeopardy, pushing the MLB game to Tuesday, the same day as the NCAA Women’s Championship.
In order to ensure the safest, most reliable outcome in serving sports fans, we have decided to assign play-by-play commentator Beth Mowins to call the Women’s Final Four games on Sunday and Tuesday. While Sunday held no conflict for Dave, we wanted to provide continuity, using the same person for all three games. Beth’s talent and experience on the sport made our decision easier.
Beth has been an integral part of ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA women’s tournament for years, having called early-round games for ESPN and the Final Four for Westwood One Radio, so she is quite familiar with this incredible event.
She’s also called other big championship moments, including the Women’s College World Series. In fact, Cara Capuano will replace Beth on a softball event in Oregon this weekend so she can make the trip to Indy.
It goes without saying that both Dave and Beth are extremely valued colleagues who have been supportive of this sudden, yet necessary adjustment to our plans. Dave loves working the Women’s Final Four and thrives in the role. And while disappointed, he understands the need for the change and is truly excited for Beth’s debut.
This year’s Tournament has been terrific thus far, with three new teams (Syracuse, Washington, Oregon State) trying to knock off a UConn team that’s been to the Final Four for nine straight years, chasing history and a fourth straight title.
While we can’t control the outcomes of the games, or the weather, it’s nice to have true talents like Dave and Beth on your team through sunshine and rain. Enjoy the Tournament!