Veteran ESPN reporter Holly Rowe is a mainstay across college sports coverage, including women’s college basketball.
After spending most of the season working remotely, Rowe hit the road and split her time and reporting between four different locations at the start of the tournament. Before No. 3 seed Arizona duels No. 1 Stanford for the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship (Sunday, April 4, 6 p.m. ET, ESPN), Front Row caught up with Rowe to learn more about how her experience has been in San Antonio.
What was it like being the only reporter on-site for the first couple of days of coverage for the women’s tournament, and how did you manage the different locations/courts?
It was an honor and so refreshing to be at games in person. Driving between Austin and San Antonio sites was unique – a Tennessee game at 2 p.m., and then back to the Alamodome for an 8 p.m. UCONN game to document the Huskies being without Coach [Geno] Auriemma for the first time in the NCAA Tournament.
You’ve been in San Antonio from the being to the end. What has the experience been like for you, and what adjustments have you made in preparation for the games?
Well, this is my second “bubble” of this unique COVID year. After 87 days in the WNBA bubble, 18 days in San Antonio is so easy. I did 55 WNBA games in 87 days. I will do around 15 games in 15 days for the 2021 Women’s NCAA Tournament. It is a ton of prep and work and I love it. I have been so starved for live games and getting to interact with the players in person. Every second has been a joy and privilege. I have covered more games than ever before in an NCAA tournament.
Your postgame interviews have garnered so much attention, and what’s so evident in all of them is the love and respect the players have for you in these special moments. How do you approach these sometimes emotional experiences while capturing the moment and the reaction?
Well, I would be lying if I didn’t admit to choking up on multiple occasions. This year has been so hard for everyone, I feel like our emotions are all so raw and real. It is the honor of my lifetime to have young women respect me and want to share their stories with me. Pure joy in my life. I hope they all feel that.
Best days at the women’s Final Four are when we get to talk to players! Seriously highlight of my life! @haleyjoness19 has had an eye on this moment for a while! @StanfordWBB pic.twitter.com/F7ijq7XqgX
— Holly Rowe (@sportsiren) April 1, 2021
Sunday’s trophy presentation will be different from years past with social distancing and other safety protocols in place. What’s the significance of the trophy hoisting moment after such a unique season?
This has been the most difficult year for teams in NCAA history. The sacrifices these young women and coaches have made all season have been immense. I hope the relief and joy they feel hoisting the trophy is a pure reflection of everything they have overcome this season. And to all the players, everyone is a winner this season. My heart is so full for appreciation of all they have given us in this unprecedented year. Thank you.