Sports broadcasting trailblazer Elizabeth Mowins ‘89 to deliver commencement address

Mowins+was+inducted+into+the+Maroon+Club+Hall+of+Fame+in+2005.+%28Photo+courtesy+of+Lafayette+Communications%29

Mowins was inducted into the Maroon Club Hall of Fame in 2005. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

For Elizabeth “Beth” Mowins ‘89, a sports broadcasting career was never a question of “if,” but “how.”

“I really never wanted to do anything else. So there was no out. There were no other paths to do something else,” she said. 

Mowins, who has gone on to break the glass ceiling in the sports broadcasting world with her three decades of award-winning work, will return to Lafayette, where her athletic and broadcasting career first blossomed, on May 20 to deliver the 2023 commencement address. 

Mowins grew up surrounded by sports in Syracuse, New York. Her father coached high school basketball, her brothers played sports and her mother was always a fan. In the neighborhood, Mowins never shied away from a game of kickball, dodgeball, basketball or anything else that the others kids on the block were playing.  

“I just developed a love of sports right from the cradle and I realized at an early age that I also loved to talk about sports,” she said. 

The opportunity to play women’s basketball at a school known for its academic excellence brought Mowins to Lafayette in 1985. 

On College Hill, she led the women’s basketball team for two years as captain and dominated on the court. She was a 1,000-point scorer, a three-time all-conference selection and remains the all-time assist leader for the Leopards. Some of her fondest memories came from her sophomore season, when she led Lafayette to a victory against Lehigh in the East Coast Conference final.  

“Muffet McGraw was the head coach at Lehigh at the time. And she left the next year and went to Notre Dame where she had tremendous success and won a couple of national championships,” Mowins said. “I always like to tease her that we chased her out of Lehigh.” 

Besides her time on the court, Mowins, who studied English, recalled spending countless hours on WJRH radio. 

“We would be over at WJRH actually spinning records and putting on some of our favorite albums,” she said. “During breaks, we would put together sports reports and I would actually write up a copy to read on the air and talk about what was going on in the NBA or in other college sports and things like that. That was sort of my first crack at sports reporting.”

Ever since she was young, Mowins didn’t have a doubt in her mind that sports broadcasting, despite being a traditionally male-dominated industry, was for her. 

“I saw Phyllis George on the NFL Today Show, one of the first women on TV that was involved in sports programs, and I thought, ‘Well you know what, I’d like to do that.’ And when I asked my mom, she said, ‘Yes, you can.’”

After Lafayette, Mowins earned a master’s degree in communications from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School in 1990. Utilizing her playing experience and the skills she gained thanks to her Lafayette education, Mowins landed her first broadcasting and sports reporting jobs.

In 1994, she joined ESPN. Over the next few decades, Mowins became a staple in the college sports world, doing play-by-play for NCAA Championships in basketball, soccer and volleyball while becoming the voice of the Women’s College World Series. Other assignments included working on the broadcast team for the 2011 Women’s World Cup in Germany and being the play-by-play voice for the Oakland and later Las Vegas Raiders’ pre-season TV broadcasts. 

“I think one of the keys to longevity in this business is your versatility. And so from a very early age when I was starting out, I was calling whatever I could,” she said. 

In 2017, Mowins gained widespread praise for being the first woman to call a nationally televised NFL game. While she said she approached the game just like any other, she was humbled after the fact to learn how so many people found it inspirational.  

“That was pretty cool, to see what kind of positive impact you really do have on people’s lives,” she said. 

In 2021, Mowins again made history by becoming the first woman to call play-by-play for a regular season game of the NBA on network TV.

“I obviously was always a dreamer and my dream was kind of out of the ordinary,” Mowins said. “And so, I hope that’s what gets passed along to other people out there: no matter what your dream is, you could pursue it and work hard to achieve it.”

During commencement, which will begin May 20 at 11:00 a.m. on the Quad, Mowins hopes to share that same inspirational message with graduating seniors. 

“It’s okay to be bold and ambitious and to chase whatever dreams you want,” she said. “I think some of the skills that Lafayette instills in us and some of the tools that we’re now equipped with as grads will serve us very well in whatever it is we have to face in the outside world.”