As a junior in high school, Kate Scott was in the stands at Stanford Stadium for the year’s Big Game. Not as a fan of either team, not because she had family who went there — her tennis partner had convinced her to tag along.
Soon mesmerized by the Cal student section and those leading cheers at its helm, Scott recalls thinking, “Wow, if I can somehow get into Cal, I’ve got to figure out a way to get to be one of those people ’cause it just looks like one of the most fun jobs in the world.”
Get into Cal she did. And get that job she did.
Scott is a woman of firsts. Now a proud UC Berkeley alumna, Scott was voted in as Cal’s first full-time female “mic man.” The football team was on the up and up thanks to the arrival of Jeff Tedford and Aaron Rodgers after a forgettable 1-10 season. Between Cal stealing the Axe back from Stanford in 2002 after seven Axeless years, upsetting then-No. 3 USC in triple overtime in 2003 and having a historic season in 2004, Scott was front and center through it all.
“To get to be a mic man, to get to travel with that football team, to get to be on the sideline with those guys was two and a half years of my life that I will never forget,” she said.
Scott has since become the NFL’s first female radio play-by-play announcer and the first woman to call a college football game on Pac-12 Networks. Earlier this year, she was part of the first all-women NHL broadcast.
Though she herself has been able to take significant strides in her industry — a result of hard work and a lot of patience — Scott feels there remains substantial room for growth when it comes to women and sports. She is hopeful that the increased exposure women’s leagues have received during the coronavirus pandemic can create traction that goes beyond 2020.
“If you give us the exposure, there will be a desire to watch and to follow these sports. We saw it with the NWSL Challenge Cup, the first sport back. We’re seeing it now with the WNBA,” Scott said. “If people are willing to take that risk and put the WNBA on ESPN and on ESPN2, put the NWSL on CBS, on these linear television channels, there will be people who want to watch.”
Not only has the pandemic brought attention to leagues that often come second to moneymakers such as the NBA and MLB, but it has also underlined the sports industry’s indispensable role even during times of uncertainty and unrest.
“Sport is so many things all at once. It’s an escape, it’s entertainment, it’s passion, it’s humanity. We always talk about how sports is a microcosm of life, and now — at least, in my 37-year memory — feels like that most,” Scott said. “Sports are doing exactly what they should be doing, which is being a part of the conversation. They’re helping us talk about difficult things and have those uncomfortable conversations.”
With the Pac-12 canceling fall seasons, that passion and humanity are what Scott will miss most.
“I am going to miss getting to do what I love to do, which is meeting student-athletes and getting to learn their stories. There’s something that’s still not as polished and raw, a little unfinished at the collegiate level that I just absolutely love.”
Scott’s favorite game she’s ever called was perhaps the epitome of raw: former Cal volleyball player Savannah Rennie’s first match after her liver transplant.
“She had a couple swings earlier in the match — I think one went into the net, one went wide and then she found the floor, and the whole gym knew,” Scott said. “That’s why I love play-by-play. You never know when it’s going to be just a random Thursday night volleyball match when something life-changing is going to happen.”
Whether covered in face paint leading a rowdy student section or providing detailed commentary during her play-by-play broadcasts, Scott is a true champion of the sports industry who fully understands sports’ weight during times of such uncertainty.
“Sports creates this family of people from all different backgrounds and political parties. It’s still that one thing that seems to bridge all those gaps. You can all come together and be fans side by side just for those two hours.”