The sports media voices of Title IX: Michele Tafoya

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Last April, Michele Tafoya received the first-ever Emmy given out in the category of Sports Personality-Sports Reporter, in a category that included NBC’s Pierre McGuire, Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, TNT’s Craig Sager and CBS’ Tracy Wolfson.

It came after Tafoya’s first year working the sidelines for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football” package, after she’d been on the ESPN “Monday Night Football” series the previous five years.

Tafoya, who until recently also did a sports-talk show in her new hometown of Minneapolis on WCCO, is a Southern California product, having graduated from Aviation High in Manhattan Beach, getting a BA in mass communications from Cal and an MBA from USC. One of her first pro assignments was calling men’s basketball for UNC-Charlotte on WAQS-AM in Charlotte — going by the name Mickey Conley.

In five years at CBS, she had some history-making ability — the first women to do TV play-by-play of an NCAA tournament game, in 1996. A year later, The American Women in Radio and Television honored her with a Gracie Award for “Outstanding Achievement by an Individual On-Air TV Personality” for her WNBA work with Lifetime.

She talks about the impact of Title IX on her life growing up, and in broadcasting as he continues today as a mom, wife, and reporter:

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I remember when I was a kid that Title IX was a big deal when it passed. I was very young, but I recall sensing that women were about to get many new opportunities.

My Dad made sure all of his daughters (and one son) were involved in sports. He coached my youth basketball teams and encouraged me to take up running. He taught me everything he knew about football. He made sure his kids attended numerous events at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984.

Would he have been so encouraging in the absence of Title IX? I can’t say.

But my sisters and I caught the wave of momentum created by Title IX. We participated in soccer, basketball, volleyball and softball. I was even the quarterback of my sixth grade co-ed flag football team.

I feel certain that the increasing number of women participating in sports eventually led to more opportunities for women in sports broadcasting. As more women played the games and became more accepted as athletes, they became more accepted talking sports and covering sports.

That doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park. Getting into the business was difficult enough. Withstanding the scrutiny and criticism was an even tougher test. Especially 10 and 20 years ago.

It’s impossible to say what impact Title IX had on my career because I think the women’s movement in general led to more opportunities for women in every field. But I feel fortunate to have been born at the right time. I think the 1970s will mark an important time in history for women in sports.

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