ESPN’s Holly Rowe assigned as Caitlin Clark beat reporter during women’s NCAA Tournament


Caitlin Clark’s star has risen so high that ESPN is dispatching a reporter to Iowa City to chronicle her every move during the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The reporter who landed this plum assignment is herself a pretty big deal given she’s already enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Holly Rowe, a 2023 Naismith Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award recipient, is heading to Iowa City to cover Iowa’s opening game (and second-round matchup barring a historic upset). She will embed with the Clark crew. ESPN will formally announce Rowe’s tournament role on Sunday.

“I am honored to say that I am the Caitlin Clark reporter,” said Rowe on Saturday. “We have had a presence on the ground covering the special moments with Caitlin this year and I have been at every one of her games where she set a record. I see it as an extension of the dedicated coverage we have had with Caitlin all year. I think there is an intrigue and appetite for all things Caitlin. I can’t tell you how many NBA coaches and players have asked me about Clark this year. (Rowe works as an analyst for the Utah Jazz in addition to her ESPN duties.) For instance, I just had a long conversation with Steph Curry after one of his games in Utah where we talked about her.”

“Me and my colleagues on the production management side sat down and talked about the need for having additional coverage there,” said Sara Gaiero, an ESPN vice president of production who is responsible for strategic oversight and management of ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA women’s basketball. “The name that came to mind was Holly. She has been on the Caitlin Clark beat, if you will, tracking and following her and being present with her when she broke records earlier in the year. That level of coverage is needed and necessary and warranted this year. It’s not something we’ve done for the previous first and second rounds for a specific player.”

Gaiero said Rowe will be available to SportsCenter and other ESPN entities that request her during the opening rounds. She’ll report on Iowa’s practices and other things around the game. Here is something else that is an offshoot of the Clark effect: For Iowa’s opening-round NCAA games, Rowe will serve as traditional sideline reporter for those games. That’s currently the only game right now, Gaiero said, for the first and second round that has a sideline reporter. (ESPN will staff all games with sideline reporters after the second round.)

Clark enters the NCAA Tournament with 3,771 career points.

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With the Big Ten Conference media rights moving to CBS, FOX, NBC and NBCUniversal’s Peacock, ESPN has been shut out of Clark’s games this year. They’ve had to come up with creative ways to report on the expected No. 1 pick in the WNBA Draft, which is why Rowe has been with the team as much as she has this year.

“Caitlin has been so gracious with us,” Rowe said. “I’ll give you an example. I have been there for games we don’t have the rights to and for those games Fox, Peacock, CBS or whomever gets the first interview on the court. Then I have gotten the very next interview on the court. I will never be able to say thanks to Caitlin and Bailey Turner (Turner is an assistant director of communications in charge of media relations for the women’s basketball program), I do think we have helped grow Caitlin in some ways over the last couple of years and I hope we have done it in a respectful way.”

Rowe has covered women’s basketball for decades, one of the broadcast O.G.’s of the sport, and said last October she asked her ESPN bosses if she could focus exclusively on the women’s college game this season as opposed to splitting her time between the men and women.

“I asked to get taken off men’s basketball this year because I felt this moment that was about to happen,” Rowe said. “I don’t think many people ask to get taken off a men’s sport and I am proud of myself for knowing where the story is. This is the big-time and this is where I need to be.”

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(Photo: Matthew Holst / Getty Images)





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