ESPN Sports Reporter Holly Rowe: Make The Big Time Where You Are

Apr 22, 2024, 11:48 AM | Updated: 11:58 am

SALT LAKE CITY – While most of Utah was fixed on the introductory press conference for the new NHL team coming to the state, an intimate hundred or so people gathered at Red Butte Garden to listen to ESPN reporter Holly Rowe talk about her legendary career.

The Utah native and University of Utah alum was invited to be the speaker for the 2024 Parry D. Sorensen Distinguished Lecture for the College of Communications on Friday, April 19.

Rowe’s talk included her humble beginnings as a student and intern, all the way up to meeting Oprah and interviewing some of the world’s biggest sports stars on the biggest stages.

However, Rowe’s most important message to the audience was to “make the big time where you are,” regardless of where you are at in your career.

From Bountiful, Utah, To The Bright Lights Of ESPN

Rowe, a self-described “geeky tomboy” who grew up in Bountiful, Utah, always knew she wanted to work in sports.

She studied communications in college at the University of Utah and then proceeded to take any and all internships that would allow her to pursue her passion.

Through her lecture, Rowe talked about creating her own opportunities early on.


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A post shared by Holly Rowe (@sportsiren)

Rowe discussed how thrilled she was covering Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls for $25 or using her own money to buy airtime to start radio broadcasts for Utah women’s basketball.

This of course, occurred at a time when opportunities for female sports broadcasters were even fewer and further between than they are now.

Eventually, all of Rowe’s hard work and determination turned into a job with ESPN covering the Division III College Football National Championship.

“I just thought I hit the jackpot,” Rowe recalled. “I was doing the Division III National Championship. I met the coach for Pacific Lutheran- Frosty Westering and he was just this legendary, wonderful man that was so fun. He was just this cool, innovative coach and they ended up winning the National Championship that year. He would talk about making the big time where you are.”

29 years later, Rowe now covers some of the biggest names and moments in sports for ESPN but says Westering’s sage advice has kept her grounded through it all.

“If you are always chasing the big time, you’re never happy,” Rowe said. “You’re always trying to get somewhere else.”

Holly Rowe Has Made A Business Out Of Building Relationships

There are very few things in life you can do or be successful at without good relationships. Sports broadcasting and journalism is no exception.

Rowe has made an incredible career out of building and maintaining strong relationships, not just with the Utes, but everywhere she’s traveled, and it shows in her work.

“I think that has maybe been what has made me the most successful in my career is building relationships with people,” Rowe said. “I think the ability to have people trust you- so, I’m covering people in these crazy moments of their life. Whether it is the Draft, or a crushing loss, or the biggest win of their life.”

Rowe then recalled a special moment with Utah football head coach Kyle Whittingham after the Utes clinched their first-ever Pac-12 Title on the heels of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe’s deaths that never would have happened if he didn’t trust her as a reporter and a person.

“Kyle Whittingham- the world’s toughest coach got emotional and cried,” Rowe said. “He has to really trust me in that moment to be vulnerable and to feel that way- to be ok on national television sharing the life of those young men that were tragically killed.”

Those strong relationships eventually came to Rowe’s rescue while she battled a rare form of melanoma that took a turn for the worse.

“The sports world really rallied behind me,” Rowe recalled. “People were nice. I had so many people in the sports world reach out to me and support me and love me through this horrible time. I’m very grateful for it. It’s back to those relationships that you build- that in your time of need, those people were there for me.”

Be Open To The Universe

Rowe ended her speech by encouraging the audience to be open to the universe and bet on themselves.

After all, it took a little girl from Bountiful, Utah, to some of the highest heights of the sports universe, who knows what that belief could do for you?


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A post shared by Holly Rowe (@sportsiren)

“I think the lessons I’m trying to teach you tonight- I’m just a normal kid from Bountiful, Utah,” Rowe said. “What I have learned is that if you work hard with great passion. If you are very intentional about what you are doing and what you are putting your time and energy into, and you are flexible- you really never know what can happen in your life.”

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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ESPN Sports Reporter Holly Rowe: Make The Big Time Where You Are