INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A last-minute change will give ESPN its first all-female broadcast crew for the women's Final Four.
Beth Mowins is replacing Dave O'Brien as the play-by-play voice this weekend the network announced Friday because of potential weather issues.
She will work alongside Doris Burke and Holly Rowe, marking the first time in the network's 21-year coverage of the women's championship that they are using an all-female broadcast crew.
Mowins, who has covered the women's Final Four for years on radio, downplayed the significance of it even in a year where all four coaches in the Final Four were male for the first time in NCAA history.
"I don't see a gender issue with the male coaches. They did a great job getting their teams here. The same thing holds true for the announcers," Mowins said.
"Gender doesn't mean anything more than you have a diverse crew at your company that works hard at what they do. The opportunity is there if you work hard enough to get it."
O'Brien was set to call his seventh straight national semifinals Sunday night and then head to Cleveland for the Boston Red Sox opener on Monday. He would then travel back to Indianapolis for the women's championship game Tuesday night; O'Brien is the new TV voice for the Red Sox on their regional network.
With inclement weather expected in Cleveland on Monday that could push the opener back a day, ESPN didn't want to risk having a different play-by-play voice do the semifinals and national championship game.
"We felt it was important to provide continuity to our event and we looked at the weather and we couldn't risk that," ESPN senior vice president Tina Thornton said.
"It was pretty easy to select Beth Mowins. We have a lot of depth in our play-by-play world. She's been involved with this event in some capacity for a lot of years. I don't look at it being an all-female crew, I look at it as we put the best people out there and those are the best people on our team."
Mowins worked the first four rounds of the tournament and was thrilled for the opportunity to call the final ones.
"I'd love to keep the seat warm for him and maintain the standard," she said. "He took the baton from Mike Patrick and continued to elevate the importance of this event."
Mowins grew up in Syracuse and then went on to play basketball at Lafayette before getting into broadcasting. She already has called the women's softball championship as well as volleyball.
"This is the sport I played in college," she said. "It's always been a special championship to follow on the men's and women's side. So an opportunity to call this along with Doris and Holly who I've known for 20 years in this business will be thrilling. I hoped one day to playing in this and never could do that, so this is the next best thing."