Proud To Be: Jenny Cavnar the latest CSU grad to break down barriers in sports

April 22, 2018 - The Colorado Rockies take on the San Diego Padres at Coors Field. (Photo by Matt Dirksen.) Photo Credit: The Colorado Rockies

From coast to coast, Colorado State Alumni are making many “Proud To Be.” Specifically, women alumni of CSU who continue to smash through the glass ceilings presented in the world of male-dominated sports media.

On Monday night, Jenny Cavnar became among the first women ever to call play-by-play for an MLB broadcast.

“Fire up the fountains!” Cavnar, who’s covered the MLB for 12 years, also became the second-ever woman to color commentate a game on the radio in 2015.

“I got the chance to call a game at spring training and knew it would come up during the year when Drew (Goodman) took off to be with his team he is coaching,” Cavnar explained. “I feel like my experience of covering Major League Baseball for the last 12 years helped me earn a place to have the opportunity and such support from all my colleagues at ATTSN.”

She’s earned it every step of the way, just like the many women who work in the sports field have done.

Cavnar’s roots in sports go back to being a child, when her father was a high school baseball coach and eventually elected to the High School Baseball Hall of Fame. At Colorado State university, when Cavnar attended from 2000-2004, both as a club lacrosse player and as she got involved in student media.

Cavnar is rightfully being nationally recognized this week for breaking that barrier for the second time – Gayle Gardner was the first woman to call an MLB game as the play-by-play announcer, a Rockies game nonetheless, in 1993 — and she’s simultaneously inspiring many women.

“I feel empowered by Jenny’s determination and I hope women all across the country do too,” said Taylor McGregor, who is an AT&T Sportsnet broadcaster covering the Rockies with Cavnar. “I couldn’t feel more grateful to learn from someone like her. She’s a true pro and got to where she is because of her work ethic, intelligence and respect for all people. I look up to her for the way she handles herself professionally and personally.”

Jenny is hardly the only woman alumna of CSU to make an impact on the sports media world.

Maybe the most recognizable CSU alum in the sporting world is Becky Hammon, arguably the greatest basketball player in school history, male or female.

During her breakthrough play-by-play call, Cavnar explained, “I thought about Becky a lot and the amazing things she accomplishes daily by being a pioneer in NBA coaching and a great role model and Ram.”

Hammon played at Colorado State from 1995-1999 and took the women’s basketball team to never before realized heights, being named an All-American three times before playing for 15 years professionally, as part of the WNBA and overseas. She was named a Top 15 WNBA player all-time in 2011, and then, in 2014, broke through to the NBA.

Becky Hammon became the first-ever, full-time, female NBA assistant coach in 2014, and while some fans hoped she could become the next CSU men’s basketball head coach, many believe she’s on her way to being the first female head coach in NBA history.

The NBA has led the way among the four major professional sports when it comes to gender equality, or at least, a move in that direction. They were the first league to include women as officials, the first woman as executive director of the NBA Player’s Association, and the first woman in a team’s front office. Now, the MLB – with Cavnar calling the Rockies game Monday and Haley Alvarez on track to becoming that league’s first female GM — is following this same path.

While the NBA’s revolution began in 2014, the NFL is just starting to see women earn high-profile positions in the male-dominated league. In 2017, Samantha Rapoport was named the NFL’s director of football development, and according to the Sporting News in that year, 55 women are working for teams in football operations.

Look to the NFL and you’ll find another Colorado State alumnus in Olivia Landis, who currently works for the New York Jets as a reporter and producer, regularly interviewing players as well as celebrities in the Big Apple.

“As a woman, it’s no secret that we are already not respected quite as much as our male counterparts by everyone when it comes to sports,” Landis, a 2017 CSU alumnus explained.

“Knowing my passion and that I wanted to be in sports broadcasting since I was young, I knew I needed to work my ass of when I got to college. And that’s what I did. I had multiple internships, worked up to three jobs on top of school, and was the sports producer/anchor, and reporter at our college TV station. I think my work ethic is what pushed me so far and got me noticed.”

Sometimes, women have to work even harder than men in the field to prove their worth. It takes a strong determination — a trait common to all the women profiled here — to make it in the sports media world.

At Colorado State, Landis was roommates with Abbie Parr, who’s recently burst onto the scene as a world-class photographer, shooting pictures first for CSU Athletics and the Collegian, and now, in the big leagues. She’s been to the American League Divisional Series in the MLB, the US Open of Tennis, the NFL, NHL, NBA and more.

“My big ‘I made it’ moment was when I found out I got my internship with Getty Images Sports in New York City,” Parr said in an interview explaining Landis was an inspiration to her, just as Hammon has been to Cavnar.

Still, it’s not always been easy as a woman on the sidelines, competing with men for position.

“People don’t realize how intimidating it is being a female in the sports industry. It can be brutal,” Parr explained. “You’re always a target at events with new photographers you’ve never met before and haven’t gotten the opportunity to earn their respect from. I’ve learned from my internship to stand up for myself and always know that I deserve to be at these events just as much as the person trying to take advantage of me.”

Even as we finally approach equality in the world of sports — which is still monopolized by men — backlash for these women isn’t uncommon. Whether it be behind the scenes or in public, on social media. Even if they are in the vast minority, the “anti-women-in-sports” crowd drew attention Monday night when the Rockies official Twitter profile “clapped back” on them.

In fact, this entire piece — highlighting women in the field of sports media — was written, in part, to open the eyes of those who believe women have no place in sports. They undoubtedly do.

To those who are stuck in the dark ages – and yet somehow can use the Internet – sit down, be humble, and realize these women have worked incredibly hard to achieve their positions.

Considering how hard they’ve worked, and all the struggles they’ve fought through, every time Jenny Cavnar, Olivia Landis, Abbie Parr, Becky Hammon or the many unnamed CSU women alumni are excelling, it just makes me even more “Proud to Be.”

Note: Taylor McGregor began covering the Rockies for AT&T Sportsnet this year, but she’s connected to Colorado State University, too. Her father, Keli McGregor, was a tight end for the Rams in the 1980s and went onto become the President of the Rockies. Listen to Taylor talk about her dad and his battle with CTE on the CSU Rams Cast here.

Photo Credit: The Colorado Rockies.

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