Locker rooms, sidelines, practice courts and the office of the head coach are distant, foreign lands for most. Even the very passionate sports fan likely knows little about what goes on in the heat of battle or behind the curtain.
But for Simone Eli ’12, this is very familiar ground. As a member of several championship basketball teams during her days at BGSU, Eli moves with ease inside the world of athletes, competition and high-pressure situations.
“Money can’t buy the advantage I have in this industry,” said Eli, who is a sports anchor for the NBC television station in Houston, one of the top 10 television markets in the country.
“Having played sports at a high level, I have a real familiarity with what athletes and coaches experience and what emotions they go through,” she said. “It is indescribable the comfort level that gives me.”
Eli played on Falcon teams that won three Mid-American Conference East Division titles, two outright conference regular season crowns, and two MAC Tournament championships. In her four years at BGSU, she also played in two NCAA Tournaments and in two WNIT events.
The Falcon women were 103-30 in her career and 52-12 in conference games. They advanced to the Sweet 16 of the WNIT on one of those post-season trips.
Her ties to BGSU are strong. Both of her parents attended BGSU and her father Art played baseball for the Falcons. She believes the significant amount of experience she accumulated at a time when the Bowling Green women’s basketball program was arguably the best in the conference affords her substantial credibility in the sports broadcasting world.
“I think I’ve earned a lot of respect just walking into a building because of my basketball career. It doesn’t matter if it’s college or NBA players or coaches, they know I have basketball knowledge. That helps you build relationships, since the people you interview know you have been there, you’ve experienced the blood, sweat and tears, and you know what it is like to put your life into making a team stronger.”
Eli, who is the only female sports anchor in the Houston market, is also, at 24-years-old, the youngest sports anchor in a top 10 television market. She credits her BGSU experience for helping prepare her for the demands of such a high-profile career.
“This is a very fast-paced and high-pressure role, and there are challenges every day, but I think I was ready for that type of thing,” she said. “We were challenged every day in practice to maintain the very high standard the program had set, challenged to also get the job done to a high standard in the classroom, and in our other activities. It was tough, but I’m convinced I wouldn’t be where I am today without having that experience.”
While working toward her degree in broadcast journalism and playing for the Falcons, Eli also did radio work on WFAL on campus and served as sports director for BG24 and its weekly newscasts and sports shows. She said Curt Miller, the head women’s basketball coach for most of her career, provided her with the opportunity to gain that valuable broadcasting experience while continuing to play for the Falcons.
“I had to balance basketball and school and my broadcasting responsibilities, but Coach Miller gave me some leeway so I could do that. I might be late for practice once in a while, but I got to do all of those things. Bowling Green was fantastic in allowing me to do that, so I was preparing for my career after college at the same time I was attending college and playing basketball.”
Eli, who expects to complete work on her master’s degree in sports administration soon, completed internships with a couple of television stations in Toledo and worked as a play-by-play announcer, color analyst and reporter for Buckeye Cable Sports Network before going to work as the sports director for WALA FOX10 News in Mobile, Ala. The primary focus of her work there was on Southeastern Conference football and the Auburn and Alabama teams and high school football.
“You won’t ever start out where you really want to be because sports broadcasting jobs are few and far between, but I was fortunate to land that position in Mobile,” Eli said. “It was very demanding—80 hours a week—but it was also an unbelievable experience for me to be covering Alabama and Auburn football.”
The opportunity to move on to the post in Houston was one that Eli could not pass up, but also one she found a bit daunting initially.
“It was a huge, but I was also a little scared at the same time,” she said. “Houston is the fourth largest city in the country, and I’m from Genoa, so there was a lot of adjusting. Plus, I am the youngest person at the station and it’s not even close. It took a lot of growing up, but I adjusted and I love what I am doing.”
While Eli might be one of the youngest sports broadcasters in a major U.S. market, she is not necessarily one of the least experienced. In high school, while her friends were enjoying the Genoa football and boys’ basketball games from the bleachers, the grandstands or cheering from the sidelines, Eli was in the press box broadcasting the games on a local radio station.
“I say it in an extremely modest way, but I feel like I have a lot of experience at this,” she said. “What I’m doing today is what I’ve dreamed about doing for a long time.”