CBS Sports' Lance Barrow pays it forward

Mary Kate Rotenberry with CBS Sports producer Lance Barrow.

In May 1975, ACU broadcasting major Lance Barrow asked for a job at the Colonial golf tournament in Fort Worth. A few days later, he found himself paired with legendary CBS sports announcer Pat Summerall. His job was Summerall’s spotter.

Forty years and 11 Emmy Awards later, Barrow – now coordinating producer for CBS Sports golf and NFL coverage – gave Mary Kate Rotenberry (’17) her chance to work at the Colonial, also as a spotter. Little did she know, the Colonial was only the beginning of her broadcasting journey.

Thanks to Barrow, Rotenberry now has national experience in her dream field. From a Dallas Cowboys game on Thanksgiving Day to sideline reporting for ACU football, she is capitalizing on her talents and personality, while gaining connections to one of the nation’s largest sports broadcasting networks.

Rotenberry, a senior interdisciplinary studies major from Abilene, learned to love sports from her older brothers at an early age, playing with footballs, baseballs and basketballs instead of Barbie dolls.

“They played every sport, and that made me want to play sports and follow them on TV,” Rotenberry said.

In high school, she played volleyball, golf and basketball. She signed as a walk-on to the ACU women’s basketball team, but soon realized she didn’t want to devote her college life to a single sport.

Passing the baton

Barrow started his career with CBS Sports at the Colonial championship while still a junior in ACU’s Journalism and Mass Communication Department.

Years later, Barrow and Rotenberry met at ACU. At Barrow’s level of success, “he doesn’t have to give anybody the time of day,” Rotenberry said. “But he is gracious to everybody no matter who they are.” Barrow gave Rotenberry a chance at her dream.

Starting at the Colonial, a PGA tournament in Fort Worth, Rotenberry followed the players, keeping score and alerting CBS producers when a player did well. At the end of the event, she asked her supervisor if she could work the Byron Nelson in Las Colinas the following week. After the Byron Nelson finished, she asked if she would be allowed to travel with CBS to continue working.

“The Lord was working, opening doors, and I had no idea where he was taking me,” Rotenberry said.

During her first out-of-town trip, she stayed with a Church of Christ minister’s family who lived near the Quicken Loans National tournament in Virginia. Two weeks later, Rotenberry flew to Wisconsin for the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. She said the traditions of golf, learning about broadcasting and having Barrow as a constant godly example of how to interact with others were her favorite parts of the experience. Although she didn’t get to see Barrow after the PGA Championship, she left a note on his desk thanking him and asking if she could work at any NFL Texas football games.


In Fall 2015, she worked at three Dallas Cowboys games and one Houston Texans game as a runner for both Tracy Wolfson, the CBS sideline reporter, and Jim Nantz, the head CBS Sports anchor. In 2016, she also worked for Wolfson at the Final Four NCAA championship in Houston.

Sideline reporting

As her interest in sports reporting grew, Rotenberry began closely watching sideline reporters on TV and realized it would be a good fit for her talents and interests. She decided to do an interdisciplinary major, combining sports management with journalism.

“I began seeing more female sideline reporters on TV,” Rotenberry said. “That encouraged me to pursue a career where I could use my love of sports and personality to highlight other people’s stories.”

At her second Dallas Cowboys game, Rotenberry met Tracy Wolfson, a sideline reporter for CBS Sports. Wolfson has a husband and three sons, so she explained to Rotenberry how she balances work and family.

“It’s a blessing for me to be able to learn from a woman who balances her personal life so well with her career,” Rotenberry said. “I hope to do the same if the Lord blesses me with a family.”

Rotenberry has been the sideline reporter for ACU football since 2014. Her supervisor is Grant Boone, the “Voice of the Wildcats” and sports broadcaster for ACU athletics.

“For Mary Kate to take the initiative to reach out to me set her apart before she ever went on the air with me,” Boone said. “Her desire to get better has been evident in our conversations on game weeks.”

Boone said before games Rotenberry would research players and try to bring different perspectives to the stories.

“She has a real passion for it, which comes out on the air and in her preparation,” Boone said.

Rotenberry said her goal is to be a national sports sideline reporter for such events as the Super Bowl, the Masters and the Final Four. Examples such as Lance Barrow and Tracy Wolfson help her stay humble with the goal of being like them someday.

“I have been blessed to have doors opened up to me,” Rotenberry said. “I hope the Lord uses me everywhere he takes me and somehow uses my story to glorify him and encourage others to go after their dreams.”