A collage featuring TV sports broadcasters Andrea Joyce and Tracy Wolfson, sports equipment, a Roman numeral “IX,” and U-M’s Burton Tower
A collage featuring TV sports broadcasters Andrea Joyce and Tracy Wolfson, sports equipment, a Roman numeral “IX,” and U-M’s Burton Tower
A collage featuring TV sports broadcasters Andrea Joyce and Tracy Wolfson, sports equipment, a Roman numeral “IX,” and U-M’s Burton Tower

Game changers

U-M alumnae Andrea Joyce and Tracy Wolfson talk about their sports broadcasting careers, the importance of Title IX, and why they give back to Michigan

By Eric Gallippo | Art by Nate Bynum

If you’ve watched a major televised sporting event in the last 30 years, chances are you’ve seen University of Michigan alumnae Andrea Joyce (AB ’76) or Tracy Wolfson (AB ’97). Two of TV’s premier sports journalists, Joyce has reported from 16 Olympics, including the 2022 Winter Games for NBC, while Wolfson can regularly be seen working NFL games and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament for CBS.

Despite their busy schedules, both women have stayed connected to their alma mater to speak at fundraising and educational events and through philanthropic giving. Joyce calls addressing a recent Communication and Media commencement ceremony “one of the highlights of my life,” while the first recipient of Wolfson’s “shadowship” program—where students spend a weekend watching her work behind the scenes at a major sporting event—recently landed a job as team reporter for the New York Jets.

Joyce, Storm, Wolfson, and Kreamer stand in front of a background with the names of different event sponsors written on it. They are wearing formal attire.
From left: Network TV sports journalists Andrea Joyce (AB ’76), Hannah Storm, Tracy Wolfson (AB ’97), and Andrea Kreamer pose for a photo at a charity event for the Hannah Storm Foundation.

 

Joyce grew up around sports and planned to work in TV journalism, but the idea of reporting on them didn’t seem realistic, until she put herself in the right place at the right time. A generation later, Wolfson (who Joyce calls “the epitome of a spectacular sports reporter”) knew from a young age sports broadcasting would be her life. She credits the pioneering work of women like Joyce—who she worked with early on at CBS and considers as a mentor and friend—with helping to open that door to her. 

In conversation with Leaders & Best, Joyce and Wolfson reflected on their time at Michigan, the importance of Title IX as we celebrate its 50th anniversary this year, and why it’s important to give back to U-M.

Their time at Michigan

Joyce: I grew up in suburban Detroit and never even considered going anyplace else. When you have one of the best universities in the world in your backyard, you don’t think twice.

When I graduated from U-M in 1976, I knew I wanted to work in the news business, but there were very few jobs for women in television. So, I got a scholarship to go to grad school, which I did for a semester. I made an audition tape in the TV studio in the basement of the old Frieze Building. I made a news tape, and then I made a weather tape, because at the time, those were the job offers I could get. I was destined to be a weather girl.

Today, I’m proud to say I’m the oldest woman still working in sports on network TV. I tell people that Michigan taught me how to not only thrive, but how to survive.

Joyce stands at a lectern. She is wearing a graduation cap and gown.
Joyce addresses graduates at the 2019 LSA Communication & Media Department Commencement.

 

Wolfson: I wanted to be surrounded by big-time sports at a great academic school, and it was the perfect match. To be relevant and talk about sports, I felt I had to be in that environment. And I wanted to come out of college with the best opportunities.

I was a communications major, and I took all of those classes, but I was looking for anything that also included sports. So, I took Roman Sports and Daily Life, and on my first day of class, I’m like, “Who is this guy sitting next to me with his legs extending two rows?” It was Juwan Howard. We still laugh about it today. It’s like, “Hello, welcome to Michigan! You came here for sports, and the guy is in your class.”

Breaking into sports journalism and overcoming obstacles

Joyce: I was working at a local news station in Dallas and would cover sports-related stories that weren’t the game itself. One day, they were short-handed and asked me to do a live report from the Mavericks’ arena and interview someone before tipoff. Dallas was playing the Denver Nuggets, so I offered to interview their coach, Doug Moe, who I had met while working in Denver. The station said he wouldn’t talk to us because they had made him mad. I found out where the team was staying and called the hotel and the receptionist put me through to the coach. He was taking a nap, but he answered and agreed to do the interview later. Later, the news director asked, “How did you get Doug Moe?” and I was like, “Somebody said, ‘You can’t,’ and I said, ‘Yes I can.’” Two weeks later, they offered me the weekend sports job. There had never been a woman doing sports on TV in Dallas. There were only two women, I think, in the whole country who were doing sports then. This was in 1987.

Being a woman, it felt like you had to do twice as much work. If you made a mistake, it was treated like it was because you were a woman, and you shouldn’t be doing that job. It was different for men. I didn’t really think about it that much back then, I just was terrified of making a mistake.

 Wolfson is holding a microphone and standing next to former Michigan coach John Beilein and members of the men's basketball team.
Wolfson reports from the Big Ten Men’s Basketball Tournament Championship in 2017.

 

Wolfson: During my junior year, I saw an advertisement posted for an internship at HBO Sports. They were hiring four people for this paid internship, and the application was due that night. The communications department was so hands-on and helped me put it together and send it out in time. I got the interview, and then I went to New York and got the job, and that was what opened the doors for me.

I met people who worked for ABC and CBS, and they invited me to work for them when they covered Michigan football and basketball games in Ann Arbor. In my senior year, I was a runner for them. I’d get the water and coffee, and hang banners and answer phones, and I saw the workings of a live broadcast and made lots of connections. I was hired to do figure skating shows in the area and a golf event, and I wound up working on March Madness, all behind the scenes.

When I was trying to take the next step in my career, a boss told me, “You know sports, but not like the guys do.” I didn’t get the job, and I just said, “I’m out of here. This is not what I want to do. I want to be in front of the camera.” I worked as an agent representing sports broadcasters for a year and watching tapes, seeing how to put one together, how to talk to news directors, and what to wear. Then I left to work at a local news station in Long Island doing sports production. While I was there, I made an audition tape and sent it all across the country and got one job offer in Trenton, New Jersey, and that was my start.

Watching the world of sports media evolve to include more women and their advice to new broadcasters

Joyce: I’m so happy to see more women out there, not just in front of the camera, but behind the camera. When I was working in Beijing at the figure skating venue, we had our crew there, and we had almost all women on our production team. It wasn’t that anyone did it on purpose. It just so happened that the best people for the jobs happened to be women. I would love to see it evolve even more. I would love to see more women doing play-by-play.

With the internet and social media, it all reinforces what I told people 30 years ago: You have to do your homework. You have to be honest about what you do. You have to be compassionate, diligent, and, now especially with so much information out there, it’s more important than ever that you have all your bases covered.

Joyce gives a thumbs up in front of a group of people wearing Team USA jackets. They are all wearing face masks.
Joyce with members of Team USA at the 2022 Winter Olympic Games in Beijing.

 

Wolfson: I think it’s progressed dramatically. You turn on the TV now and there’s so many women covering sports and involved in sports, and not just on the sidelines, but in the booth, in management roles with teams and networks. You’re seeing more and more women getting involved with coaching and officiating. But it’s still just the beginning. There’s still so much more to be done, and I think we’re just knocking on the door. 

As a woman in general, you always have to overcome the stigma of “women don’t know sports.” But I always took the avenue of, “know your stuff.” When I started at CBS, I was doing auto racing and rodeo, two sports I didn’t know. But I did the research and got to know the people involved, and then it was like I had been doing it forever. If you do that, no one’s going to question you.

The significance of Title IX

Joyce: I graduated from high school in 1972, and that was the year. When I was in school, we only had intramural sports. We couldn’t play the school across town. We didn’t have any of that. So I just missed how it would’ve benefited me personally as a young woman athlete.

But without question, Title IX has impacted millions of young women, and I think what we forget is that it has this ripple effect. I don’t think that you need to be a swimmer to be inspired by (Olympic gold medalist) Katie Ledecky, but would she have had the opportunity to become who she did without Title IX? We have all of these role models out there now that we never had before.

When I was starting out in broadcasting, there were no women out there doing what I wanted to, but now there are so many. So I think what ends up happening is that women now can see the possibilities. With Title IX, it truly is that ripple effect. Whether you ever kick a soccer ball or jump in a pool, it doesn’t really matter. You see that these women are doing these things and you see the possibilities, and that’s the profound effect that it has had.

Wolfson: I wouldn’t be where I am in my job if it wasn’t for Title IX. Lesley Visser and my director, Suzanne Smith, are two mentors who have taught me so much and who have opened doors for me. They’ve given me the confidence and the courage to speak out for myself. And they were a direct result of what Title IX did. They opened the doors for me, like Title IX opened the doors for them.

Giving back to Michigan

Joyce: I would’ve never have had the career and the life that I’ve had without Michigan, and I am so grateful for that. I just hope anything I give back opens that door a little bit and makes it just a little bit easier for someone else.

I know sometimes it can be intimidating for people who are not billionaires, because when I see the millions of dollars people are donating, I’m not necessarily in that position, but I’m in a position to do something. And I think that that’s what Michigan always taught us: You pay it forward any way that you can—whether it’s financially or with your time or with your energy— anything you can do to crack open that door a little bit and make it a little easier for that next generation. I think that’s in our Michigan DNA.

Wolfson stands with her husband and three sons in the end zone of the football field. Football players in uniform are warming up behind them.
Wolfson and her family on the field at Michigan Stadium.

 

Wolfson: Michigan has provided me with so many opportunities and memories and friendships. I met my husband there. How do you repay that? By giving back and saying thank you for what you did for me, and I like to do what I can to give back.

It could even just be getting on the phone with someone and answering questions that they have about what classes to take or where they should intern. How can I help them get a job? It’s all about who you know and contacts, and Michigan has the biggest alumni base out there. I want to be one of those people they can utilize.

It’s just really rewarding. I know Michigan grads feel this way, because anytime we’re in the same room, we all say the same thing. We’re so thankful that we had the opportunity to go to school there and that it did so much for us. And I think that’s why you’re proud to give back. You’re so proud that you’re a Michigan alum. It sounds so cheesy, but it’s true.

 

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