CBS host and reporter Allie LaForce is 25 years old and her resume is better than yours.
The Ohio University journalism school graduate was valedictorian of her high school, played basketball in high school and college, and was Miss Teen USA in 2005.
LaForce joined CBS in 2012 to co-host the nightly show “Lead Off” with Doug Gottlieb on the CBS Sports Network. With CBS’s acquisition of Thursday Night Football, Tracy Wolfson moved from SEC on CBS, putting LaForce on the sidelines with Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson on Saturdays.
In today’s era of sports broadcasting, the responsibility of the sideline reporter is significant and necessary. Though the position is often derided by the less informed, having a credible source of information closest to the action is invaluable to a sporting event broadcast. As Grantland’s Bryan Curtis put it in his sportscasting dictionary, a sideline reporter is someone “who’s expected to be as sophisticated about football in three minutes as the men in the booth are in three hours.”
To achieve this sophistication, LaForce reads everything related to the game. She, along with the CBS crew, meet with the coaching staffs and select players from both teams and look for angles that may be unknown to the general viewer. But mostly it’s a lot of reading.
As much preparation as LaForce does, it’s impossible to script her line of questioning for pregame, halftime and postgame interviews with players and coaches.
“It’s so dependent on the game,” LaForce said. “I used to [write questions] and I never used them, because the question going into half might be about the fumble three seconds before.”
In between these on-air hits, she is constantly roaming the sidelines, trying to overhear coordinators and players. Wolfson had years of experience and built relationships with team doctors to know when a player was injured or not. While LaForce still has to develop that unspoken agreement with team doctors, the coaches are never hesitant to unveil their plans — as long as no one tells the opposition.
“I love that they talk as though we understand because we do understand,” LaForce said. “They try to talk in more general football lingo, but with us they really give us the x’s and o’s. They’re very open with us. It’s a relationship that’s been built over a course of a really long time and a trust that’s been built over a long time.”
Though she is on many viewers’ screens for the first time during SEC on CBS games, LaForce first noticed a bump in her fame after her first appearance on March Madness. She said she gained 20,000 followers over the course of the tournament and has climbed steadily ever since. But her treatment of Twitter and Facebook differs from other notable media members. Michelle Beadle will publicly shame trolls, as will Peter King, Clay Travis and others.
LaForce embraces social media – and calls it essential for someone her age – but chooses not to respond, which is a method ingrained in her by mentors and CBS higher-ups. Most of the tweets are positive, she says, but there are always the highly negative and sexually offensive tweets that she has to stop herself from lashing out against.
“You’ll realize that the guy you’re retweeting has two followers,” LaForce said. “He tweets disgusting things not only at you but at everyone, and now you just gave him public notoriety so my philosophy is to just ignore it.”
LaForce’s broadcast teammate Lundquist has a similar take on social media, though, he doesn’t use any social media sites.
“The anonymity leads to such irresponsibility,” Lundquist said. “It’s why all of us say, ‘I don’t read that stuff,’ because you do, and if you say you don’t take any of that personally you’re not human.”
Much of the negativity around LaForce on the Internet is driven by her pageant success. But without the pageant, LaForce said, she wouldn’t be where she is today. After her win in 2005, she traveled to 20 states, three countries, and gave speeches and made appearances in front of thousands of people. It taught her how to be comfortable on camera, present herself confidently and helped her figure out who she wanted to be at 16 years old. LaForce said it’s the greatest thing she has ever done.
“I would’ve never gotten this job without it, but at the same time I think I didn’t get accepted to certain colleges because of it,” LaForce said. “I think it definitely works with a negative stereotype initially until people meet you and realize you do know sports.”
After “Lead Off” was cancelled, LaForce has moved, along with 10 other women from journalists to athletes, to star in the first all-women sports talk show called “We Need to Talk.” It airs on CBS Sports Net Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET, and is airing on network CBS on Dec. 27 at 1 p.m. ET as part of a year-end special. It is primarily a roundtable discussion of current events in the sports world, which incorporates a different perspective: One without the jock-ish feeling of many, many other sports studio shows.
“You rarely see women supporting women,” LaForce said. “A lot of times women are competing against women, but on the show it’s just a big collaborative effort. The women want to discuss all of our points to see how they best blend together. We wanted it to be more conversational and less yelling and screaming.”
While she isn’t broadcasting any sporting events, LaForce and her fiancee, Los Angeles Angels pitcher Joe Smith, recently started a foundation to help fight Huntington’s Disease, which is a rare illness that afflicts about 30,000 people, including Smith’s mother. There is no cure for the disease, which LaForce described as a combination of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, but an experimental procedure by a doctor at the Cleveland Clinic is being developed. HelpCureHD.com raises money to get this procedure FDA approval for the treatment of those stricken with the disease.
With Miss Teen USA, athletic and journalistic experience, and now charity work, LaForce’s resume is lengthy, and she’s just getting started.