Heather Cox is the new sideline reporter for Saturday night college football on ABC, replacing Erin Andrews, who left for Fox Sports. (If you’ve been reading this site all summer, you already knew that.) We spoke with Cox this morning before she boarded a flight to Dallas for this Saturday night’s Michigan-Alabama tilt.
Q: You’re based out of Boise, Idaho. You’re a Californian, so how did you decide to move to Boise? And does that make travel difficult for someone who is always on a plane?
HEATHER COX: My husband and I went to school in Northern California; he played football and I played volleyball. We ended up in the Bay Area, and he was working in Silicon Valley at the height of all the craziness and I was traveling out of San Francisco doing what I do now. We had a unique marriage where both of us could work from anywhere – I just needed to be close to an airport. So we spent three years researching it, and narrowed it down to four cities – Boulder, Colorado, Austin, Texas, Carmel Valley, California and Boise. We visited all of them, and ended up picking Boise. If I had known then how much travel it would be, I’m not sure I would have done it … but when I get home from travel, it’s worth it. Boise is the best kept secret in the country. And it’s easy travel – all the TSA guys know me, they have me checked in, so it’s a lot easier than traveling in and out of a major hub.
Q: So do you have a lot of two-flight trips to games?
HEATHER COX: A two-flight trip is a good day. I do a lot of three’s. To get to an SEC school, it’s usually three flights, plus a two-hour drive after that. I know, it’s crazy. I’ve been in Boise for about 10 years, so I’m used to it.
Q: You’re filling the shoes of the very popular Erin Andrews. Was there any trepidation?
HEATHER COX: Not at all. I don’t look at it as I’m filling Erin’s shoes. I’m not Erin, I never will be, and I’m not going to pretend to be. The best I can do is be me. I’m proud of the work that I do. I’m different than Erin, and the type of work I do is different than Erin’s. I’m sure there are people who are going to turn the game on and want to see Erin and be disappointed, and that’s OK.
Q: Sideline reporters have often been critiqued – they don’t ask hard questions, they don’t add value to the telecast, etc. Can you talk me through what the final few minutes of the half is like getting ready for a halftime interview?
HEATHER COX: The entire half I’m watching the action on the field, observing what the players and coaches are doing, noting injuries, stats, question marks and general notes. As it gets closer to halftime, I’m trying to decide which coach I’m going to interview. It isn’t set in stone which way we’re going to go. We’re looking for the compelling story. Often, the second question changes based on what the coach’s answer is to the first question. I think that’s a critical part of our job that a lot of people struggle with – listening to the answers. They can really lead you to your next question. And that’s not always easy when you have a producer in your ear saying, ‘wrap it’ or ‘one more’ or they’re talking to the announcing team and you can hear everything – it’s really important to block it all out and listen to the coaches.
Q: You’re an accomplished volleyball player, at the college level and beyond. Often, athletes will say, ‘so-and-so never played sports, how can they talk about or write about or be critical of a team/coach/player?’ Do you feel your background in volleyball gives you an advantage in covering sports?
HEATHER COX: I think so, I absolutely do. I pride myself on my ability to read a situation, read an athlete, or read a coach. And to respect them, as well. I’m very sensitive about their territory. When I’m covering the NBA and going into a locker room, that’s their sanctuary and I respect that. I need to do my job, but I think the players and the coaches respect what I’m doing because I respect so much what they’re doing. I think my perspective as a former athlete helps me judge the appropriate way to read certain situations and to understand what they’re going through and to read the moment.
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