Allie LaForce goes high profile covering Colts-Patriots game


Allie LaForce will serve as the sideline reporter for CBS during the Colts-Patriots game Saturday night — by far the most high-profile assignment of her broadcasting career.

But if she seems completely at ease on the big stage of a nationally televised NFL divisional playoff game, don’t be surprised.

LaForce won the Miss Teen USA pageant in 2005. Poise is among the prerequisites.

“As soon as I won, I was thrust into the national spotlight,” said LaForce, 25, a lifelong Ohioan now living in Laguna Beach, Calif. “Every day I was on camera. I was speaking in front of thousands of people. It forces you to learn a lot about yourself very quickly.”

LaForce was 16 when she became Miss Teen USA. She was playing three sports at Vermilion High, including her first love, basketball. She was also a standout student who would graduate as valedictorian.

LaForce walked on to the basketball team at Ohio University but soured on the experience after a coaching change. A journalism professor suggested she travel with the team as a radio commentator, and thus began her broadcasting career.

After graduating early from college and covering the Mid-American Conference and high school sports for a regional network in Ohio, LaForce became a reporter and anchor for the Fox affiliate in Cleveland. Her big break in the business came in 2012, when she won an audition to become the co-host on “Lead Off,” a new, nightly talk show on CBS Sports Network shot in Westminster, Calif. LaForce and Orange County native Doug Gottlieb had instant on-air chemistry.

“She is very comfortable on air. She’s extremely genuine. That is Allie,” said David Berson, president of CBS Sports. “Every assignment that she has been given, she has exceeded expectations. We believe she deserves this opportunity.”

LaForce worked as a sideline reporter during the NCAA Tournament. She served in the same capacity for the Sun Bowl, where she also was the halftime host. Still, she didn’t see this weekend’s assignment coming.

“In the back of your mind, you’re always hoping for an assignment like that. But I can’t say I was expecting it,” said LaForce, who’s engaged to new Angels reliever Joe Smith. “It’s by far the biggest stage I’ve ever been on. I’m extremely grateful.”

As a former Miss Teen USA, LaForce obviously is attractive. She is asked whether critics ever question her credentials — and doesn’t shy away from the subject.

“It’s hard to avoid it if you’re involved in social media in any way,” said LaForce, who wrote a 210-page undergraduate thesis on the objectification of women in sports. “I think it’s a problem our country has as a whole. If you do your job and do it well, that’s all you can ask of yourself.”

MULLING THE ‘MEGACAST’

ESPN’s multichannel “Megacast” coverage of the BCS title game was a worthwhile experiment and almost certainly a sign of things to come.

The best alternative to the traditional game telecast was the “Film Room” on ESPNEWS, featuring ESPN experts and current college coaches. It was fascinating to get a real-time X’s-and-O’s breakdown of the game; I really felt like I was learning something.

“Title Talk” on ESPN2 was a bumpier ride. It was supposed to be the equivalent of a watch party, with Michael Smith and Jemele Hill serving as the hosts, but it was awkward to see guests leaving and arriving while the cameras were on. Couldn’t they have done that during the myriad commercial breaks?

Initial party guest and fawning Florida State fan Cheryl Hines was a disaster; she didn’t add anything to the show. Things improved after she left and other guests rolled in, including ESPN radio co-hosts Scott Van Pelt and Ryen Russillo and USC coach Steve Sarkisian.

There are bound to be issues when you try something for the first time; I’m sure Megacast II will run a lot more smoothly. I’m also sure other network executives were watching closely and contemplating their own simulcast concepts for big events.

REMOTE PATROL

Overall viewership of the BCS title game was down from last year, even though the game was much more compelling. It just goes to show the national pull of 2012 participants Alabama and Notre Dame. …

ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” opener March 30 will feature the Dodgers and Padres. ESPN and ESPN2 will broadcast five games the following day. …

Fox Sports has hired Mark Loomis as coordinating producer of its golf coverage. Loomis previously worked at MLB Network, ESPN, ABC Sports and NFL Network. Fox takes over the U.S. Open and other USGA events in 2015. …

Golf Channel posted its most-watched year for the third year in a row. Golf Channel’s viewership has grown by 54 percent since 2010. …

Nice job by CBS of showing the controversial Calvin Johnson end-zone incompletion during a replay review of a similar-looking play during the Chargers-Bengals wild-card game. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was surprised the Johnson ruling didn’t apply.

The four NFL wild-card games averaged 34.7 million viewers, making it the most-watched wild-card weekend on record. The 49ers-Packers game on Fox drew a record 47.1 million viewers.

ESPN announced that Ian Darke will be the lead play-by-play announcer for the World Cup, including all matches featuring the U.S. team. Meanwhile, the network has parted ways with Martin Tyler.

ESPN’s coverage of the Australian Open, starting Sunday, includes 100-plus live hours on TV (mostly ESPN2) and 500 live hours on ESPN3, where fans can choose among matches on up to seven courts.

 

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