CBS is bringing a sideline reporter back to its NFL broadcasts.
On Wednesday, CBS confirmed the news that Tracy Wolfson will be joining Jim Nantz and Phil Simms as a sideline reporter on Thursday night and Sunday afternoon games starting in the 2014 season.
Wolfson has worked in a similar role for the network’s SEC games and NCAA tournament games for the past decade.
The change comes eight years after CBS got rid of sideline reporters in NFL games when CBS Sports president Sean McManus said he “preferred to hear from Phil Simms than a sideline reporter.”
“I think over the past year a lot of things have happened where you’ve seen a need for that … whether it was Gary Kubiak on the sideline or the lights going out at the Super Bowl, or whether it was the Kevin Ware injury and we’ve had obviously in the SEC so many reasons to have a sideline reporter,” she said. “I think they just came to think it’s time for it.”
Wolfson’s promotion comes months after CBS won the bid for Thursday Night football games — a package worth a reported $250 million (according to the New York Times) and has apparently changed the way the network was thinking about NFL broadcasts. Network executives began speaking to her earlier this year about the promotion.
Wolfson is one of the most experienced sideline reporters in the college game, but an NFL broadcast is completely different. While in college games interviews were often before the kickoff, at halftime and immediately following the game, her job will be less of those types of interviews and more finding out information about in-game stories like injuries.
“That’s going to be different challenge for me as well,” she said.
She’ll also have to form relationships with a whole new set of sources. She pointed to Steve Spurrier, Les Miles and Nick Saban as people’s she’s going to miss the most while on the NFL sidelines.
“You form these relationships where behind closed doors you laugh and you don’t talk about football, you talk about life,” she said.
With Wolfson’s promotion to the NFL, CBS is also giving a bigger role to Allie LaForce, a recent Ohio University graduate who has seen a rising role on the network especially over the past year.
Despite the change in the jerseys, Wolfson still expects to see a few familiar faces on the sidelines.
“What’s one of the best things about coming from the SEC and going to the NFL is there’s so many familiar faces whether it is coaches or players and I noticed that last year,” she said of the handful of times she worked NFL games in the 2013 season. “When I would walk into a room and someone would say ‘hey I miss you sticking a microphone in my face at halftime.’”