f77ie 6ate' i&ime
*)ece/n/>tr 7, {9$<5
Women Sportswriters Are Making The Scene
UT's McConkey Is Enjoying Sports Journalism
If you were visiting the press box and noticed that blue-eyed, blonde-haired woman jotting notes during a football game, your reaction would probably be something like, "What in the world is she doing in the sportswriting profession that is crowded with practically all men?"
Yes, she is an established sportswriter for a large daily newspaper in Tennessee, her name is Cindy McConkey of Vie Knoxville Journal where she has worked for about 5lA years. A Knoxville native who is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, McConkey is one of the few female sportswriters covering big-time events you will find in the South (or in the nation).
Jamie Vaught
Cats' Pause Columnist
Why did she want to become involved in sports journalism?
"That (sportswriting field) is what I always wanted to do," explained McConkey recently, who played varsity basketball, tennis and track in high school. "I wasn't sold on being in sports but that is what I'd hoped I could be in. I have a good background for it. I have good knowledge of sports. I enjoy it.
"Nobody influenced me to go in or not go in (sportswriting). It's just something I wanted to do.  My  family  was supportive.  They  didn't particularly  influence me."
McConkey, who is 26 and married, said when she began to cover sports her biggest problem was getting some form of respect.
"Starting out, it (the problem) was credibility," said McConkey. "But now that I have established myself, it is not a problem. It used lo be with some coaches, thai sort of thing. I get along fine with people."
Asked why there are such a few female sportswriters, McConkey replied, "I think probably there are not enough women (participating) in sports and many women did not know enough about sports to be in it. And I don't think you should be in it if you don't know about it. You got to have some knowledge in order to do things.
"Also. 1 think that for a time period there was not that many high school women athletes until you got in about my age group. It's just started back up at least here so a lot of girls were just not interested in sports. Now, I think it's started to rekindle a little bit. You are seeing a few more coming in now."
Several years ago, female sportswriters were practically unheard of.
There are female sportswriters in Nashville, Atlanta, Louisville, Lexington, to name a few. But you won't find them in Memphis or Chattanooga. Throughout the country, they are just harder to locate.
And you usually won't see their articles in The Sporting News. This is not to say that they can't write. It is just the fact there aren't many "big-time" female sportswriters around.
In the past, you will remember reading that some schools had trouble handling female sportswriters in the sensitive locker room situations. The school officials allowed men reporters to go into the dressing room for their stories, while women had to wait for the players to come out. That became a serious problem especially when women had story deadlines to meet.
It was not fair that the men had competitive advantage.
Interestingly, it was McConkey and her employer, The Knoxville Journal, that prompted
Tennessee officials to ban reporters from the Vols' dressing room in a policy change made last year. This arrangement was set up in order to give female writers an equal chance at interviewing players, said UT sports information director Haywood Harris.
Previously, UT denied women access to the locker room while men were allowed to talk to the players there. During that time. Harris and his aides retrieved players for interviews by female reporters in a room next to the dressing room.
But that didn't always work out.
McConkey said the problem came in UT's third game of the 1984 campaign when quarterback '"Tony Robinson was injured and he could not come out and talk to me. However, the other reporters could get in to him in the training room and talk.
"For that reason, we realized we were going to run into trouble. We said let's go ahead and ask them (UT) to give us equal access. We didn't care how they did it. open it or close it (locker room). They responded very quickly and very positively. They never argued. I have never run into any problems with them."
McConkey, who has a brother who formerly played football at the University of Tennessee-Martin, said her single most enjoyable moment of her brief sportswriting career was when she won a national award for an investigative story.
"It was something that I thought up myself." she said. "The story wasn't assigned to me. It was my idea. I worked on it and I did a good job and I knew it.
"It was on Clemson's illegal (football) recruiting practices of some local (high school) boys. It was right before they went on probation."
* * * *
McConkey Chats With UT Tackle
McConkey  who also wrote for USA Today newspaper for three months last spring  is not the only female sportswriter in Knoxville. There is Kim Boatman of Knoxville News-Sentinel. A UT graduate. Boatman has worked for them for a few years.
Boatman said she became a sportswriter because "I like sports. I grew up in Knoxville and Knoxville is a sports-oriented town. 1 went to apply at the UT paper (Daily Beacon). I told them I like sports and they said, 'You're a sportswriter.'
"I met the people at the News-Sentinel when I started to cover sports. And then I worked part-time for them. It was a smart thing because there aren't many women in that field. I felt like there would be more opportunity for me."
In Kentucky, there are two female sportswriters who are working for the suite's two largest newspapers. And both of them do not cover basketball or football. They follow horse racing.
Jennie Rees covers it for Louisville's Courier-Journal and Maryjean Wall for the Lexington Herald-Leader.
At the Associated Press' Louisville office, you will find Jane Gibson. A graduate of UK, she covers mainly basketball and football on college or high school levels.
A former sportswriter who is currently working for UK is personable Rena Koier. She is an assistant sports information director (mainly for UK's women sports).
Before coming to UK in 1980, she worked for the Lexington Herald-Leader (for 2 Vi years) and Louisville Courier-Journal (for one year). She is a 1976 UK graduate.
Dis 'n' Data: What do the following Louisiana schools which sound almost alike  Northwestern State, Southeastern Louisiana and Southwestern Louisiana  have in common? They faced three SEC schools in basketball season openers. Northwestern State played Kentucky (and faced Alabama three days later). Southeastern Louisiana played at Tennessee, and Southwestern Louisiana hosted Georgia. Also, the Tennessee Vols and Southwestern Louisiana, opponents in an NIT thriller last season, will later meet for a rematch in the first round of this year's Sugar Bowl Classic. Last winter, the Vols edged USL 73-72 in second-round NIT action. Boy, those school names are sure confusing. Can you get this straight? Who plays whom?. . .Auburn basketball recruit Levertis Williams reportedly is attending Daytona Beach Community College in Florida after he did not have the necessary 2.0 grade-point average to enroll at Auburn. But the all-state guard from Mississippi is expected to play for the Tigers after he improves his grades. . .Kentucky's Kenny Walker is Basketball Weekly's preseason choice as the Player of the Year in the college ranks. . Tennessee's highly-regarded 6-11 freshman Doug Roth reported to practice this fall about 10 pounds too heavy. Head coach Don DeVoe wasn't real happy about his center's weight. After two weeks of workouts. Roth weighed about 256 pounds. "Doug needs to get down to about 250," said DeVoe. "that's still too big, but he can play at that. Right now, he's eating two meals a day. That's not enough for a guy to practice basketball for two or three hours a day and then study.". . .In pigskin circles, Alabama freshman Gene Jelks is believed to have become the only Crimson Tide player to have 100-plus yards in both rushing and receiving in the same game. Against Mississippi State on Nov. 2, Jelks rushed for 168 yards in 18 carries and added 120 yards in receiving (three receptions) for 288 total yards. And, interestingly, he didn't even start that game. . .Vol outside linebacker Tyrone Robinson's brother, Vincent, was named Alabama's Mr. Basketball for 1985. The talented eager will play for Memphis State this winter. . Junior college transfer Anthony Howard is the oldest member of the Tennessee Vols. The reserve defensive tackle from California is 25. He is also an avid weightlifter. Howard captured the 1980 Teenage Mr. Western America and Teenage Mr. Western USA titles, as well as the all-service weightlifting championship while serving in the U.S. Army. . .The University of Florida has provided funding for a feasibility study for expansion and improvements in the north end zone of Florida Field, which has a seating capacity of 72,000. . .Steve Townsend, assistant commissioner of the SEC, has estimated that the conference will eclipse its record $10 million paycheck (paid in 1983) from television. It is expected Alabama, Auburn and Tennessee each will receive $1 million this season. The SEC made $7.5 million last season. . Two recent rules interpretations handed down by the NCAA are "ridiculous," says Georgia head football coach Vince Dooley in the Atlanta Constitution. The interpretations involve sending team highlight films and coaching tips to high schools.
[Continued On Page 26]