Linda Cohn enrolled at Oswego State knowing that she had some athletic ability, and thinking she might like to pursue a career in sports.
“I was only 17 at the time and really had no idea what I was going to do with my life, but I knew I wanted to stand out, work in sports, or both,” she wrote in a 2008 autobiography. “I loved music, so being a DJ was a possibility. So was working in sports PR. I really didn’t know. What I did know was that I was looking forward to going to a place where nobody had any preconceived notions about who I was or what I was like.”
One year later, she had discovered that earning a communications degree demanded that she work harder in the classroom, and that playing college ice hockey with the teammates who had nicknamed her “Cohn-Head” was the “greatest feeling in the world.”
She also realized that she wanted to be a sports broadcaster.
Cohn wasn’t sure how to break into sports work – there were only two or three female broadcasters in sports at the time and thus not many role models. But having won a spot on her high school boys’ hockey team as a goalie before playing that position for the women’s team at Oswego State, she knew something about tackling a challenge and being a pioneer. She made the practical decision after working for the campus radio station of pursuing a career in radio rather than television, because there were more jobs available in the field.
Six years after graduation, she became the first woman sports anchor on a national radio network (ABC), and soon after she became one of the first women to work for a national sports cable network (SportsChannel America). Then, she moved across the country to become a weekend sports anchor and reporter for a Seattle TV station, which led to being hired in 1992 by ESPN to anchor its SportsCenter program.
Cohn devotes a lengthy chapter in her autobiography (titled Cohn-Head: A No-Holds-Barred Account of Breaking Into the Boys’ Club) to her experiences at Oswego State. After briefly playing tennis at the school, she started in goal for four seasons on the ice hockey team, ultimately resulting in her induction in 2006 into the Oswego State athletics hall of fame.
But she devotes even more words in the book to the day-to-day experiences of living in a residence hall and bonding with classmates, maturing into a better student, and beginning to gain a sense of what she wanted to do with her life.
Now, she is in her 22nd year with SportsCenter. She has attributed her success to being a sports fan since she was a girl, and to creating opportunities for herself, such as asking to cover New York Islanders ice hockey for a Long Island radio station where she was hired early in her career as a news reporter.
During a 2009 talk at Eastern Connecticut State, she told students that she pursued a career in sports because they “put a smile on my face.”
“Do things that you like to do,” she suggested. “Start from there. Don’t feel like you have to conquer the world all in one day.”
Nominated by Cora Brumley, former interim director of athletics at Oswego State and current commissioner of the Little East Conference.