Auburn Women

Leisha Cowart ’86

Leisha Cowart '86

When I joined the staff of the Plainsman in 1984, I was the only female on the sports staff, and at first, I was sent to cover only women’s sports. It took a while to gain the confidence of the male sports editor, but eventually I did, and was able to cover major sports, including football. One of my favorite assignments was to interview offensive lineman Yann Cowart (no relation). He had recently moved from center to guard, and we got into a conversation about the different requirements of various OL positions, and he was stunned to find out I actually knew what it meant for a guard to “pull” off the line. My brother had been an OL in high school, and I was fortunate to have a high school football coach who taught PE, and taught me how to diagram plays. It was a fabulous time to be at Auburn. Bo Jackson was running all over everything, Frank Thomas was just getting started, and I remember him as a freshman tight end in my History of Film class before he exploded on the baseball field.

In the summer of my senior year, I was named the sports editor, and as far as I know, the first woman to hold that position. It was an eventful summer, as well. Bo was trying to decide whether to play football or baseball, and we were on top of the story.

As sports editor, I also had a weekly column with my picture, and one day, as I was enjoying a casual lunch in Foy Union, a guy came stomping up to me carrying a copy of the Plainsman with my column.

“Is this you?” he snapped, shoving the paper under my nose and pointing to my photo. I replied that it was, and he said, “How’d you get to be the sports editor? Do you know anything about sports?” I’m sure I rolled my eyes. He asked, “So what’s a nickel defense?” Without missing a beat, I said it’s a 4-2-5 defense that uses a fifth defensive back that functions like a hybrid linebacker.” His eyes widened, and all he said was, “Ok.” and then turned around and walked away.

I graduated in December of 1986 and became the sports editor of the Opp News. I had a few more forays into sportswriting, but realized journalism was not for me. After a few other attempted careers, I have become a high school English teacher. I still am very much connected to football — I even did play-by-play broadcasts for my school’s football team for four years. Even though I am not a female sportswriter anymore, I am proud of the very small role i played in advancing the acceptance of women sports journalists.