Sami Kincaid, left, interviews Guz Malzhan, head coach for University of Central Florida football.
Sami Kincaid (’13) came very close to pursuing marine biology as an undergrad, but all it took was one appearance in front of a camera for her future as a sports journalist to be cemented. The School of Journalism and Electronic media alumna was a senior in high school when she was interviewed by a news station about her opposition to the basketball goals being removed from her neighborhood, and Kincaid’s poise during the interview made an impact.
“Everyone said, ‘Wow, you spoke really well in front of the camera, maybe you should go into broadcasting.’ And I’m really glad I did because I’m terrified of deep water, so I don’t know how I would have become a marine biologist,” Kincaid said.
As for the sports part of her career decision, that was easy. She grew up in the dugouts while her dad umpired and coached baseball teams, up until she began playing sports herself. She was passionate about sports and choosing sports communications just made sense, and she hasn’t looked back.
A Woman in Sports
Kincaid has an impressive resume of jobs behind and in front of the camera for
various outlets including the University of Central Florida Athletics, Friday Night Rivals, Vanderbilt Athletics, Chattanooga’s NBC affiliate WRCB, SEC Nation, WBIR, and VFL Films. Her skills are well-rounded and she’s done everything from play-by-play announcing, editing, and shooting, to on-screen graphic creation.
But her most recent project is one that makes her particularly proud: her own radio show and podcast called Power Hour with Sami Kincaid, which centers women in sports. She had just been back in Nashville for a few months working as a freelancer when she was contacted by Greg Pogue, a long-time staple of Nashville Sports Radio.
“I showed up thinking I was going to have to pitch myself to them and they said, we really want you to host a show on our station, so what do we have to do to make this happen? So it really just fell into my lap,” she said.
It’s poignant not just because she has her own show, but because it’s about women in sports. Sports broadcasting and journalism remains heavily male-dominated, though many women continue to break barriers in the field. Kincaid faces bias about her gender and her job on a regular basis, and sometimes even downright maliciousness from strangers online. Kincaid has been inspired by Erin Andrews and other women such as fellow CCI alumna Andraya Carter, Laura Rutledge, and Alyssa Lang, who established themselves as serious sports journalists, versus the token female talking head that women were once pigeon-holed into in sports.
“It’s such a community with the other women in sports. You’re not alone. We were joking the other day on my radio show about how it’s almost like a cult because if somebody comes after one woman in sports on social media, you’re going to hear from the other women who are working in sports,” Kincaid said. “So it’s nice to know you have somebody who will have your back, because they sympathize and understand what you have to deal with unfortunately on a daily basis.”
Becoming a Vol
Kincaid really didn’t have to become a Volunteer as she was born one. Her grandparents resided in the married housing at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and her father was quite literally born on campus. She didn’t apply to any other schools because it was UT or bust—she didn’t even visit another school, unless you count that one time she “toured” The Ohio State as a way to get an unexcused absence to attend a Britney Spears concert.
“My entire family went to Tennessee, except I have one aunt who went to Vanderbilt…we give her a really hard time,” Kincaid said.
When she entered into the JEM program, it was at a time where the sports communication courses were just starting to take off. Kincaid credits both JEM Associate Professor Erin Whiteside and retired Professor Sam Swan with creating courses and opportunities that would guide her learning. Swan found Kincaid several opportunities to get hands-on experience in broadcasting, including with The Volunteer Channel, WBIR , and WRCB Chattanooga (which is now known as Local 3).
“Sam Swan was my advisor and he was the one who was always encouraging and pushing me, as well, and just getting me a lot of opportunities. There’s no telling how many students Dr. Swan has placed in their first jobs,” she said.
One of the most pivotal experiences she had at UT, though, was working at VFL Films for the Athletics Department. Link Hudson, assistant athletics director of VFL Films & Broadcasting, found Kincaid because of the student work she had already done, and asked her to come work with him her senior year. Ever since then, he’s been a mentor to her.
“It’s nice I was able to learn and get mistakes out of the way in a safe and supportive environment. Link was always my work dad and if I messed up on something—because whenever you’re learning you’re going to mess up or I believe you don’t fully learn it—he was so encouraging,” she said.
Even now, a decade later, Kincaid said she doesn’t make any career decisions without talking to Hudson first. As for his take, Hudson said his mentee was an asset both when she worked for him at VFL Films as a student and a postgraduate intern.
“She had a complete skill set when producing video content for Tennessee Athletics. She could write, edit, shoot, and lend her on-camera gifts as part of being a talented storyteller,” he said. “Most of all, Sami loves the University of Tennessee and that made all the difference in her work!”