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Tampa native Tiffany Greene blazes path as college football play-by-play commentator

Tiffany Greene always aspired to work at ESPN.

The Tampa native put herself on that path as an undergraduate after meeting a recruiter at a 2000 job fair at Howard University. The recruiter suggested Greene take on a production job at the network; she declined.

She wanted to be a reporter.

So Greene took her degree from Florida A&M University and poured everything into her work.

Her big break came this year when she earned a fulltime job with the sports network. She's handling play-by-play duties on college softball, volleyball and basketball, but it's her work on college football that stands out.

Greene, who will work as the sideline reporter Saturday for ABC's broadcast of the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl from Atlanta, became one of only a handful of women to ever handle college football play-by-play for the network this year.

But today's inaugural bowl game between Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion North Carolina A&T and Southwestern Athletic Conference champion Alcorn State — two historically black colleges — holds special significance for Greene for another reason.

"It's about more than being on ABC, it's the fact that I'm an HBCU grad that gets to be apart of history," Greene said. "I feel a sense of responsibility to represent my alma mater, and HBCU grads in general, just as well as my network."

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Greene, 35, has served as the play-by-play announcer on three college football games this year, including the annual Florida Classic between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. She's believed to be the first African-American woman to do football play-by-play.

"I'm hoping my that my journey and experiences can help further create opportunities for others," Greene said. "There are so many people that helped to cultivate me as a journalist and commentator, so I feel like they're helping to push me through.

"Now is my chance to inspire and afford future commentators, especially young women, those same opportunities. I've always been a team player and so if I can help to lay the foundation, or strengthen it, I will relish in that role."

It's been a long but steady climb for Greene, a Hillsborough High IB program graduate. After graduating from FAMU, she move through jobs at local television stations in Tampa, Orlando and Savannah before coming back to Tampa to work for Bright House Sports.

She's also done college basketball for Fox Sports 1.

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Friends and mentors say Greene's tenacity and drive to do well is extraordinary. SportsCenter anchor Jay Harris said he knew from their first meeting in 2009 at a journalists' convention that Greene had "lots of potential."

"Some people don't grasp the basics, but she did," he said. "She just never shied away from comment or criticism."

Greene estimates that she spends 70 percent of her time preparing to call games. That means studying stats, learning about the players, and talking to coaches.

The other 30 percent is actual execution on the air and Greene's just as dogged in that arena. After every game, she's requesting critique from her father and husband, looking for ways to improve.

ESPN coordinating producer Meg Aronowitz, Greene's boss, said Greene often will call her immediately after a game asking for feedback.

"What I love about her is her youthfulness and exuberance when she's doing play-by-play calls," Aronowitz said. "It's not vanilla at all."

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Greene said she's adjusting well to her new role, but admits the schedule can be exhaustive. A newlywed, Greene said she's away from her husband, Aaron Berry, four or five days a week.

"That can be difficult," she said. "I've had to learn to find balance between my work and family."

Sometimes the two collide, as they did the weekend of the Florida Classic. After calling the Kentucky vs. Texas A&M women's volleyball match the night before, Greene caught a 5 a.m. flight back home on Thursday. But instead of sleeping thru the flight, she read over information for the game, wanting to be sure she was, "on my ps and qs."

The next day, she and Aaron closed on their East Tampa home.

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For most sports reporters, it's enough just to make it to a big network like ESPN.

But Greene, whose father Dayle was one of the first black on-air talents at WTVT-Ch. 13 and continues to do a public affairs show for Cox Radio, said she's just getting started.

"I want to be able to work my way up to calling a Saturday football package," said Greene, who ultimately would like to call NFL or NBA games. "It may take a year or two, but now I know what it takes.

"I am putting in a lot of work, but I'm loving it," she said. "It's more rewarding that any other position that I've had, outside of mentoring young people."

Whatever's ahead for Greene, longtime mentor David Aldridge said he's sure she'll reach her goals — just as she has now 15 years after first eyeing ESPN.

"She wasn't looking for the fast way, she was looking for the right way — spending time learning the craft, dealing with disappointment," said Aldridge, an NBA reporter for Turner Television. "She will succeed because she's ready."

Times staff writer Ernest Hooper contributed to this report.

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