Phyllis George, a trailblazer in sports journalism and football broadcasting who joined CBS’ The NFL Today as a co-host in 1975, has died at age 70.
George’s passing was a result of complications from a blood disorder, her ex-husband and former Kentucky governor John Brown Jr. told the Louisville-Courier Journal.
George won the Miss America pageant in 1971 before moving to broadcasting in 1974 when she was hired by CBS, becoming the first female sportscaster to work at a major television network.
In 1975, she became the co-host of CBS’ popular pregame show, The NFL Today, joining Brent Musburger, Irv Cross and, eventually, Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder. The show raised the standard for what pregame shows of its time typically provided.
“The CBS Sports family is deeply saddened by the passing of Phyllis George, an icon in the sports broadcasting industry who contributed greatly to the rich history and tradition of CBS Sports,” Sean McManus, chairman of CBS Sports, said in a statement. “Phyllis was not only a key member of a show that remains the gold standard of NFL pregame shows, the NFL Today with Brent, Irv and ‘The Greek,’ but also a pioneer for all women in broadcasting.”
Born in Denton, Texas, in 1949, George began her broadcasting career as the co-host on the hidden camera reality television show Candid Camera before she joined CBS. She would later co-host CBS Morning News. Speaking of her early experiences in sport broadcasting, George described difficulty in overcoming prejudices and dealing with frequent hate mail.
“When you’re the first, you’re a pioneer,” George told USA Today in a 1999 interview. “I felt they didn’t know who Phyllis George was. They played me up as a former Miss America, a sex symbol. I can’t help how I look, but below the surface, I was a hard-working woman. If I hadn’t made that work, women eventually would have come into sportscasting, but it would have taken them longer.”
George co-hosted the show from 1975 to 1984, during which The NFL Today won numerous Emmy Awards. Former colleague Musburger took to Twitter to pay his respects.
“Phyllis George was special. Her smile lit up millions of homes for the NFL Today,” Musburger said. “Phyllis didn’t receive nearly enough credit for opening the sports broadcasting door for the dozens of talented women who took her lead and soared. Folks—men and women—were comfortable with Phyllis talking about their favorite sport. And in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, they loved Phyllis despite her Dallas Cowboys bias! RIP Phyllis. Irv Cross and I will miss you dearly.”
George was married to Brown from 1979 to 1998. They had two children together.