Melissa Stark Lilley
Some of Melissa Stark Lilley’s best memories are of sitting in the student section of Scott Stadium watching football games. “I’ve always loved the ambiance around sports: the camaraderie, the ritual, everyone coming together with a shared desire to win,” says Lilley (Col ’95). She wasn’t just a spectator for long; she became a production assistant and reporter for Virginia Basketball with Jeff Jones and Virginia Football with George Welsh, where she profiled players and covered games. “It was a good time for UVA sports. Men’s soccer won national championships and women’s lacrosse won the NCAA championship twice,” she says.
After she graduated, Lilley took samples of her work for UVA athletics to news and sports directors and got a job covering sports in Washington, D.C., and Baltimore for Fox. Next she was hired by ESPN as a SportsCenter reporter and occasionally anchored for ESPN news. When she was 26, she got the job for which she is best known—as a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football. “There weren’t a lot of women in sports journalism,” says Lilley. “There were a few who came before me, but it was still rare.
“Among the athletes, there were a few of the old guard who felt uncomfortable with women talking to them about sports,” says Lilley. “Jack Nicklaus once said something to me to that effect, but the younger athletes, like Sergio Garcia, know that times have changed.”
After a few years as a correspondent for the Today Show and covering three Olympics, Lilley decided to care for her four children full time. “These children and my family are my real legacy,” she says. “When people talk about the impossibility of having it all, I’m not sure what that means. For me, this is having it all.”