NEW YORK – There’s a set change in the midst of filming a November episode of We Need To Talk, the hour-long CBS Sports Network show featuring a rotating cast of women discussing the biggest issues in sports. It’s taking everything in her power to keep Allie LaForce from moving furniture around. She’s not used to standing still, and especially not used to anything other than being responsible for multiple things at once. It comes down to a legal issue, though, something about the union and insurance, so she’s passes the time with conversation.
Not that conversation is any sort of chore for LaForce. The word that gets thrown around the most about her is “natural,” and it takes all of two minutes to see why. She’s been in front of cameras her whole life to the point where anytime she’d have a new outfit growing up, her mother – who runs a modeling agency in Atlanta and commuted weekly between Northeast Ohio and Georgia – would announce her to the room and have her show it off. When her mom was away for work, her aunt Connie Rummell, who coached Medina High School’s girls basketball team, would look after her and bring her to practice.
Even without her knowing it, LaForce was developing the skills that would later lead to her catapulting on the scene a couple years ago during the NCAA Tournament.
LaForce’s nontraditional path saw her make her way from Miss Teen USA and walking on the Ohio University basketball team to a regional job at SportsTime Ohio (now Fox Sports Ohio) before landing at CBS. And it was those early years in OU’s broadcasting school and in Athens, Ohio that set the foundation for why even now – nervously tapping her foot because she can’t help the production assistants – she still plans on outworking everyone around her.
“My favorite part about working with Allie on We Need To Talk is her ability to make everyone around her feel comfortable and confident,” says Laila Ali, who appears on the show with LaForce. “Her work ethic and preparation are second to none.”
LaForce’s basketball playing career ended in college, but her career in basketball was only beginning. She spent time learning from the radio voice of the women’s team, who had her join the broadcast as a color commentator. From there it was producing the coach’s show during football season, lugging cameras around and filming on the sideline, producing a 5 a.m. radio show, and finally interning at SportsTime.
Fast-forward to now, and she’s working the NCAA Tournament with close friend Verne Lundquist once again, set to take in the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight from Madison Square Garden, not far from the studio where they shoot We Need To Talk.
“To me she’s always had a sense of self confidence and purpose,” Lundquist says, “and I’m one of those who believes she can go anywhere she wants in this business.”
CBS didn’t take long to realize they had something in LaForce. But there were still questions when she was thrown in the fire to cover her first NCAA Tournament in 2013 at the age of 24. She was tasked with filling a role once occupied by pros like Rachel Nichols, and she was teamed up with Bill Raftery and Lundquist, who had the combined experience of about a dozen typical broadcasters. The production unit even leaned into the situation, offering up meta graphics that showed how many games both Lundquist and Raftery had covered, with LaForce below clocking in at a whopping “1.”
She took to it immediately. Despite her age, she had plenty of experience whether it was covering the Southern Ohio Copperheads (a collegiate summer league baseball team), high school championships in Cleveland, or Mid-American Conference games. Her familiarity with the sport came through to the viewer, and she was the furthest thing from camera shy thanks to her experience with the Miss Teen USA process.
It didn’t hurt that she bonded with both Lundquist and Raftery from the get-go.
“She’s so respectful of the experience these guys have and their history,” director Suzanne Smith says. “She knew she was new to the game, but she didn’t act like a rookie. She was able to blend working with them, doing her thing, and still having fun with it. They were able to bridge the generation gap, partly because Verne and Raftery are so good, but largely because she brought her own experience and personality to it. She’s tweeting, taking selfies, and the two of them didn’t even know what selfies were at the time. She brought what she knew to the Dance, and did it in a way that was so respectful to the two of them.”