As Becky Dixon hosts her final installment of “Oklahomans” this month, she reflects on her groundbreaking television career.
Becky Dixon, host of KOTV's "Oklahomans," in her midtown Tulsa home.
Becky Dixon changed television sports coverage.
Before Dixon, television sports was an all-male domain. Since she began roaming sidelines in 1988 — and then hosting sports shows and specials — women have joined crews. Now it’s almost a certainty that at least one female will be on the sidelines for every major sporting event.
“Now, it’s not just accepted but expected,” says Chris Lincoln, sports director at KTUL-TV, who first got Dixon into television. “It’s tremendous how opportunities have grown for women in TV sports.”
A few have even moved into doing play-by-play for such masculine activities as football.
“That makes me happy to see that,” says Dixon, who left big-time network television to return to Tulsa for family considerations and now is looking to end, this month, a 20-year run of television specials about Oklahomans.
That does not mean she will be inactive. She is president of Taylor Communications, a venture started by another pioneer, Ed Taylor, and, she says, “I probably will continue to do something in broadcasting.”
But what she did in sports remains her most remarkable achievement.
She didn’t set out to be a pioneer. After graduating from The University of Tulsa in 1973, she taught first grade for a few years, but after her daughter was born, she looked for other opportunities.
She had met Lincoln at TU and he encouraged her to apply for a job at KTUL-TV.
“I pushed hard for her,” he says.
She approached Tom Goodgame, then general manager at KTUL-TV, and “basically talked my way into a job,” she says.
KTUL-TV then was the dominant station in the Tulsa market and was the No. 1 affiliate nationally for the ABC network.
But she didn’t immediately run to the sidelines because KTUL didn’t cover a lot of football. She worked tennis, golf, horse racing and other sports events.
In 1986, an agent showed a tape of Dixon’s work to the president of ABC Sports, Dennis Swanson, who asked Dixon to come to New York to meet him. In the same day that he fired O.J. Simpson and Joe Namath from “Monday Night Football,” Swanson hired Dixon and she began co-hosting ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” with Frank Gifford.
“Then I started doing sidelines and ended up pretty much fulltime on sidelines,” she says.
Her first sideline assignment: the Oklahoma-Texas football game.
She was the only female college-game sideline reporter. At that time the National Football League didn’t allow sideline reporters.
“I really enjoyed the sidelines,” Dixon says, “because it included a bit of everything — feature reports, injuries, interviews. … You were the eyes and ears on the field.”
Dixon also covered Super Bowls, the Winter Olympics and the Triple Crown of horse racing.
But living in New York and Los Angeles and big-time television became too much and she returned to Tulsa after 1990.
She began “Oklahomans,” a show that was her idea, in 1991. It was produced by Winnercom, a company Lincoln helped found.
Her shows have featured such varied Oklahomans as Garth Brooks, David Boren, Carl Albert, Mickey Mantle, Wilma Mankiller, Ron Howard, Reba McEntire, Carrie Underwood, Troy Aikman, Barry Switzer, Sam Bradford and Boone Pickens. Her final show will be a “look back at 20 years … trying to pack 20 years into one hour,” Dixon says.
She and Taylor also combined to produce the first Internet webcast, which Dixon hosted, of a medical conference at Harvard University.
She worked with almost every big name in football “and never had a negative reaction,” she says. “ … I actually think I was treated better because I was a woman.”
Looking back on her career, Dixon says, “I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity.”