Newhouse to the NFL Network: Alumna Sara Ries ‘05 Oversees NFL Draft Coverage

The NFL draft weekend is one of the busiest times of the offseason for Sara Ries ’05, the senior director at the NFL Network. Almost a year’s worth of preparation culminates with a hectic, three-day event watched closely by dedicated football fans. 

Sara Ries headshot

Ries, a broadcast journalism alumna, started as a production assistant for the network. She answered a few questions recently about how Newhouse prepared her for her career; covering the draft; her experience as a woman in a male-dominated field; and advice for students who want to get into the sports industry. Below are excerpts from her recent interview.  

How did your Newhouse experience help you in your career journey? 

I really feel that we gained a basis editorial background that we developed over the four years, and it was constant. And I think then you can kind of sprinkle in the other aspects because we were able to touch all the equipment nice and early at Newhouse. I loved that because I could take a camera out with me and shoot, there wasn’t a barrier to entry for that piece.  

And so, then I could kind of not only be creative, but learn what I wanted to learn at my pace. And I did some work at the TV station on campus and the radio station as well because I thought the more I could do, the better. And that’s exactly what I took into my work here at the network, was the moment you walk in the door, just be ready to do anything. And whether it [would] be putting yourself out there and putting your hand up and saying “I’ll do it, I’ll learn it” or … just being ready to jump at any opportunity. That was something that Syracuse always helped kind of instilled in us and still to this day, I tell that to everyone. 

The NFL draft has turned into a big offseason event for football fans. What do you like most about overseeing and producing draft coverage?  

I really think what’s been cool about the draft is really making the city and the moment itself unique. How do we incorporate the music? How do we incorporate these big names that people know into our coverage? And how do we make those moments special? So, it’s unique every year. And honestly, at the end of the day, I feel just lucky to be a part of it.  

And I’m here for the chaos, the trades and all the madness because that’s truly what makes it fun. And it’s like “boom,” we’ve got to go on to the next player, we’ve got to go on to the next team. And that kind of gives you the adrenaline rush that I think a lot of us got into live TV for. 

Would you mind sharing your experience as a woman in sports, and give advice for women who are hoping to break into the industry? 

When I first started, there were still very few women who were really, I think, visible to us. And that wasn’t just because we were in sports—we were pretty much never on TV. I mean, aside from the Olympics, there wasn’t that much coverage [of women’s sports]. I feel like we just weren’t really being seen, it was just about the women who were on TV. … I remember interviewing people at ESPN, some of their women were there when I did an internship, and I was just desperate to talk to them about what they had experienced. Because really, behind the scenes, there were two or three women, but that was it. I think there’s just been such a wave of women in industry and that I really hope it continues and it should be that way because we have to really be able to see and experience sports through everyone’s eyes before we can really make the coverage of sports fair and equal. You can’t just have one perspective. 

The only way we can grow is for women to keep pushing their way in, keep wanting their voice to be heard, whether you’re on the sidelines as a fan raising your hand, or whether you’re really wanting to break into this industry. And just know that there are those of us here with welcome arms for whoever wants to join.