Allie LaForce is in a rental car somewhere in Florida.
The day before, the sideline reporter for SEC on CBS Sports covered the Georgia Bulldogs-Florida Gators football game, but her flight to New York City from Jacksonville has been canceled. She’s hoping to catch a flight out of Orlando, two hours away.
“It comes with the territory,” says the former host of Fox 8’s high school football wrap-up show Friday Night Touchdown. “I really do think I have the greatest job in the world. But if there is a con in covering sports, it’s the travel. And getting to the SEC is not easy.”
When LaForce arrives in New York, she’ll switch gears to host CBS’ We Need To Talk, network TV’s first all-female sports talk show. The all-star cast of 12 contributors includes LaForce’s lifelong role model and basketball hall of famer Lisa Leslie.
“Lisa could do it all,” LaForce says. “She’s this strong, independent woman who’s poised, elegant and beautiful but was also a fierce competitive athlete.”
Now, the Ohio University alum, who wrote her undergrad thesis on the objectification of women in sports, has a chance to serve as a similar role model. She’s paired with Verne
Lundquist and Gary Danielson on CBS’ No. 1 college football game of the week and serves the same role during the network’s coverage of NCAA basketball.
“It’s important for young women to not just be told they can do it but to see other women come before them and break the stereotype,” she says. “Everything I’ve ever done, there’s been someone ahead of me who inspired me to do it.”
Most weeks, the former Vermilion High School basketball star makes a stop in Cleveland. But it wasn’t always this way. She met Cleveland Indians sidearm relief pitcher Joe Smith back in 2011 when she was working at Fox 8. But by the time they married in 2015, she was at CBS and he was pitching for the Los Angeles Angels.
Then earlier this summer, Smith rejoined the Tribe after being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays. LaForce was in a Whole Foods in New York when she got the call.
“I just screamed at the top of my lungs and started running around like crazy,” says LaForce. “Joe was tearing up. It was a really cool moment.”
More than a homecoming, the trade brought the couple within a few hours of Smith’s mother, Lee, who has Huntington’s disease. The disease, which Smith has a 50-50 chance of inheriting, is the cause behind the couple’s HelpCureHD foundation, which collects donations and hosts events to raise awareness and help find a cure.
Still, to most Clevelanders, LaForce is that girl from the Halleen Kia commercials. The 30-second spots are the sole source of grocery store selfies, unwanted outfit critiques and fan rumors, LaForce says.
“Clevelanders don’t really watch the SEC, because they watch the Big Ten. So everyone thinks I quit my job, married a pro baseball player and now just do Halleen Kia commercials,” LaForce says, laughing. “But at least my grandma, Nancy LaForce Gilbert, loves talking about it with her friends.”