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Wednesday, May 29, 2024
The Observer

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Just two years after graduating, Caroline Pineda continues her sports broadcasting ascent

As everyone at Notre Dame knows, you never know where you’re going to find a fellow Domer. It may come walking around your hometown, your first day on a new job or a random event you decide to attend or a whim.

Or, you may see one on your TV as the first person to interview Caitlin Clark after becoming the all-time leading scorer in college basketball history. That’s the opportunity Caroline Pineda found herself in less than two years after graduating from Notre Dame, with Clark’s historic moment coming during a game she was working on as a sideline reporter.

“Getting to talk to her in shootaround that morning about her nerves and how she was feeling, knowing that so many people were waiting for her to have this moment, and then to get to watch her break the record at home in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and then to get to be the first person to interview her after that was really a special moment,” Pineda said.

Pineda has worked for NBC since her sophomore year at Notre Dame, first as a sideline intern assisting broadcasts behind the scenes before joining NBC full-time shortly after graduation. The New York native primarily covers football and basketball now, but her interest in sports media was first piqued in fifth grade by a much different sport.

“I started reading about Secretariat and when he won the Triple Crown. And I asked my mom if she thought that I could write a letter to his jockey Ron Turcotte. And so we googled his address and this P.O. box in Maine came up,” Pineda said. “And my mom has since told me that she didn’t really think that there was any chance that he would actually receive the letter or get back to me, but I wrote out some questions, and we sent it off. And then a couple of weeks later in the mail, I received a letter from him, and he had answered all my questions.”

Once she realized that there were people who did this sort of thing for a living, Pineda had a desire to become one of them. As a student, she worked with several different organizations on campus, gaining valuable insight and feedback into what it would take to make her dream a reality.

“NDTV and Scholastic and WVFI were all incredible experiences with student media, and then Fighting Irish Media -- I really can’t say enough good things about how informative and helpful my experiences there were,” Pineda said. “And then of course, the classes and the professors and all of them -- really, I feel like even the classes outside of my major -- I learned so much from, and I apply tenets from [them to] my life now. But really the [Film, Television, and Theatre] and [Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy] professors -- I learned a lot from them.”

Before she even got her diploma, she received the 2022 Jim Nantz Award, given every year to the top collegiate sports broadcaster in the country. Pineda is the only Notre Dame student to win the award in its 14-year history and was just the second woman to earn the acknowledgment.

“I truly never expected to win that. And it was really just a surreal moment to find out that I had won, and then to be able to attend the weekend where they give the award ... To get to meet so many incredible people in the industry, people who, like I said, I had seen on my television for so many years and then to be basically a senior in college and getting to meet them and have a conversation with them, was really special,” Pineda said.

Her work at NBC has taken her all across the country, from playoff NFL games to Clark’s milestone moment, and she even helped with coverage of the 2022 Winter Olympics while still a student. But some of the most special trips she has taken are the ones back to campus, as Pineda has worked as a sideline reporter for the annual Blue-Gold Game as both a student and alumna.

“I love getting to go back to campus and walk around,” Pineda said. “I always try to go to God Quad and the Grotto and just some other places on campus that were always very special to me. It’s so neat. I feel like you know what everyone always says, and I remember people saying before I was a student about [how Notre Dame is] four years for the rest of your life is so true.”

Pineda has worn many different hats as a student and a professional, but sideline reporting is probably what she’s most known for. It’s a challenging role, but a very fulfilling one as well.

“I would say what I think is really neat about that role is that it can add so much to broadcast and so much that the booth can’t necessarily see. There have been so many times watching football games that I remember as a kid being so fascinated by a sideline report and so in awe of some of the information that they were able to provide. And what I think is really special about sideline reporters is being able to contextualize the conversations that the booth is having in real-time,” Pineda said.