The February, 1968 edition of Tele-News Letter introduced the newest addition to the WRAL sports department without divulging her name: “A winsome bit of pulchritude with a penchant for prodigious percentages in pigskin prognostications joins the TV5 Sports staff in mid-February.” With that introduction, you would have thought she was related to “Jimmy the Greek” – minus pulchritude, but she was referred to as “Coach Friday.” Her name? Jane Chastain.
1968 was a year when any woman appearing on local television, outside the roles of modeling or hosting cooking shows, was considered groundbreaking. Jane Chastain was clearly, at that time, breaking into a male dominated television industry. Chastain challenged the sports status-quo with brains and a bit of brawn. On February 11, 1968, she found herself working alongside Ray Reeve and Nick Pond, two figurative giants in sportscasting, and she was literally only 5 feet, 2 and half inches tall.
Chastain began her career in 1963, two years out of high school, by making football predictions as “Coach Friday” for WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Georgia. Each Friday, on Ed Thilenious’ show, she predicted the outcomes of Saturday’s top ten toughest games. The next day she would return on-air to see how well she fared. Her first year average was 79.9%. Hmmm, maybe she is related to Jimmy the Greek!
She stayed with WAGA until she married and moved to Raleigh in late 1967. Her husband was from the Raleigh/Durham area. It has been reported that she was offered a position as “weather-girl” at WTVD, but WRAL Sports Director Ray Reeve jumped in and offered her a sports job. Tom Suiter remembers watching her during the sports segment doing banter with Ray Reeve. Of course Tom was quick to add that he was away at school and was way too young to remember very much!
Chastain stayed at TV5 until December 13, 1968. Her next stop was WTVJ, the CBS affiliate in Miami, Florida. She was sports anchor of the top rated sports show in the market. While in Miami she worked with an independent producer and created “The Jane Chastain Show – Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know About Sports but Were Afraid to Ask.”
In 1974, CBS hired Chastain to cover a variety of sports, including the NFL, Sun Bowl, Cotton Bowl, tennis, and golf. After her one year contract with CBS expired, she moved to Los Angeles and anchored sports for KABC-TV until leaving sports in 1978.
Chastain was a true pioneer for women in sports broadcasting, not a sports gimmick. Lesley Visser, long time network sportscaster with a long string of 1sts in her own right, said of Chastain, “She’s our Jackie Robinson.”
We are glad WRAL did not give her guff in 1968, but invited her to be a part of the team.
(Information gathered from WRAL-TV tele-news letter, Blog Talk Radio website, ChastainCentral.com.)
Thanks to Corp’s Pam Allen for this capcom story. Pam Parris Allen is a former WRAL newscast producer/director who now works as a researcher and producer on the CBC History Project.