Going Back to Her Roots: The Rise and Rise of ESPN’s Elle Duncan

by Xara Aziz
Instagram @elleduncan

Award-winning ESPN anchor Elle Duncan has not forgotten where she came from.

In an interview to discuss her alma mater, the University of West Georgia, the 40-year-old gushed about how the school helped her reach the heights she was able to achieve.

“When discussing the UWG part of my journey, what stands out the most is how it helped me identify my passion, which I think is the most important aspect of higher education,” Duncan told The City Menus. “You enroll with some idea of what you want to do, and college helps you figure out what that looks like and how you get there.”

The Atlanta native further gushed that she began her career wanting to be an actress and majored in theatre. But as time went on, she considered a career in broadcasting.

“It wasn’t like they were trying to dissuade me from their program,” she recalled. “They saw what I wanted to do with my career and helped me pivot to the mass communications route, which built my love of broadcasting. I will always be incredibly grateful to UWG for showing me what I actually wanted to do and giving me the opportunity to learn about it and grow so I could hit the ground running and get a fantastic job after graduation.”

Duncan would then delve deep into journalistic principles through her classes. She gained a comprehensive understanding of industry jargon, the significance of conveying information in engaging and innovative ways tailored to diverse audiences, and honed her ability to employ critical thinking skills while conducting research.

“I always had this idea of what media looked like, but UWG was great at presenting it structurally and logically instead of idealistically,” she said. “A big part is storytelling. At their base, journalism, theatre, acting, fiction, nonfiction – they all come from the same place, which is being able to tell great stories while educating people.”

Duncan said she was also proud to narrate the “We Are One video,” an announcement made to the UWG community about its elevation to Division I athletics.

UWG’s appeal lies in its dedication to kickstarting students’ careers even before they graduate, and Duncan epitomized this ethos. At just 19, her professional journey commenced with an internship at the former Atlanta syndicated sports talk radio show 790 the Zone. In 2005, she embarked on a tenure at the hip-hop radio station V103, simultaneously undertaking roles as the Atlanta Hawks sideline reporter. Weekends were occupied with assignments for Comcast Sports South, primarily covering college football, which eventually paved her path to Atlanta’s NBC affiliate, 11Alive. For nearly a decade, she diligently navigated the local job circuit, establishing herself in various roles.

In 2016, she joined the ESPN ranks, where she currently serves as host of Sportscenter with Kevin Negandhi. She also showcases her expertise in a biweekly YouTube series titled The Elle Duncan Show, where she explores the latest sports and cultural highlights of the week. Additionally, she serves as the women’s college basketball host for the network’s College GameDay and contributes as one of the rotating panelists on the afternoon program, Around the Horn.

“Sports bring people joy, and the stakes are incredibly low,” she observed. “Being a SportsCenter anchor, we don’t cover just one sport, we cover them all. I get to meet interesting people, and I love serving as an inspiration for others.”

Duncan offers this advice to anyone in school who wants to venture into the world of sports journalism.

“Enjoy this time, and take some of the pressure off yourself,” she concluded. “Take a deep breath and remember that a delay is not a denial. Try to be strategic but also open to life and new opportunities that you never imagined.”

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