ESPN sports executive shares leadership lessons at Huck Boyd Lecture

K-State Alumni Communications

ESPN sports executive Rosalyn Durant speaks during a panel discussion as part of the 16th annual Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media on Nov. 5 at the K-State Alumni Center. (Photo: K-State Communications and Marketing)

Real learning occurs when you challenge yourself to step outside your comfort zone.

That was one of the lessons in leadership ESPN sports executive Rosalyn Durant offered to Kansas State University faculty, staff and students at the 16th annual Huck Boyd Lecture in Community Media on Nov. 5 at the K-State Alumni Center. Durant spoke about her career as a senior vice president, College Networks and Programming, at ESPN, and shared some of the experiences that have shaped her as a leader. 

“Leadership is very much a journey, and I’m learning every day,” said Durant, who also visited K-State student-athletes during her time on campus. 

Durant is a key figure in the collegiate sports broadcasting industry, overseeing several ESPN networks, including ESPNU, which focuses on college athletics.

“She’s played a leading role, and a significant role,” K-State athletic director John Currie said in his introduction.

Durant has spent 16 years at ESPN, starting as an intern. Right away she fell in love with the company and how it gave her an opportunity to combine her loves for media, business and sports. 

“I am in my dream job,” she said. “I knew pretty early on I’d found my home. It was exactly what I wanted.” 

However, just because she had found her dream job did not mean the journey was always easy. As a leader, she said she learned not to fear the unknown, forced herself to take on challenges, and accepted the fact that sometimes, she would fail — but that this was still an opportunity to grow. 

She gave the example of a new show she helped develop for ESPNU. The concept was creative and innovative, using a comedian as one of the commentators and swapping the traditional “sports desk” for a sofa. 

Although the show did not last long and it was hard not to give in to a sense of disappointment, Durant said she always tries to find the positives in a failed project. Some of the features from the show have made their way into other ESPN programs.

“That show helped expand our thinking on how we can serve sports fans,” she said. “It wasn’t a failure because a lot of good came out of it.”

She encouraged K-State students interested in sports media to learn as much as they can and to develop the confidence to take calculated risks. 

“I would never let fear alone stop me,” she said. “I could indeed thrive outside of my comfort zone.”

The Huck Boyd lecture series is named for McDill “Huck” Boyd, a former K-State student and newspaper publisher. Past speakers in the series have included former U.S. Senator Bob Dole and Susan Edgerley ‘76, metropolitan editor for The New York Times. The 2015 lecture also included a panel discussion on social media, featuring Durant; Brian Smoller ‘99, director of K-StateHD.TV; Blair Kerkhoff, college sports reporter for The Kansas City Star; Tim Fitzgerald ‘86, publisher of Powercat Illustrated and GoPowercat.com; and George Schroeder, national college sports reporter for USA Today Sports

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