Brooke Bentley ’01: Athlete, Anchor, Author, Mom
Brooke Bentley ’01 decided as a young girl that a career in sports journalism was her dream. A standout athlete herself, she loved how sports could inspire and bring together people from all walks of life.
Bentley grew up in Texas as a Houston Rockets fan. She watched the games closely, but she also watched Lisa Malosky, one of the few women sports anchors at that time.
“I remember being at a game, turning to my dad and saying that's what I wanted to do,” Bentley said. “I also wrote in my high school yearbook that I’d be doing that work within 10 years of graduating.”
And so she did. But the ride came with the highest highs and the lowest lows.
Bentley earned a job with the Houston Texans immediately after graduate school, later becoming the first female sports anchor and sideline reporter in the town of Beaumont, just outside of Houston. She covered two Super Bowls, a Pro Bowl and more. But she was also told her first week with the Texans that she couldn’t ride with the players to the games because she would be a distraction to them. And the day she returned to work at a local TV station in Houston after having her first child — an earlier return than planned because they wanted her back for the Super Bowl — her boss told her he was surprised she hadn’t lost all her baby weight.
“I had this dream, and I wanted to follow this dream, but I didn’t know what I was getting into,” she said. “On that very first day of work, I walked out of my boss’ office and decided one day I would write a book about this, and that meeting would be my opening scene.”
A New Direction
Bentley was eventually allowed to travel with the players, and she wasn’t a distraction. Was she mistaken for a cheerleader by fans and staff every now and then? Sure. But she was in-house with the Texans, and they respected her as part of their team.
“During my career, these stories would pop up, and I’d jot them down and file them away,” she said. “I kept the idea of a book in the back of my mind — I wanted to tell women they weren’t alone. I wanted to advise women to get a mentor early on, which helped me set boundaries and say no. I wish I had found mentors earlier. This industry is difficult, competitive and can get messy, but we have strength in supporting each other.”
Bentley and her husband welcomed two sons to their family. She was working full-time, so the book idea stayed on the back burner until she eventually decided to step away from her relentless work schedule and focus more on family.
Still, the decision to shift gears wasn’t an easy one. Her fast-paced job filled her nights, weekends and holidays. She was away from her family more than she liked. But it had been her long-time dream. She was a successful sports reporter and TV anchor. Yet, she was choosing to press pause, catch her breath and focus her attention on home.
Then, the pandemic hit. She had time to sit down, read all the notes she had been keeping through the years and think about what would come next.
“I started writing in 2020 and treated it like my job,” she said. “I’d wake up early before my kids and write as much as I could. As I was nearing the end of the book, sexual harassment allegations were coming out of the Redskins (now Commanders) organization, and I knew people there. Many of the women who worked for the NFL and the NBA get to know each other, and we share stories. I thought to myself, ‘this book needs to come out now.’ I heard from women in these toxic cultures, and it upped the stakes for me.”
Sideline Confidential is a work of fiction, but it is heavily based on Bentley’s own experiences and the experiences of friends and colleagues in pro sports. As promised, the opening scene is modeled after her first day of work with the Texans. Another scene speaks to a friend’s experience working for an NBA team, where she once was invited to a strip club for a meeting and “team bonding.”
“I’ve pitched the book as The Devil Wears Prada set in the NFL,” Bentley said. “It was released in August 2023, following a summer of female celebration — the Taylor Swift Eras Tour, the Barbie movie. I want women to feel empowered by this book — especially young women entering this industry — but it’s also fun and entertaining.”
Fans and agents already want to know what’s next. She’s been asked about a sequel, and the idea of a screenplay has bubbled up, too. With two sons involved in sports and a husband who coaches their teams, she’s been keeping a close eye at games and taking notes that could inform her next project.
“I’m thinking about something connected to little league culture … maybe Bad News Bears meets Desperate Housewives,” she said. “I’ve been paying close attention while I sit in the stands, so we’ll see where it leads me.”
When Bentley stepped away from sports, she continued to use her journalism skills to work on grant applications and development reports to help build her sister’s nonprofit organization, Homemade Hope, a grassroots organization in Houston that teaches at-risk youth how to cook healthy meals from readily available ingredients.
Bentley shared about this important work with Mother magazine: “I have found a greater sense of purpose through this work than I could have ever imagined. The crippling effects of food insecurity and deep poverty in my community had been reduced to statistics I read about when I worked in sports reporting. Now, I know the faces behind those numbers. I see firsthand the psychological and emotional toll homelessness takes on children, and I can be part of a support system to help improve the outcomes of their lives.”
Honing Her Craft at Davidson
A few students from Bentley’s high school had gone to Davidson over the years, so it was on her radar during the college search. Continuing to play volleyball was a priority, but so was getting a great education and becoming an excellent writer.
“I was being recruited by several schools, but I had in my mind that I wanted to go to North Carolina and experience all the seasons,” she said. “Rice University and Southern Methodist University were interested in me as a defensive specialist, but after my visit to Davidson, I told my mom that was my school, and I was done looking. At other schools, volleyball players are just volleyball players, but I knew I would have more freedom to develop as a person and to explore my interests at Davidson.”
Bentley always loved to write, and it was her strong suit in high school. She majored in political science, thanks to the urging of Professor Lou Ortmayer (also a huge volleyball fan) and minored in Spanish.
“At Davidson, you learn how to write,” she said. “I was a good writer, but I was able to learn how to write a paper, how to extract information from books and research, how to put my thoughts down and be concise. It took my writing to the next level.”
Bentley graduated with Phi Beta Kappa honors and has the key she received at the induction ceremony framed in her home office. She also was selected for a scholarship from the Southern Conference at the time of her graduation that helped her go on to graduate school at the University of Southern California.
“Davidson really prepares you for anything,” she said. “Davidson students are so committed to making the world a better place in some way. I still get together every year with my three teammates and best friends from my year. We are scattered all over, in Texas, Washington, D.C., Colorado and Pennsylvania. We have fond memories as classmates and teammates, but I think our shared values and commitment to community are what keep us linked as friends.”
From the volleyball court to the NFL sidelines to the home office, Brooke Bentley personifies the power of creativity, perseverance and integrity. Sideline Confidential is the latest chapter in a story that began in Texas, developed at Davidson and still has far to go.