Terry Taylor, First Woman Named Sports Editor of The A.P., Dies at 71

Terry Taylor, who as the first — and only — woman to be named the sports editor of The Associated Press brought a tireless management style to covering the Olympics, the World Cup and leagues and teams worldwide, died on Nov. 14 at her home in Paoli, Pa. She was 71.

Tony Rentschler, her husband and only immediate survivor, said the cause was breast cancer, which was diagnosed in 2013.

Ms. Taylor became The A.P.’s sports editor in 1992, 15 years after joining the wire service. Over the next 21 years in the job she became known for elevating the journalistic standards of her reporters and editors; stressing the importance of investigative stories, in-depth features and sharp commentary; and coaxing reporters to look for news that went beyond scores and on-field action.

“She was the most focused journalist I’ve ever worked with,” said Tom Curley, the president and chief executive of The A.P. from 2003 to 2012. “She seemingly worked around the clock. You could trust everything on the sports wire, but if there was a mistake, she was on the case like nobody else.”

Louis D. Boccardi, who appointed Ms. Taylor sports editor when he was the agency’s president and chief executive, recalled in a phone interview that there was some surprise that the job went to a woman.

“She was creative, aggressive and innovative, and had the toughness the job required, invading a male preserve,” he said in an interview. “People caught on quickly that she was in charge.”

Terry Rosalind Taylor was born on Oct. 4, 1952, in Valley Forge, Pa., and raised in Chester, Pa. Her mother, Ann (Bystrek) Taylor was an administrative assistant for the Internal Revenue Service. She divorced Terry’s father, Thomas Taylor, when Terry was about 4 years old, and he left their lives.

Terry was an only child who played baseball, football and hockey with her sports-loving cousins, who lived next door. She avidly read Sports Illustrated and the sports pages of a local newspaper, The Delaware County Daily Times.

Attending Temple University in Philadelphia, she worked for the campus newspaper and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 1974.

Her first job after college was at The Charlotte News in North Carolina, where she covered education during the week and did rewrite work on sports articles on Saturdays. She joined The A.P., in Philadelphia, in 1977.

It was the beginning of a 35-year love affair with the wire service.

“You handle everything from train wrecks to mob killings to Phillies games,” she said in an interview in 2014 with the Shirley Povich Center for Sports Journalism at the University of Maryland. “You did everything. It was enormously valuable training for me.”

She moved to The A.P.’s New York office in 1981 and covered figure skating at the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo. She rose to deputy sports editor in 1987. In 1990, she left to join The New York Times as an assistant sports editor but stayed for less than a year, returning to The A.P. because she missed its faster pace, Mr. Rentschler said.

During her A.P. career she worked on location at 15 Olympics, all but one as an editor, concluding with the 2012 Summer Games in London. She retired the next year.

Christine Brennan, a sports columnist for USA Today who chairs the board of the Association for Women in Sports Media, said in a text, “Terry’s hiring and success certainly was part of a wonderful historic trend of women becoming more respected throughout sports journalism.”

Roxanna Scott is the sports editor of USA Today, and Iliana Limón Romero has the role at The Los Angeles Times. Mary Byrne had also been USA Today’s sports editor. In 1978, Le Anne Schreiber became the first woman to run a major American daily newspaper’s sports department when The New York Times appointed her to the job.

Ms. Taylor’s honors include, in 2016, the A.W.S.M.’s Mary Garber Pioneer Award, named after a pioneering female sportswriter whose career began in the 1940s, when women were barred from press boxes and locker rooms, and, in 2018, the Red Smith Award from The Associated Press Sports Editors, named after the Pulitzer Prize-winning sports columnist for The New York Times.

After the 1993 Super Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., a rumor swept among A.P. reporters there that Marv Levy, the coach of the Buffalo Bills, who had lost the game to the Dallas Cowboys, 52-17, had had a heart attack. As reporters frantically checked with fire and police departments in the area, Ms. Taylor asked, “Did anybody think to try calling his hotel?”

“When Levy picked up the phone and assured The A.P. he was fine,” an A.P. article about the incident said, “she just laughed and announced, ‘Enough excitement for the moment. Now everybody get back to the follow-ups.’”

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