Before the LSU Tigers ran the Oklahoma Sooners out of the College Football Playoff and all the way back to Norman, tragedy struck the LSU football family. Carley McCord, a Louisiana based sports reporter at WDSU, was among five people killed in a small plane crash en route to the Peach Bowl game just hours before kickoff. She was the daughter-in-law of LSU offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger
The news spread like wildfire as the Tigers and Sooners warmed up inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. Throughout the game, the ESPN telecast mentioned the tragic news several times. The LSU football official Twitter account even retweeted SEC Network’s coverage, including Holly Rowe’s pregame interview with head coach Ed Orgeron about the news on the sideline. It’s hard to imagine anyone not hearing about the tragedy. That is, unless you actually played for the LSU Tigers.
During his postgame interview, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow fielded questions about his school record seven touchdown passes, CFP record 515 total yards and 493 passing yards, and complete annihilation of Oklahoma heading into the national championship game.
Then, ESPN reporter Dari Nowkhah asked the Heisman Trophy winner about the death of Carley McCord, news which Burrow hadn’t heard until one, shocking moment on live TV.
“Oh my gosh. I didn’t know that,” a completely off-guard Burrow said. “That’s a tough one. I mean, I have to go see Coach for that one. Obviously, he’s a great man, great family. I hope the world is praying for him.”
Joe Burrow Learns of Carley McCord’s Death
Tim Tebow and ESPN’s team briefly consoled Burrow as his emotions began to settle in following a massive semifinal victory.
Nowkhah later issued a lengthy apology in a series of tweets.
Apology from ESPN’s Dari Nowkhah
“There’s understandably so much sensitivity surrounding yesterday’s tragedy involving the LSU family. I’m so sorry for the way we handled the end of our postgame interview with Joe Burrow last night.
“I obviously feel horrible to have been the one to have broken the news of Carley McCord’s passing to Joe, and have shared my apologies and sincere condolences with LSU.Advertisement
“Our live interview with Joe was several hours after the news broke & was a major storyline of last night’s game. With that said, we shouldn’t have assumed he was aware, and that’s on us.
“We never intended to hurt Joe & we will learn from this mistake. My heart goes out to the McCord & Ensminger families, and the entire LSU family, during this incredibly tragic time. I hope they, including LSU fans, will accept this apology.”
— Dari Nowkhah, via Twitter
People took to social media and crushed Nowkhah for his question. One person called him “classless self-promoting news scum.” Another suggested the longtime sports reporter should be fired or resign. The question was ill-timed and should not have been asked at that moment, but Nowkhah was doing his job, as anyone who’d known about this tragic news for hours would have done.
“I didn’t want the team to know [about the crash],” Orgeron explained after the game. “I didn’t want it to affect the team – the mindset of the football team, the energy of the football team. Neither did Steve. We tried to keep it from them.”
Orgeron gave the game ball to Ensminger. It was the first time all season LSU awarded a game ball.
LSU faces Clemson for the college football’s national title on January 13 in New Orleans.