Dari Nowkhah, a Tulsa Union High School and OU graduate, has taken a long, twisting road to his job as main host of the new SEC Network, which two weeks ago launched in more than 90 million homes. The road took him to one of the nation’s smallest TV markets and to nearly getting out of broadcasting and becoming a teacher. He jumped from being the No. 3 sportscaster at Tulsa’s KOTV-6 to ESPN in 2004.
In 2011, Nowkhah and his wife, Jenn, experienced the tragedy of losing an infant son and then founded a charity in Hayden’s name to help other families. They have three kids — Nick, 8, Nahla, 4, and Leighton, 2.
My dad was born and raised in Iran. He moved to the U.S. when he was 18 to go to college. He ended up at Michigan Tech University and two years into that, transferred to TU.
I was a sports nut growing up. I was one of those guys who could recite stats and names and all of that. When I was 14 and in ninth grade, I called up Channel 2 in Tulsa (KJRH-2) and talked to sports director Al Jerkens, who had been there forever. He invited me to come in and hang out for a day. I watched him get shows together. We went to a Drillers game. I watched him do the 10 o’clock show. I remember thinking this was pretty cool.
I knew I was going to a state school just for costs. I grew up in a family mostly comprised of OU fans. My grandparents on my mom’s side had been season tickets to OU game for a couple of decades at that point so they would take me to games or they had my dad take me to games. I had OU jerseys as a kid and The Boz haircut at one point in fourth grade — just the brown and black hair version of it.
My dad, who is an electrical engineer, had always said, “Dar, I think I could have been a doctor and I wish I had been a doctor. Financial security is a good thing and you should consider it.” I was always really good in math and I science. So I went to OU as a premed major. I went through my first chemistry class, which I realized was a lot harder than high school chemistry, in a class of about 500 people. Thanks to the grace of the greatest curve known to man, I ended up with a borderline B. I went to my adviser and said I don’t want any more of this stuff. So I changed to broadcast journalism.
Gary Gibbs was the football coach the first of my four years at OU. Then it was (Howard) Schnellenberger for one and I was there for the first two years of John Blake. I have done the math — 18-27-1. That was our record the four years I was a student at OU. When I was there, we waited for basketball and Kelvin Sampson had just gotten there.
I did sports my senior year at the OU television station. Also, I interned for two semesters at KWTV-9, with my mentor who is no longer with us, Bill Teegins, and Chris Harrison and Ed Murray.
I got hired by then-NBC affiliate, KCFW, in Kalispell, Mont., tucked away in the northwest part of Montana in a secluded, beautiful area a few miles from western entrance to Glacier National Park. We were a satellite station of the Missoula market, which was 173rd at the time. All we did in Kalispell was a 6 p.m. weekday show.
I moved to Lincoln, Neb., and worked for KLKN, the ABC affiliate. I went from covering four high schools in Montana to covering the University of Nebraska in an era where they played for a national championship one year I was there.
I found out from (TV reporter) Mark Opgrande, whom I had roomed with in Kalsipell, that Channel 6 in Tulsa (KOTV) had an opening for a No. 3 sports guy — a reporter, fill-in anchor. Sports director John Holcomb loved the fact that I was from the area and hired me. He didn’t have to tell me how to pronounce Oologah, Owasso, Skiatook, and all of that stuff.
I ended up getting an agent, Steve Herz, in November 2003. He called me four months after I signed with him and he said can you be in Connecticut like next Wednesday because he had lined up an interview with ESPN. We had the interview March 31. The rest of the process was excruciating because it took 10 weeks for them to offer me a job.
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