ESPN anchor Dari Nowkhah, a University of Oklahoma graduate from Tulsa, has never been shy about mentioning his Oklahoma sports ties on the air. He's quick to discuss OU or TU sports or the Oklahoma City Thunder with his colleagues.
Nowkhah, 35, will have many more opportunities to do so as the new main host of ESPNU. The network was to announce Friday that he had been hired to replace Lowell Galindo, a San Antonio, Texas, native, who will move to the new Longhorn Network.
“I'm thrilled,” Nowkhah said. “As most Oklahoma sports fans, I'm a college sports fanatic. To be able to solely focus on college sports and have the opportunity to go somewhere and really put my hands on something is great.”
Dan Steir, senior coordinating producer for ESPNU, said Nowkhah will be a good fit for the network. He is scheduled to make his debut later this month.
“He is really passionate about sports, specifically college sports,” Steir said. “I'm not going to say that his knowledge is unmatched, but he is really knowledgeable about the two biggest college sports and college sports in general. When you have a passion and knowledge, it equals success. He also has a great voice, delivery and presentation.”
Nowkhah will move from ESPN's massive campus in Bristol, Conn., to a one-building operation in Charlotte, N.C., where ESPNU is based. He already is familiar with the facility, having worked there Saturdays in the fall as a studio host for the SEC Network and ESPNU.
A native of Tulsa, Nowkhah graduated from Union High School in 1994 and OU in 1998. His father, Cy, an electrical engineer, migrated from Iran to the U.S. in 1969, and graduated from TU in 1975.
Dari grew up going to OU football games with his grandparents, longtime season ticket holders. As an OU student, he kept going to the games even though the Sooner program struggled.
“18-27-1, that was the football team's record with three head coaches in four years,” Nowkhah said. “When I was in college, it was, ‘Well, when's basketball season?' Kelvin Sampson had just come to OU. My first year there was his first year as basketball coach. We ripped off three wins against top-10 teams in a span of a week. We went from unranked to No. 13 and all of a sudden there was a little buzz.”
After graduating from OU, Nowkhah worked at TV stations in Kalispell, Mt., and Lincoln, Neb. In 2002, he returned to his hometown as the No. 3 sports anchor at KOTV-6, behind sports director John Holcomb and Mike Wolfe, and rarely anchored the sportscasts.
In 2004, his big break came at a time he was considering leaving the business. He said he and his wife, Jennifer, were considering moving to Charleston, S.C., and becoming teachers. But after hiring New York agent Steve Herz, he got an audition with ESPN. Ten weeks later, he was hired as an ESPNEWS anchor, jumping from a minor position in the No. 60 market to a network job.
Nowkhah plans to continue as co-host of ESPN Radio's weekly “Dari and Mel Show,” 7-11 a.m. Saturdays, with Mel Kiper Jr.
Nowkhah's family also is expanding this summer. His wife is expecting their third child (a boy) in mid-August to join Nicolas, 51/2, and Nahla, 20 months.
“It's been a busy summer,” he said.