WASHINGTON — Less than an hour before he went on air for ESPN, college basketball analyst Dan Dakich received a text message no parent ever wants to see.
His son, Andrew Dakich, a senior on the Michigan basketball team, was on the plane Wednesday that skidded off the runway at Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich.
“My son sent me a text that said, ‘We’ve been in a plane crash’ in a group to my ex-wife, myself and my daughter,” Dan Dakich told Land of 10 on Thursday before Michigan played Illinois at Verizon Center. “I was like, ‘Holy (expletive),’ right? Then, two minutes later, I got another text that was just, ‘Oh my gosh.’ After that I just kept calling him and got a hold of him and found out everyone was OK.
“I don’t think any of us understood the magnitude of it, and then pictures started to surface and it was like, ‘That could have gone bad a thousand different ways.’ We just kept communicating with him throughout the day.”
Everyone on the plane was fine after the incident, but it did cause the team to stay in Michigan for an extra day. The Wolverines woke up early Thursday and flew to Washington’s Dulles International Airport.
They landed just before 9 a.m. ET but didn’t arrive at Verizon Center until after 10:30 a.m. because of traffic. The game was pushed back from a scheduled tip time of noon ET to 12:20 p.m., and the contest actually started around 12:30.
“I took a walk this morning with my producer and director, and we were talking about it. I don’t think there has ever been anything like this, where a team got in a plane accident and had to play the next day,” Dakich said. “Butler had a thing where the plane lost electricity and they thought they were going down. They had to play like three or four days later.
“We were talking about like, ‘What do you think?’ I have no idea. I don’t know if they’ll be ready, not ready. Kids are pretty resilient, but I know the whole group was kind of shook up. Hopefully a night’s sleep, get up and get go. I want to know how does Vegas figure this line out? How do they know?”
Dakich was already out on the court at Verizon Center going through his pre-game prep work for the first game of the 2017 Big Ten tournament between Penn State and Nebraska when his son texted him. He knew his son was OK before he had to go on air, but it was still a very different experience for him than a normal broadcast.
“I think I was a little distracted,” Dakich said. “They wanted me to address it as a parent, and that was fine, but I was distracted. In the first five minutes of the game, I don’t usually keep my phone with me, but I did, and my son called me. I was like, ‘Oh no, what now?’ I hit him back during a break and he said he just wanted me to know everything was fine and he was back at the hotel.”
Dakich said he told his son that the players, band members and cheerleaders who were on the plane will all have a good story to tell people for years to come. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t a scary few minutes for him, especially because of his son’s first two text messages.
“It was great that I got a text, but we’ve got to put in a new family rule: Don’t bury the lead,” he said. “If it is a crash or an accident, fine, but lead with ‘Everyone is fine. We got off the plane.’
“I’ve never seen anything like it. Thankfully everyone is OK.”