Alum makes Super Bowl reporting debut

February 12, 2021

Spider Pride

When sports anchor and UR journalism alum Karen Loftus moved to Tampa, Florida’s major sports teams went on a championship run. Loftus, who graduated in 2006, has witnessed first-hand the turnaround — including this year’s Super Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

“Tampa sports have been slightly sub-par, and then I happened to arrive and they just took off,” Loftus said. “The Lightning won the Stanley Cup, the Rays made it to the World Series, the Rowdies won the USL Eastern Conference Championship, and then the Bucs won the Super Bowl. Everyone’s calling it Champa Bay. It’s kind of cheesy, but I’m here for it."

Loftus made the move from New Orleans to Tampa’s NBC affiliate, WFLA, in January 2020 right before the global pandemic affected all facets of life, including sports. The unusual year prevented normal access to games and players, but the restrictions in some ways made it even more memorable. And it’s the first time in history that an NFL team not only got to play, but win, in its home stadium in the Super Bowl.

 

I want to be the most knowledgeable person about whatever I’m covering.
Karen Loftus

“To be a part of history is unbelievable,” she said. “To see what Tampa Bay was able to do this season and to be a part of it every step of the way is the best part.”

Normally, reporters are in the locker room or at practice talking to players every day face-to-face, Loftus said, but she has yet to meet a single Buccaneer player in person because of COVID-19. All interviews have taken place over Zoom, including the media days with hundreds of outlets around the world leading up to the big game. Loftus said the most memorable part of her first Super Bowl was posing questions to Tampa’s star quarterback. 

“Tom Brady had three availabilities during media week, and at least twice I got to ask him a question,” she said. “Everybody in the sports world was on this Zoom — I’m talking international reporters from ESPN Brazil and Sky Sports — and I got called on to ask Brady questions. That was a moment I stopped and thought, ‘Okay that was really cool.’”

Loftus’ coverage of Super Bowl week coincided with National Girls and Women in Sports Day on Feb. 3. Fittingly, this Super Bowl was a historic milestone for women in sports — Sarah Thomas became the first woman in NFL history to officiate a Super Bowl, and Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar became the first female coaches on an NFL championship team. But while some barriers for women in sports are being broken, there are times when Loftus said she is either the only woman or one of two at a major press conference or in the locker room. 

“I work very hard and I pride myself on working harder than anyone else to be the most prepared in the room, so no one has even a hint of a chance to say that I don’t know what I’m talking about because I’m a woman,” she said. “I don’t even give people the opportunity to let somebody say that about me. I want to be the most knowledgeable person about whatever I’m covering. Period.” 

Every outlet had just one seat in the press box for the Super Bowl, and Loftus’ station needed a live presence right outside the stadium immediately before and after the game. 

“I held it down for the pregame hits outside the stadium, a two-hour post-game show, and a live broadcast across the entire Tampa region,” she said. “As a sports reporter, those are the moments you live for — the biggest stage right after a game and getting to talk about the team you’re covering winning a world championship.”

She also said there was no time to be star struck, which isn’t her style anyway.

“I really tried to be intentional this week leading up to the Super Bowl with appreciating where I am in my career and acknowledging the magnitude of this moment,” she said. 

Before Tampa, Loftus lived in New Orleans covering the Saints, Pelicans, LSU, and Tulane. She started her career in Hagerstown, Maryland, and Roanoke, Virginia, covering everything from the ACC to NASCAR.  While at UR, Loftus studied journalism after making the switch from biology during her second year.