Carley McCord

Carley McCord

Carley McCord's family plans to honor the beloved Louisiana sports reporter through a memorial scholarship fund in her name at her alma mater, Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.

McCord's sister Kaleigh McCord-Pederson, who celebrated her 32nd birthday Sunday, said the scholarship's creation was the best way to mark losing her younger sister in a small plane crash in Lafayette a day earlier.

"Carley would be so excited about this scholarship," McCord-Pedersen said Sunday evening. "She would have been ecstatic. She was so, so enthusiastic about women in sports. It was such a big deal for her that women got the opportunity to have the career in sports that men can have." 

McCord's friend and fellow NSU alumna Mary McCowen LeBlanc created the namesake scholarship Sunday through the Northwestern State University Foundation and Alumni Association on the organization's website.

McCord's family has asked the public to donate to the fund in lieu of flowers.

"Carley hated flowers," McCord-Pedersen said. "She truly hated them. I don't know why she had such a grudge against flowers. She didn't like something that would die, I guess. This is how she would have wanted it. She would have truly loved this."

The scholarship will go to a woman pursuing a career in sports journalism at NSU, according to McCord-Pedersen. The family will be able to review applications and choose a recipient each year.

McCord-Pederson said the only donations in her sister's memory the family has approved are for the scholarship fund.

"We do not want money coming to our family," McCord-Pedersen said. "Funeral costs are taken care of."

McCord graduated from NSU in Natchitoches in 2011. She later went to LSU.

The 30-year-old sports journalist was born and raised in Baton Rouge. Her most recent position was as a digital media reporter for the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches and the in-game host for the New Orleans Saints of the NFL and the New Orleans Pelicans of the NBA.

When she wasn't busy covering sports, McCord taught English online to children in China and worked as a substitute teacher, according to her sister.

"She would have loved this scholarship because it helps women get a big break, you know?" McCord-Pedersen said. "And then once you get the break, you've got to work for it every day. And she did. I just want people to know that my sister loved what she did."

McCord was one of five victims who died in the Saturday morning plane crash, along with pilot Ian Biggs and passengers Gretchen Vincent, Michael "Walker" Vincent and Robert Crisp II. A sixth passenger, Stephen "Wade" Berzas, survived the crash but is in critical condition at Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center in Lafayette.

The twin-engine plane crashed into the parking lot of a post office at the intersection of Verot School and Feu Follet roads in Lafayette at about 9:20 a.m. Saturday. Three on the ground were injured, including one in a car fully engulfed in flames.

The woman in the car, Danielle Truxillo Britt, survived but is hospitalized at University Medical Center in New Orleans, where she's expected to stay for about four weeks, according to her husband.

McCord had accepted a last-minute invitation from her friend and fellow victim, Gretchen Vincent, to take the small plane to the Peach Bowl in Atlanta, according to her sister.

"It was a last-minute decision for her to go on the trip. It was just last-minute," McCord-Pedersen said. "She had to go to cover the game, but she was going to have to drive to Atlanta by herself. It was just easier for her to get on this plane since she was friends with Gretchen."

McCord was married to Steven Ensminger Jr., the son of LSU's offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger, who was preparing to coach the LSU Tigers to a 63-28 victory over the Oklahoma Sooners at the time of the crash.

The younger Ensminger updated his Instagram bio Sunday in honor of his wife.

"Proverbs 3:5-6," the bio said. "Married to Carley McCord. I'll miss you so much! I'll never be the same without you Carley! You are, and will forever be my world!"

The referenced Bible verses say this: "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths."

A public memorial service is being planned for next weekend in Baton Rouge in McCord's honor, according to her sister. The details will likely be confirmed and announced Monday, she said.

In the meantime, the family is asking for privacy during this time of mourning.

"We are all so thankful for all of the outreach," McCord-Pedersen said. "We're mourning right now, and we're not reaching back out to everybody. Please let us mourn in peace."

McCord-Pedersen said she will forever cherish her final memory with her sister from Christmas Day.

"She didn't think she was going to have time to come over, but she came anyway," McCord-Pedersen said. "And she jumped on my kids' new trampoline with them. That's very special to me."

In addition to the scholarship in her sister's memory, McCord-Pedersen said she received another birthday gift she's thankful for — a jacket McCord purchased for her while shopping with their mom the day before the plane crash.

View the scholarship or contribute a donation by visiting northwesternstatealumni.com/donations/carley-mccord-memorial-scholarship

Advocate staff writer Katelyn Umholtz contributed to this report.

Contact Megan Wyatt at mwyatt@theadvocate.com.