Archive for December 27, 2015


Matt Howard


KOKOMO, Ind. - When Matt Howard arrived in Kokomo last May, he had no idea what to expect as the first base coach for the expansion Kokomo Jackrabbits. But once the season started, there were the large crowds and the unfinished but award-winning stadium. And then there was the termination. No, not his termination, but the termination of the first Jackrabbits field manager that resulted in Howard taking over the team mid-season. No, he did not see any of that coming at all.

Five months later, Jackrabbits ownership removed the interim tag from Howard and named him the field manager for the 2016 season. But now, he knows what to expect.

“I am a baseball guy,” said the 26 year-old Howard. “I am chasing the dream of becoming a college baseball coach. Kokomo is a really good spot to be and I couldn’t ask for a better situation. Anytime you have a first year, you don’t know what you are going to get; but despite the firing, I think we did a good job of keeping the ship moving.”

Howard took over a team whose identity seemed to be about on-field temper tantrums, mostly courtesy of the first manager. Once Howard took over, the team made a run for the playoffs, finishing 15-15 under his watch and coming within one game of a Prospect League playoff berth. In fact, it was not until after the final game fireworks display – and an incredible walk-off win to close the season – that Danville defeated Terre Haute to knock the Rabbits out of the playoff picture.

Now it is time for Howard to lead the squad for an entire campaign, much to the delight of MKE Sports and Entertainment, the ownership group of the Kokomo franchise.

“Matt’s return to Kokomo gives us great confidence heading into this season,” said Dan Kuenzi, senior vice president of operations for MKE Sports. “We have a roster packed with elite talent from around the country. He carries himself on the field like a big league manager and that is what we want with our franchise. That confidence will carry over to our players who are here trying to be just that, big leaguers. With Matt leading the way this season, we feel a championship is within reach.”

Howard agrees, saying the 2016 roster is 100 percent revamped and will feature speed on the bases coupled with some long ball hitters.

“The roster, as of right now, is 100 percent full,” said Howard, who is in Kokomo as a full-time employee of MKE Sports, which also owns the Lafayette Aviators squad. “We have a good group. We have put together a roster of guys from all over the country and from different divisions; small schools and big schools. We looked for players that wanted to play every night and could win ball games. I think we have the right roster to win.”

The son of a legendary Philadelphia disk jockey, Rolls Royce Howard, arrived in Kokomo after a solid collegiate baseball career and three seasons in the Frontier League. He is a 2011 graduate of Slippery Rock University, where he played two seasons for the NCAA Division II program. As a senior, he hit .401 and was named the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division Player of the Year as well as earning All-American honorable mention status. As a junior, he hit .395 and was named a second team All-Atlantic Region performer. At LaSalle College High School, he was named first team All-Catholic League in baseball and track while leading the baseball team to the 2005 Catholic League title.

On the field, Howard also knows a little about winning a championship. He twice played in the Major League Baseball-funded RBI World Series. In 2007, his Philadelphia Phillies squad defeated defending champion Los Angeles 2-1 in Dodger Stadium to win the prestigious 2007 Senior Boys championship for 16-18 year-olds. He was also a two-time winner of the 60-yard dash competition held during Workout Day at the World Series. He will take all of that winning experience onto the Jackrabbits field.

“The guys will get here May 24, and we will put them through some light workouts and see where we will go with a rotation and batting order,” said Howard. “We have a couple of guys from Butler University. We have two from the SEC in Missouri, which is huge for us to get into the SEC and will open our doors to big schools going forward. We have some big boys coming to town and our pitching staff should be strong.”

Howard is also excited about the Prospect League All-Star game coming to Kokomo Municipal Stadium next season.

“A lot of people are excited about the All-Star game coming to Kokomo,” he said. “And not just people form Kokomo. When I went to the Prospect League All-Star game last year in Richmond, people were saying they wished it was in Kokomo. We should put on a good show for everyone and hopefully have some players on the field as well.”

Howard said with Kokomo being an expansion team last year, he was surprised by the way the city rallied around the team and its players. Kokomo was third in the Prospect League in overall attendance.

“There is no better place to play than in Kokomo in the summertime,” he said. “With the way the community supports us and the way people pile into the stadium – I have never seen anything like it before. I am excited for the new season. And it is only going to get better in the future.”

The manager said he also wants the Jackrabbits players to give-back to the local area.

“We want to become a part of the community – we want our guys to get out in the community, not just play in the community,” said Howard. “That is important, especially with how the community supports us.”

The Kokomo Jackrabbits season begins at home on May 27 when the new squad from Lisle, Illinois, visits Municipal Stadium. For more information on the team or to purchase tickets for the 2016 season, visit



The following was released by the Indiana High School Athletic Association on December 21, 2015:

With the 2015 high school football season in the rearview mirror, Commissioner Bobby Cox recently communicated with school administrators and football head coaches of continuing efforts to minimize the risk of concussions.

Playing the nation’s most popular sport with more than one million participants coast‐to‐coast, there is certainly a degree of risk assumed in the full‐contact, collision sport of high school football. But the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) remain committed to player safety.

Through the NFHS rules‐writing process, the use of online courses available to anyone at, and the adoption of state laws and protocols for managing concussion, attempts to educate and minimize player risk is at an all‐ time level. Information also is available within NFHS rules books, at and IHSAA publications.

“High school football in our state has grown to enjoy its largest participation and the greatest number of member schools participating in our tournament series,” says Cox. “With state laws and rules administration in place to govern removing individuals from games who exhibit concussion‐like symptoms, to the reduction of contact in practices, and the continued education and awareness efforts, the focus on risk minimization has never been higher.”

Within the past 10 years, the following are some of the important steps taken by the NFHS and IHSAA to manage the risk of concussions in not just football – but in all high school sports:

  • 2005‐present – Through the National High School Sports‐Related Injury Surveillance System and Dr. Dawn Comstock, the NFHS and its member associations have used comprehensive injury data as a resource in the rules‐writing process to reduce risk of future injuries.
  • 2008 – The NFHS Sports Medicine Advisory Committee advocated that a concussed athlete must be removed from play and not allowed to play on the same day. The IHSAA followed the lead of the NFHS and began to develop its own concussion protocol.
  • 2009‐present – All NFHS rules publications have contained guidelines for management of a student exhibiting signs, symptoms or behaviors consistent with a concussion. Such player shall be immediately removed from the contest and shall not return to play until cleared by an appropriate health‐care professional.
  • 2010 – The NFHS developed its “Concussion in Sport” online course at  This course is mandatory for every high school football coach in Indiana.
  • 2011‐2012 – The NFHS Football Rules Committee adopted “Concussions Related to Proper Use of the Helmet” as a Point of Emphasis.
  • 2013‐14 – The Indiana Football Coaches Association proposes language to the IHSAA speaking to pre‐season and summer time limitations on activity days and full contact.  The IHSAA unanimously approves the new language into its by‐laws.
  • 2014 – Indiana becomes the first state in the nation to require concussion awareness training for high school and youth football coaches.  The legislation authored by Senator Travis Holdman, R‐Markle also calls for a 24 hour waiting period for a youth football player suspected of suffering a concussion.
  • 2014 – The NFHS Concussion Summit Task Force met in Indianapolis and adopted recommendations for reducing the amount of full contact in practices. State associations crafted their own policies based on these recommendations for implementation in the 2015 football season.
  • 2014 – The NFHS Football Rules Committee adopted a definition and penalty for targeting aimed at preventing players from hitting an opponent – primarily with the helmet – above the shoulders.
  • 2014‐15 – The IHSAA develops an online tracking system whereby member schools may report a concussive event involving a student athlete in or out of the school setting.  Athletic trainers report statistics to the IHSAA for data comparisons and study.
  • 2015‐16 – The Indiana Football Coaches Association continues discussions about live contact focusing on in‐ season practices.

With the topic of brain injury on the conscience of the sports‐minded in recent years, it is important to know that the NFHS Football Rules Committee has made risk minimization its No. 1 priority and will do so again in January 2016 when it meets to examine the state of the game and address the needs of the students who play the sport.  Equally, the IHSAA continues to work collaboratively with the Indiana Football Coaches Association (IFCA), the NFHS and other allied organizations to ensure the health and safety of our student athletes


Angela Blessing, new KHS principal

Angela Blessing, new KHS principal

This story first appeared and is courtesy of the Kokomo Herald


KOKOMO, Ind. - In Kokomo High School’s long 143-year history, it has never had a female principal – until now. In a special school board meeting on Dec. 16, Angela Blessing was named the 22nd principal of the 38th largest high school in the state – and in the process, she made gender-breaking history.

“Gender never crossed my mind; I have always respected Kokomo Schools for hiring the best qualified candidates,” said Blessing. “I am honored and very excited to be given this opportunity by the (Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald) and our school board. Their support during my time at Kokomo Schools, as well as the fact that our family has fallen in love with the Kokomo community, were major factors why I did not hesitate to say ‘yes’ when offered this position.”

Blessing is currently the principal of Bon Air Middle School, but she will relinquish that position as her high school contract starts on Dec. 17 and official duties on Jan. 4, 2016. She replaces Tony Harl, who abruptly submitted his resignation last month after a little more than a year on the job. His resignation was submitted for the end of the school year and it is unclear if it was Harl or the corporation’s decision to make the change at the end of the semester. Harl’s departure continued the current trend of short-term tenures of Wildkat leaders – Blessing will be the sixth KHS principal since 2008, joining Dr. Doug Arnold (2008-2010), Alan Ramaly (2010-2011), Rick Hagenow (2011-2013), Dr. Michael Sargent (interim in 2013-2014) and Harl.

Despite the frequent turnover, KSC Assistant Superintendent Dr. Mike Sargent believes Blessing is the right choice.

“Angela will focus on building relationships with students and families at Kokomo High School,” Sargent said. “She will provide positive learning experiences for our high school students, and she has proven her leadership skills at Bon Air.”

Blessing arrived in the school corporation in June 2014 – she was hired at the same board meeting Harl. She previously was the principal at Northridge Middle School in Crawfordsville for eight years. She also served for eight years as a teacher and assistant principal at Carmel’s Towne Meadow Elementary School. She earned her BA from Anderson University and her MS from Butler University. Blessing said she now considers Kokomo home.

“The Blessing family has planted roots, and we plan to stay in Kokomo and at Kokomo Schools,” she said. “My husband Aaron is a teacher and coach in the Kokomo Schools, while our son A.J. is a 4th-grader at Boulevard STEM Elementary and the baby, 3-year-old Aiden, will be attending preschool at Boulevard starting next school year.”

Blessing said she came to Kokomo originally because of the progressive nature of the corporation and its vision to the future.

“I am looking forward to becoming the KHS principal because so many incredible programs are available to our students, like the career center, IB, AP, STEM, 21st Century, technology, international students and exchanges,” she explained. “I am excited to build upon the programs in place while showcasing the great things happening at KHS to our community.”

She also does not see an issue with moving from the middle school level to the high school.

“The KHS vice principals are excellent people with great leadership skills,” she said. “I know they will be very helpful as I transition from middle school to high school.”

Harl, whose resignation was approved by the board at the regular December meeting, will serve as operations supervisor beginning Dec. 28. He will assist Director of Operations Mike Wade through the end of the school year.

Amanda Landrum, the current technology curriculum supervisor at Bon Air, was named the interim principal at Bon Air Middle School. Prior to working at Bon Air. Landrum taught social studies at Central Middle School and served as the district’s elementary library media specialist.

Principals through the years

A complete listing of Kokomo High School principals since its founding at the northwest corner of Armstrong and Taylor Streets in 1872:

1. 1872-1873 - J.F. Vaile

2. 1873-1876 - C.M. Harrison

3. 1876-1878 - Bessie Cox

4. 1878-1879 - W.H McClain

5. 1879-1880 - J.M. Hitt

6. 1880-1881 - A.C. Hopkins

7. 1881-1983 - H.G. Woody

8. 1893-1894 - E.B. Bryan

9. 1894-1909 - J.Z.A. McCaughan

10. 1909-1913 - C.V. Haworth

11. 1913-1915 - E.O. Maple

12. 1915-1951 - C.E. Hinshaw

13. 1951-1964 - O.I. Farmer

14. 1964-1968 - Kenneth Crook

15. 1968-1989 - Frank Moore

16. 1989-2008 - Harold Canady

17. 2008-2010 - Dr. Doug Arnold

18. 2010-2011 - Alan Ramaly

19. 2011-2013 - Rick Hagenow

20. 2013-2014 (interim) - Dr. Michael Sargent

21. 2014-Dec. 2015 - Tony Harl

22. Dec. 2015-current - Angela Blessing