BY DEAN HOCKNEY
KOKOMO, Ind. – Every Kokomo basketball fan knows his voice, but few know who is behind the public address microphone inside Memorial Gymnasium. Terry Downham has served as the statistician – and now announcer – for Haworth and Kokomo basketball for decades. But while his booming and distinctive voice is easily recognized, it is his work behind the scenes of Kokomo athletics that has garnered the attention of sports journalists around the state.
On Jan. 17, the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association announced its 2017 Hall of Fame class and annual award winners. This year, a familiar name will take the stage as a winner of one of the individual awards as Downham was named the Bob Williams Helping Hand Awards recipient.
“This is totally unexpected,” said Downham prior to a road trip to Huntington North to keep the scorebook for the Kats boys basketball team. “When (ISSA board member) Greg Rakestraw emailed me and asked me for a bio – it totally shocked me.”
The retired Haworth and Kokomo math teacher has been assisting those covering high school sports in Kokomo for more than 40 years and is widely regarded as the best high school sports information director in the Hoosier state.
“Terry is a God-send from a media perspective,” said Chris Lowry, radio voice of the Wildkats on WIOU. “Every week, he sends us information via email and I joke with him that he actually makes my job tougher – he sends me so much info that I have no excuse to not be prepared for a game.”
Downham first served as the statistician for Haworth in 1973 as a student teacher, but really got involved when he was hired as a full-time math teacher in the fall of 1974. He quickly became the official scorer for the Husky boys squad and was the scorer and PA announcer for the girls.
In 1984, when Kokomo and Haworth consolidated, then Athletic Director Ron Barsh bestowed the title of sports information director on the new Wildkat. Since then, he has served as the official statistician for the football and basketball programs while also providing information for other athletic programs in the school. He is the voice of the Lady Wildkats softball team and is a statistician for the Kokomo Relays and IHSAA track meets at Walter Cross Field.
Downham, who previously served as the longtime secretary of the North Central Conference and currently serves in that position with the Howard County Sports Hall of Fame, has gained fame around the state for the information he provides prior to games – especially when the Kats are in the state tournament. He regularly produces a “Media Minutes” that can be 20 to 30 pages of current stats and data along with a history of the two teams. His Media Minutes rivals some NCAA Division I programs when it comes to game-day information. In addition, he assists the KHS athletic department with its daily Kat Chatter.
“People in the North Central Conference probably know me and most of the media in the area know me, but in Southern Indiana they probably had no clue,” he said. “That is why I was surprised to get this award from a statewide organization. It is humbling.”
When asked what his favorite sport was, his coy response was, “It depends on what season it is.” But he did have some favorite memories of covering the Kats.
“That would have to be the state championships,” said Downham. “Starting with Mike Smith and the 1985 state champion baseball team; I worked closely with Mike for years. And the basketball teams that have made it to the state finals are always fun.”
Wildkat Athletic Director Jason Snyder was thrilled with Downham being selected for the award.
“This is a perfect fit for an award for Terry Downham,” said Snyder, who has worked with Downham as a player, coach and AD. Terry not only assists with getting and collecting sports information, but the research he does for us and the conference is second-to-none. Anyone who has played a game at Memorial Gym or played in a tournament game against Kokomo can attest to the unbelievable information and media packet Terry puts together.”
While a fixture at KHS, Downham is also known for working other big events around the state. He is the public address announcer for the Indiana All-Stars at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (along with other duties), is an original member of the Indianapolis Colts game-day crew in the press box, is the co-official scorer for the Kokomo Jackrabbits and has served his alma mater Purdue University on the football stat team for decades. He also assisted the namesake of his award, Bob Williams, with game-day operations at the IHSAA basketball state finals when it was played in the RCA Dome. In 2011, Downham was recognized by the Sports Journal as the first recipient of the Publishers Award for Excellence in Sports.
“With his experience working with Purdue football and the Colts, he has seen top-level, professional work, and he strives to bring that to everything we do at Kokomo,” said Snyder. “I am so blessed to have him be a part of our athletic department. Not only does he bring that information that you can rarely find, but he wants to make sure what we put out is correct and meaningful. He has a professional setup and it is done in a professional manner.”
“He has a passion for researching sports and numbers, and that stems from his tenure as a math teacher,” added Lowry. “And I love talking to him because he is just a great person; a great guy. He is one of those guys that if you need something, he would do everything in his power to make it happen. I don’t know how he has time for everything – he is retired from teaching but puts in more hours than most people with full-time jobs.”
Downham will be honored as part of the 22nd Annual ISSA Awards Banquet on April 9 at the Valle Vista Golf Club in Greenwood. Other award winners being recognized are Chuck Freeby of WHME in South Bend (Marv Bates Sportscaster of the Year), James Peters of the Times of Northwest Indiana (Corky Lamm Sportswriters of the Year) and Rex Kirts of the Bloomington Herald-Times (Ron Lemasters Lifetime Achievement Award).
The highlight of the banquet will be the induction of the ISSA Hall of Fame class of 2017, which includes: Bill Benner, former reporter/columnist for the Indianapolis Star and News; Reggie Hayes of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel; Jim Brunner of WBAT/WMRI in Marion; Dan Egierski of WEOA in Evansville; Arv Koontz of the Seymour Tribune; and the late Bob Simmers of WITZ in Jasper. The Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association was founded in 1946. The ISSA created its Hall of Fame 50 years later and currently has 105 inductees.