Long before coming to Kokomo, teaching math and working with the athletic programs at Kokomo High School, Terry Downham would crunch numbers for fun.
In the 1960s, if you wanted to keep track of stats of your favorite team, you had to do that on your own.
“In high school and college, I was a big New York Yankees fan, so I would go through the box scores daily, putting my love of numbers and the Yankees together,” Downham recalled.
Back then, he didn’t know how useful those interests would become.
Downham arrived in Kokomo as a student teacher at Haworth in 1973. His love of numbers and sports led him to keep stats for the baseball team, then he got more involved with stats for football and basketball. When Kokomo consolidated Haworth and Kokomo high schools, a sports information director position was created for Downham and he flourished.
He provided deeper numbers, charts, kept records, generated Kat Chatter news and notes, and enriched historical perspective for the KHS squads for nearly four decades. His contributions proved invaluable to media covering the Kats. Now, that run is coming to an end.
Downham turned in his letter of resignation earlier this month to formally retire from the post. He’d previously retired from teaching at KHS in 2007. Even though he loves the games and the numbers, 37 years was enough. The grind of lugging equipment and getting to all the games took a toll.
“I’ll actually miss — although I don’t want to do it — I’ll miss seeing every single basketball game,” Downham said. “Driving at night, going through heck like we did last year when it was icy and snowy, and long drives to Richmond, I’m not going to miss those. But I will miss the actual basketball games.
“Over the years … 37 years, there have been some places where I’ve gotten a great relationship with the athletic directors or scorekeepers at other schools and I will miss those people.”
However, just as he became entrenched in Kokomo athletics gradually, he’s not planning to leave KHS or sports outright just because he gives up the job as sports information director. Many people outside the KHS programs know him as the voice of Wildkat volleyball, basketball and softball games and he hopes to continue those roles, as well as help keeping stats for football, and helping with softball and the Kokomo Relays.
Downham is also a spotter for the PA at Purdue football games, and part of the stat crew for the Colts.
Kokomo schools have kept him busy since he first got involved in 1973, when he started taking tickets at football games at Haworth while he was a student teacher. That led to more in-depth opportunities.
“I loved being a math teacher, loved numbers so that kind of put two of my loves together so I started to do that,” Downham said of keeping stats for the baseball team. “After a year or so of doing that, I wrote a program that would keep stats on a computer. After the baseball program I wrote, the football coaches saw that was a pretty neat thing, so I wrote another program for football, and basketball followed suit.”
Kokomo and Haworth merged in 1984, then athletic director Ron Barsch and assistant Mark Masariu created the SID position for Downham.
There have been a lot of highlights along the way. Among the favorite memories are Kokomo’s trip to the IHSAA baseball state finals in 1985, when he got a shoutout from Jerry Baker — the voice of many Indiana sporting events — over the PA at the stadium for his media guide, Kokomo’s girls basketball championships, and the boys team’s trips to state.
In his resignation letter to current Kokomo AD Nick Sale, Downham imparted his appreciation for the people he’s worked with, from Barsh and Masariu who created the position, to those that helped him in all facets of the job.
“It’s really been a pleasure to work with the athletic directors and I mentioned all five of them I worked for, and the athletic secretaries have been great to work with. A lot of the things I’ve done I couldn’t do without help. I mentioned in the letter there Bob Wininger been helping out with basketball and football for quite a few years.
“The computer aspects, we brought in some software that I tried to, I could do, but when we started using students who grew up on the computers and could operate the computer a lot faster than I could, things got a lot easier for me. Guys like Abraham Stamper and Patrick Barrett have been doing this a long time now after we recruited them as students at Kokomo High School.”
Downham’s work is largely behind the scenes but occupies a lot of time not seen in public. When reached for this interview he was working on the girls basketball yearbook with help from his wife, Judy.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my family,” Downham said. “My wife has been my No. 1 fan for all these years. She helps me proofread and with a lot of other things.
“[Our kids] turned out to be athletes and my oldest, Jennifer, had 12 varsity letters at Carroll, and my youngest [Stephanie] had seven. They were always involved and I always tried to do stuff at Kokomo and Carroll, and tried not to miss very many contests at Kokomo and Carroll. And Judy was the glue that held all that stuff together.”
Now that he’s stepping away from responsibilities as SID, he hopes Kokomo elects to keep rolling with a position he filled from its inception.
“The one thing that I would hope is Kokomo High School would continue to have an SID,” Downham said. “I’d hate to see what I’ve done, the records I’ve kept for 37 years, fall by the wayside. So hopefully they’ll find someone. I told Nick that I would help with the transition and help out whomever they would hire to replace me.”