Arv Koontz sat inside Edinburgh High School on Friday night covering a sectional semifinal basketball game between Medora and West Washington.
With a Diet Coke in front of him and his wife, Bonnie, seated behind him, Koontz kept stats while the Hornets and Senators battled for a spot in the sectional title game.
For Koontz, it was just another night covering another game. But last week marked the 50th year he has been writing for The Tribune and covering Jackson County athletics.
On Feb. 28, The Tribune held a celebration to honor Koontz, framing his first-ever story, which just so happened to be a boys basketball Seymour Regional preview that was published on March 2, 1972. There was cake and even big balloons that say “50” that still hover in the sports office today.
Before coming to The Tribune in March 1972, Koontz covered sports in DeKalb, Illinois, for 11 years. He worked at The Tribune until 2001 when he went to The Jackson County Banner, then returned to The Tribune in 2007 and has been there ever since.
Something he has enjoyed about the job is that it never gets stale.
“What I have enjoyed about the job is that the high school seasons change every couple months, from fall sports to winter sports to spring sports,” he said. “The fall and spring sports seasons have become longer. It seems like fall sports used to start around Labor Day and spring sports ended around Memorial Day.
“Now, with school starting in early August, some fall sports begin in early to mid-August, and a lot sectionals for spring sports are held around Memorial Day and most of the state meets are held in June.”
Since he came to Seymour, he said all five county teams have built new gymnasiums.
“Medora moved into its new gymnasium in 1986, and classes began being held at Trinity Lutheran High School in January 2003,” he said. “Seymour, Brownstown Central and Crothersville added auxiliary gyms to their schools.”
In addition to where the games are played, he also has seen the games themselves evolve over the years. For example, he remembers when the 3-point shot was added to the game of basketball at the beginning of the 1987-88 season.
He said Darin Downs of Medora is believed to be one of the first players in the state and the first player from Jackson County to make a 3-point shot. That came on Nov. 6, 1987, against Orleans at home.
The high school sports scene was shaken up in 1996 when class sports came into play.
“Seymour, Crothersville and Medora are all in different conferences than they were 50 years ago,” he said. “Brownstown Central has been a member of the Mid-Southern Conference since 1965.”
When reflecting on other big changes he has seen, Koontz also pointed out the addition of turf fields for many outdoor sports.
“Seymour and Brownstown Central have turf football fields, and Seymour has a turf soccer field,” he said. “Some of the Jackson County high schools will play on away turf baseball fields in the spring.”
With all those changes over the last 50 years, one thing has remained the same — Koontz’s precise, thorough and objective reporting.
Koontz estimated he has covered more than 1,600 high school basketball games in 85 gyms in Indiana, and he wrote about five Seymour girls who were named Indiana All-Stars.
He worked with six Seymour coaches who were inducted into basketball, football, golf, swimming and wrestling halls of fame. He covered state finals in seven (12 if you count boys and girls) different sports and saw Seymour win state championships in girls golf, boys golf and baseball and athletes from Seymour and Brownstown who were individual state champions in track, swimming and golf.
He also covered the 2000 USA Olympic swim trials in Indianapolis when Seymour’s Patrick Calhoun made the Olympic team.
He was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame in April 2017, and that was added to a long list of accolades that came before that.
Through all of Jackson County’s athletic tragedies and triumphs, Koontz has been there for it all with a pen and pad.
A popular joke last week during his 50-year celebration was, “What’s next, Arv? 50 more years of reporting?”
Koontz would laugh, “I don’t know about another 50.”
His name has become synonymous with Jackson County athletics, and it’s all because of the hard work and journalistic integrity he has brought and continues to bring to covering the county’s teams, coaches and athletes.