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Column: Football title coverage too little, too much?

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Have you ever come upon a lake in early winter, noticed a sign that says “Thin ice, do not proceed,” but you drove your car out onto the lake anyway?

Figuratively, I’m jumping into one of those situations. Chances are I’m going to be all wet before I’m done.

This week’s topic: Coverage of the Columbus East high school football championship. Has The Republic’s volume of content been too much, too little or just right?

Of course, the answer depends on your individual point of view. But let’s start by considering the facts.

The Columbus community has only had two chances to welcome home a state championship football team. The first was in 1979, when Columbus East won the Class 3A state football championship. The second time was last weekend, when East won the 4A football crown.

Columbus North, or Columbus High School as it was known until 1972, has not yet won a state football high school title or even been in a state championship game.

In this debate — too much, too little or just the right amount of coverage for Columbus East football — numbers also make a case.

At least 60 cars joined in a caravan, following the Olympians to Lucas Oil Stadium on Game Day.

That’s from at least 200 people who came out to East High School that Saturday morning to provide a rousing sendoff — not to mention a city police car, with siren wailing, clearing a path — for the local team.

And at Lucas Oil Stadium, more than 3,000 local fans — East students, staff and alumni, and we assume a good number from North, too — watched the Olympians defeat Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger, 28-27. Tournament officials said there were more Columbus fans at the stadium than any other cheering contingent among the 12 participating high schools.

And after the game, more than 900 showed up to welcome the Olympians back home.

Never mind the score. If you just consider the fan support, the East cheering section would be a state champion itself.

But let’s turn our attention back to the local sports teams, their state championship successes through the years and our coverage.

Columbus East, which opened in fall 1972, has now won four state titles. Besides the two football crowns, it won state titles in girls swimming (1982-83) and girls gymnastics (1989-90).

Columbus High School/Columbus North, on the other hand, has earned 34 state championships, beginning with boys golf in 1933 and most recently with boys soccer in October 2012. Besides those sports, North teams also have won team state championships in boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls gymnastics, and boys and girls swimming.

No doubt about it, that’s quite an impressive run.

If you’re wondering how we played North’s 2012 state title in boys soccer, it was the dominant story and photo on the front page of the Oct. 8, 2012 newspaper, with the page’s dominant heading: CHAMPS.

The state championship also got great play that day in Sports, as you would expect.

Here’s how we determine how state-title competition will be covered:

Win a team championship, earn a Republic front-page centerpiece.

Win an individual championship, earn a smaller front-page story in The Republic.

With any lesser outcome, coverage — with rare exceptions — is limited to the sports section.

At every newspaper I’ve worked, where there has been at least two local high schools in the main coverage area, we have had competing inch-counters. These are fans that get out a ruler and measure the length of each story, and then keep a running score — my school vs. the other school.

That’s fine. Coverage ought to be fair and balanced.

That is why we established policies for elevating a story to the front page of the newspaper when certain benchmarks are met.

So let’s wind up this chapter of the discussion for today. Did we give the East football title too much coverage, too little coverage or just the right amount?

Several readers have already given us their answer, based on “Onions” or “Orchids” published over the past week’s edition.

But before the rest of you answer, could someone throw me a towel?

Tom Jekel is editor of The Republic. His column appears each Sunday. You may reach him by phone at 379-5665 or by email at

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