STEVE HANLON: Football is indeed Indiana's game now

2013-11-28T17:57:00Z 2014-06-24T21:07:29Z STEVE HANLON: Football is indeed Indiana's game nowSteve Hanlon Prep Beat nwitimes.com
November 28, 2013 5:57 pm  • 

INDIANAPOLIS | Things looked bleak in 2009. The IHSAA was looking to move the state football championships potentially outside of Indianapolis. Or, outside. How would Andrean fans think of that today in Indianapolis.

Mittens. Ear muffs. Thermos of coffee. Forget the Class 3A state championship game, I'm going to the car. Where are the keys?

The high cost of holding the state finals at the then new Lucas Oil Stadium had the IHSAA looking for its leg warmers. But the Indianapolis Colts stepped up. Big time.

They became the sponsor of the IHSAA state football tournament in 2009. They will host the six state championships this weekend. And for the first time ever the Colts will present the Mental Attitude Award winner after each game.

"This place is amazing," Andrean coach Phil Mason said at Monday's news conference for the 41st state tournament. "You get the chills walking around in here. It's a great opportunity for the kids to play in a place like this."

In 2009 the Colts were the only NFL team to have a partnership with a state high school athletics administration. But people are looking to Indiana and these agreements are starting to pick up.

If you want more examples of how the Colts have shown great leadership in the growth of football in Indiana, remember the $10,000 they gave to West Side's football program? After all the problems this fall they should've written one for $100,000.

On Sunday, 30 Academic All-State football players will be recognized at the Colts-Titans game. Wheeler's Jake Bertucci and Lowell's Josh Bottos will be a part of this celebration.

Colts Director of Player Engagement David Thornton said, "On behalf of Mr. Irsay and the entire Colts organization, we applaud these distinguished student-athletes for their commitment to excellence. As achievers on and off the field, this select group of students represent tomorrow's leaders by their actions today."

I wonder if Andrew Luck will watch Andrean quarterback Matt DeSomer today? And take a few notes?

IHSAA commissioner Bobby Cox knows his history. When the Colts arrived in Indy in 1984 it was a map of hoops crazy people. In the fall they were either Bears or Bengals fans. The Colts were so bad for so long. And that didn't change for awhile.

But when Peyton Manning arrived the franchise rose high. Now, they're doing the same thing for a lot of kids in the state.

"It was unbelievable to look at," Andrean's John Zemkewicz said of practicing in "The Luke" on Wednesday. "The place is awesome."

"It was like a dream," Andrean's Adam Kopil said.

The first time that football outdrew basketball in state history was in 1999-2000. Since that date football has been the big winner in numbers of tickets sold.

"Football continues to grow in Indiana," Cox said. "There's no doubt the influence of the Colts has been very important in that, at all levels. We are very pleased with our partnership with the Colts. We're looking forward to a great weekend of football this weekend."

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at steve.hanlon@nwi.com.

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