Photo courtesy of the Ohio State Athletic Department
Like most people, the sports information directors in the Ohio State athletic department have their own unique personalities and reputations. I was fortunate enough to receive an impromptu education in the ways of the late men’s and women’s volleyball and riffle and pistol sports information director D.C. Koehl this past fall.
During football season, Mr. Koehl distributed reporters credentials for home OSU football games. The Lantern had a rotating cast of reporters covering football during the 2011 season, so I paid Mr. Koehl quite a few visits.
The week leading up to OSU football home game against Penn State on Nov. 19, I made another trek up to Mr. Koehl’s cubicle in the Fawcett Center. I said I needed to pick up credentials for the coming Saturday’s game. The conversation, as I remember it, went something like this:
“I see,” he said, pulling a drawer open to reveal stacks of credentials held together by rubber bands. He thumbed through envelopes and I noticed a nice piece of hardware on his ring finger — he later told me it was for the men’s volleyball team’s 2011 national title.
“What organization are you with?” Mr. Koehl asked me.
“The Lantern,” I replied sheepishly.
“Oh, The Lantern,” he said.
He began to hand me the white envelope containing our credentials but then hesitated and eventually tucked the envelope under his folded arms.
I shot a glance at a co-worker who had accompanied me to the Fawcett Center. We were scared.
“You know, you guys run a football column or story a day in your paper, but rarely a single mention of the (women’s) volleyball team,” he said. “Not even a brief. And I send those releases out after every match.”
I took a moment to collect myself. Then, I set about explaining to Mr. Koehl that my staff of sports reporters was considerably smaller than in the past and that we didn’t have the resources to cover every sport on campus. We went back and forth for about five more minutes before he looked up at me, gave me an understanding nod and handed me the envelope.
“Email me anytime you can find someone to cover the team,” he said.
Though direct, Mr. Koehl was a gentleman during the conversation. His sole intent was to advocate for a team and the program he cared so much for.
We shook hands and parted ways. It was the last time Koehl and I would speak in person.
I corresponded with Koehl via email in early January as the men’s volleyball season neared. The first response I received from him was on Jan. 7, and it was an auto-reply saying that he would “be out of the office for an extended period of time and would be unable to be reached.” On Jan. 8, Mr. Koehl responded to me in great detail, polite and helpful as ever, providing me with pictures to accompany upcoming stories on the men’s volleyball team as well as information my reporters would need to cover home games this season. It was in this Jan. 8 email that he also made his final story pitch to me: “Please note that the NCAA (championship) Banners is scheduled to be displayed at the Penn State match.”
A lovely photograph of the banner was featured in the next print edition of The Lantern. In fact, an entire package of content was produced thanks to Mr. Koehl’s helpful tip.
Mr. Koehl, 61, died on Jan. 26 due to complications that arose after a fall in late November, and his Jan. 8 email to me was our last correspondence. He spent 39 years as a member of the OSU athletics department, and just 18 days before he died, he was still pitching his team to The Lantern.