MADISON, Wis. - Ask any Ohio State graduate or diehard Buckeyes fan where they were when OSU won college football's 2002 national championship, and some will claim they were "there" - in the Arizona desert - to witness the historic event.
Ask Katharine Palmer, a Defiance native and former assistant in the athletic communications side of Buckeyes' football, and she will tell you, in wide-eyed detail, that she, too, was there.
No, not there as in part of the crowd in Tempe. THERE - as in on the sidelines, soaking up the tension and the emotion as Ohio State beat Miami in double-overtime to claim the coveted crown.
"I was down on the field at the Fiesta Bowl, I helped with the pre-game festivities, and then lived and died with every play," Palmer said. "And when Ohio State finally won, I rushed the field like everyone else - in my suit, skirt and heels."
Palmer, who now works for the University of Wisconsin in its athletic communications office, publicizing and promoting the Badgers' football team as well as other sports, said her Ohio roots are strongly anchored in a love of football.
"Football is such a big, big deal in the state of Ohio. I don't think you could be from there and not have some sort of affection for the game," Palmer said. "Defiance is a football-crazy town, like so many other towns in Ohio. The whole town was always there at every high school game, cheering on the Bulldogs. I don't think I ever missed a game growing up - that's just the way it is."
While working with the Wisconsin football program, Palmer has found that things are not all that different in the Badger state. Wisconsin's Camp Randall Stadium is one of the Big Ten's toughest environments, and the Badgers' long-time head coach, Barry Alvarez, who is in his final season on the sidelines, is one of the most popular figures in the state.
"Wisconsin is really another fantastic football place, and I have witnessed that Camp Randall is an amazing atmosphere on game day," Palmer said. "I really feel privileged to be a part of all this, but at the same time I'm a little sad I'll only get to work with coach Alvarez in football for one year."
As part of her duties at Wisconsin, Palmer got to put together a two-page feature on Alvarez for the official program for the final home game of his career - this Saturday against Iowa. She has done a special retrospective section on coach Alvarez each week, and also helps work the stats booth at games, and writes game stories that are posted on the Badgers' Web site.
"Katharine has worked in the press box at all of our home games, as well as handling post-game quotes and assisting with a variety of other related things in our office," Justin Doherty, Wisconsin's director of athletic communications said. "She's a hard worker and she has a bright future in our profession."
Palmer, a 2001 Defiance High School graduate, played soccer and softball growing up, and got her start on the communications side of sports in her sophomore year, working part-time covering games for the local newspaper.
As a student at Ohio State, she worked in the Buckeyes' communications office helping publicize the women's golf, synchronized swimming, and basketball teams, as well as working for the football program.
"I worked all of the home football games at Ohio State, wrote features on players for the game day program, and helped out with the interview process after the games," Palmer said.
"If you want to learn college football from the communications angle, Ohio State is a great place to do that. I remember my dad taking us to games down in Columbus when I was a kid, and when I go there now, on the professional side of it, I still want to sneak out on the camera deck and just watch the band come out. I am still a fan at heart."
Palmer said she sees more and more women involved on the periphery of college football, which not all that long ago was an exclusively male operation.
"All of us are pretty much behind the scenes, except for the television sideline reporters, but that's fine with me," Palmer said. "I enjoy being around the game. And it is still a big deal to be a woman and work in college football. You are busy every weekend, and you work crazy hours, but you get to watch football games for a living. It is hard to complain about that."
Contact Matt Markey at:
or 419-724-6510.43.07295 -89.3867