by Tad Johnson (reprinted from the Sun Current)
Thirty years ago, Farmington High School football public address announcer Pat Rupp didn’t imagine himself as a sports reporter. He had enough commitments in his full-time job working for the Minnesota Department of Education and helping raise two school-age children.
When the former publisher of the Farmington Independent, Ray Ackerman, asked him if he would be willing to write a story for the newspaper about each football game, Rupp, who had a degree in English education and loved sports, agreed.
Pairing two of Rupp’s interests was an immediate hit.
“After a week or so, (Ackerman) said he had gotten requests from parents of other athletes asking that their sports receive coverage, too,” Rupp said. “By the end of the school year, I was writing stories for all of the Tigers sports for the Independent.”
Since that 1984-85 school year, Rupp has been reporting on Farmington sports for the Independent, Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune, and the past four years for a Farmington High School sports blog called Tiger Athletics News.
Rupp, who says he’s retired more times than NFL quarterback Brett Favre, adds that this time he is officially hanging up his notebook and keyboard at the end of June.
“I never tire of following high school sports,” he said. “It keeps one thinking and feeling young. Getting to work with such a good group of coaches has also made my ‘work’ enjoyable.”
Farmington’s many coaches through the years have found the admiration is mutual.
“Farmington has been very lucky to have a person of Pat’s quality reporting and involved in FHS athletics,” said new Farmington High School Principal Jason Berg, a past coach of the girls and boys basketball teams. “He is a trusted voice – someone people could not wait to read.”
“Pat is skilled at writing in a way that spreads the good news and excitement that surrounds the activities of our student athletes at FHS,” said longtime Farmington football coach Mark Froehling. “He understands the big picture of high school athletics and the lessons that involvement in these activities allow our student athletes to learn.”
The sports blog is something that has generated much interest, in large part to Rupp’s prolific dedication and skill in covering Farmington sports and the sharp photographs of Lakeville resident Jim Lindquist, a professional photographer who has grandchildren involved in Farmington sports.
All of the more than 600 entries posted in each of the past three years have been funneled through the Farmington Tigers Athletics’ Facebook page, which has more than 1,600 followers.
Rupp said former Athletic Director Jon Summer, who is now working in Chaska, deserves the credit for linking the blog to Facebook and bringing in many new readers.
|Rupp and former FHS athletic director Jon Summer share a lighter moment (photo by Jim Lindquist)|
As a 20-year resident of Farmington, Rupp understands the galvanizing nature of high school sports for the community. That’s why when he was laid off from Thisweek, he approached former Superintendent Brad Meeks about starting the blog.
Rupp knew he would anchor the blog at the outset, but the idea was to build a system where students would take over the tasks, which the district aims to do this fall.
“I think what people like the most about the blog is that it is current,” Rupp said. “Over the past couple of years, I have tried to have game stories posted within 36 hours after the completion of the event.”
Rupp also credits Lindquist with the blog’s success.
“Jim is real pro who has dedicated a lot of time and energy to help promote Tiger athletics,” Rupp said.
|Rupp and Jim Lindquist (left) teamed up to produce the Tiger Athletic News blog the past four years (photo by Ruth Lindquist)|
After completing a four-year stint in the Air Force, Rupp moved to Farmington in 1973 and took a job as a counselor at Farmington High School. He also was the head baseball coach and assisted in basketball (B-squad) and football (middle school).
“I have very fond memories of those years and experiences,” Rupp said. “Farmington will always be a special place for me.”
Rupp, who also served on the Farmington Area School Board (1978-84; 1989-92), said his favorite teams to cover over the years have been those of his children – Julie and Christopher.
Julie, a 1988 graduate, and Christopher, 1991, both played basketball and ran track and cross-country.
Aside from those, Tiger football is at the top of the list.
“Fall Friday nights in Farmington are something special,” he said.
“Pat is a friend and colleague,” Froehling said. “I will miss my weekly conversations with him after Friday night games and on the weekends as Pat prepares his article recapping the game. I could depend on him to always treat coaches and players with respect and care as he reports the outcome of any competition, whether it is a win or loss... Pat’s work will certainly be missed, but he can retire knowing he has completed his job with pride, class and dignity.”
Though he never covered a Farmington team state champion, Rupp was around for three state final games – football in 1992, softball in 2003 and girls hockey in 2007.
He said covering those teams along with the excitement of seeing the high school athletic program grow were some of the major highlights of his tenure.
“Farmington and its high school sports have undergone many changes over the past three decades and it’s been a fun experience to see them evolve,” Rupp said, "particularly with the addition of new sports like soccer, swimming and lacrosse."
Farmington has had individual state champions in boys and girls track, diving, gymnastics and wrestling, but never a team sport.
“I’ll have to experience that first championship as a fan,” Rupp said.
Froehling and Berg said Rupp will be missed for his presence as a reporter at the games.
“Pat is a true fan of both Farmington athletics and high school sports,” Froehling said. “That passion has kept him involved for a long time.”
“He is a gifted reporter with a great passion for sports of all varieties,” said Keith Revels, who has coached both girls and boys hockey at Farmington. “Combine that with a deep-rooted connection to the Farmington Schools and community, and I think that was all the motivation he needed.”
Berg said Rupp was great to work with as a coach.
“He focused on the players and always on the positives in athletics,” Berg said. “He is someone who was easy to work with and respected the amount of time coaches put into their teams. He asked great questions and was able to bring a historical perspective into anything he was writing about.”
Revels said Rupp was always professional, trustworthy and responsible with the way he went about his reporting.
“The devotion and quality of Pat’s reporting has most likely spoiled us all,” Revels said. “His abilities as a writer and his firsthand knowledge of decades of FHS athletics history simply cannot be replaced.
"The Farmington community was blessed to have enjoyed his work for such a long time and I don’t think the true impact of him ending his duties will be felt until the fall sports season ramps up.”
One thing is for certain: Rupp touched the lives of countless students who roamed the fields, courts and ice at Farmington High School.
“Can you imagine the number of Pat Rupp-written articles, that have been clipped out of newspapers or copied from the online posts by thousands of families?," Froehling said. "They will be saved for a lifetime and will be read and re-read to help us remember and re-live the wonderful days of Farmington High School athletics."
Email Tad Johnson at email@example.com.