A five-part series about high school basketball at a Tennessee school for troubled teens that appeared in The New York Times has been selected as the 2012 recipient of the Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports -- a national award coordinated by the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism at Penn State.
The series, by Times sports reporter John Branch, focused on the winless girls basketball team, the Lady Jaguars, at Tennessee’s Carroll Academy.
News and sports organizations from across the country provided submissions for the award. Judges were unanimous in their selection of Branch’s series, which appeared in April 2012. It addressed several different aspects of the program told the team’s story through the eyes of the coach, players, school administrators even the school’s security director.
The award will be presented Wednesday, April 17, at the Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus of Penn State.
Branch has been a Times sports reporter since 2005. Previously, he was a sports columnist at The Fresno Bee from 2002 to 2005. He worked at the Colorado Springs Gazette as a business reporter from 1996 to 1998 and as a sports reporter from 1998 to 2002.
Since covering the New York Giants as a beat reporter for three seasons, through the Super Bowl season of 2007, Branch has been a feature writer, covering events big and small and finding a niche in the remote corners of the sports world.
His 2011 series “Punched Out,” about Derek Boogaard, a professional hockey player valued for his brawling, shed light on the sport’s embrace of potentially brain-damaging violence. The series won several awards, including a Dart Award for Excellence in Coverage of Trauma, and was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing.
Raised in Golden, Colo., Branch earned a bachelor’s degree (1989, business administration) and a master’s degree (1996, journalism and mass communication) from the University of Colorado. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.
The Award for Excellence in Coverage of Youth Sports was established by the Curley Center in 2009. Work nominated for the award displays creative, in-depth and innovative coverage of youth and high school sports -- especially larger issues and trends related to those levels of athletic competition. Previous winners were: Rob Rossi, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 2011; George Dohrmann, “Play Their Hearts Out,” 2010; and Bob Hohler, The Boston Globe, 2009.
The John Curley Center for Sports Journalism explores issues and trends in sports journalism through instruction, outreach, programming and research. The Center was established in 2003 with Distinguished Professional in Residence and Professor John Curley and Dean Doug Anderson serving as founding co-directors.
It was named the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism in September 2006, honoring Curley, whose more than five decades of newspaper experience includes work as a reporter, editor, publisher and, ultimately, president, CEO and chairman of the Gannett Co. He was the first editor of USA Today.
The center’s undergraduate curricular emphasis includes courses in sports writing, sports broadcasting, sports information, sports, media and society, and sports and public policy, which is cross-listed with the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. The Center emphasizes internships at newspapers, magazines or electronic media and on-campus co-curricular work at the student-run newspaper (The Daily Collegian), the Penn State sports information office or campus radio.