Dennis Cox has been awarded the Missouri Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) Distinguished Award in recognition of his outstanding support of high school athletics in Northwest Missouri. Dennis was nominated for this award by Gallatin R-5 Athletic Director Barron Gann. He was presented with the award on April 7, 2019, during a conference for Missouri High School Athletic Directors at Tan Tara Resort, Lake of the Ozarks.
Each year, a limited number of awards are given to persons outside the field of interscholastic administration in recognition of their service to interscholastic athletics.
Dennis Cox was born, raised, and has lived his entire life in the Daviess County area. The younger of two rambunctious boys, Dennis enjoyed singing at church and riding his bike. He began playing baseball at age seven and often listened with his dad to Athletic Baseball radio broadcasts. He continued to play baseball in high school and earned a spot on the Caldwell County Pony League All-Star Team for three consecutive years before moving on to the Legion Team. Dennis also played football, lining up mostly as guard and middle linebacker. He was football team captain his senior year. His former teammates can testify that he was “small but mighty.” Also during high school, he covered sports for the local newspaper and kept the official scorebook at Penney High School basketball games.
After graduating from Penney High School in 1973, Dennis attended Northwest Missouri State University and earned a business degree. Never wanting to be far from home, Dennis returned to Hamilton. In 1982, he got a job as sports editor at the Hamilton Advocate newspaper. He was promoted to managing editor in 1990. In 1994, Dennis took a new job as sports editor for the Gallatin North Missourian newspaper. He currently remains in this position.
Several high school students have job shadowed him at the Gallatin plant to learn more about sports writing. Readers look forward to his personal column called “Season Pass,” where he shares personal memories from childhood or opinions about recent sporting events. Here is an excerpt from one of his “Season Pass” articles:
Growing up on the farm with few opportunities to see live sports, I rarely missed a pro sports event on television, and that included Gust Karras’s weekly wrestling program on Channel 2. Every Saturday night, my brother and I would park ourselves in front of the TV and pick sides with guys like Sonny Myers, Bob Geigel, The Stomper, and The Viking, who squared off against each other. ….. There for a while, you just knew that before the night was over, someone would get put to sleep with the infamous “sleeper” hold. ….. I remember at least once going to the old auditorium in St Joe for a night of wrestling. The cigarette and cigar smoke was so thick you could barely see the ring. And the noise! ….. Another time, Karras brought his wrestling troupe to Gallatin’s Dockery Park. They set the ring up in the middle of the infield. I remember getting to shake hands with both Karras and Myers and thinking it didn’t get any better than that. Anyway, I’ll always remember Gust Karras as one of those odd guys that passed in and out of my childhood, leaving a bunch of good memories … ones that I wouldn’t trade for gold.
For many years, Dennis remained an eligible bachelor while dedicating most of his time to doing his job and playing slow-pitch softball. In the mid 1990s his “now-wife” Joyce became acquainted with him at basketball games and wrestling meets. She says she was attracted to that “backwards ballcap,” but would later learn that the man’s head was full of meaningless stats that could be recited at the drop of that hat. Joyce finally snagged a date to a Royals game, and the couple married in 1996. This is when Dennis became the father of two teenagers.
One of his first jobs as a new dad was to coach a Pony League Baseball team. He also encouraged son Lance to give his best effort on the football field and later in track. Daughter Katie emulated her “Pa” by pursuing a career in journalism.
In spite of some major life changes, Dennis never turned his back on high school sports. For close to 40 years, he has showcased student athletes and coaches in a weekly full-page spread that could rival larger newspapers. Over time, he has learned to put a good spin on even the worst game. He understands that tenacity, leadership, and sportsmanship are also an important part of any contest. Parents frequently approach him on the sidelines to express their gratitude.
He has lots of wonderful memories, but here a few of his favorites:
- Covering the Kansas City Royals in the 1985 AL Championship versus Toronto and having a pre-game conversation with Toronto Manager Bobby Cox
- Helping clear the Hamilton-Penney Football Field of snow and ice for the 1986 sectional game against Grain Valley. The temperature that day was below zero with a wind chill of minus 20 degrees
- Covering the Gallatin girls first ever trip to the Class I State Basketball Championship game in 1995
- Covering the Hamilton-Penney first Class I State Football Championship game in 2009
- Covering Winston Boys Class I State Basketball Championship game in 2015
- Interviewing returning veterans from Desert Storm in the early 1990s
Dennis is an active community member, currently serving as president of Hamilton Lions Club (2019). He started the Missouri Lions District 26F All-Star High School Basketball Classic in 1992 and served on that committee for five years. He also served on the Missouri Lions All-Star Football Committee from 1989 to 1992. He is a past president of the Caldwell County Community Arts Board. He is a past board member of the Hamilton Federated Church and has maintained the church website for a number of years. He is the “go-to guy” when anyone in the community has a question about local history — whether it be about sports or other historical events.
Dennis estimates that during his career, he has covered at least 400 high school football games, over 1000 basketball games, 300 softball games, and 300 wrestling and track meets. Even as Dennis looks forward to retirement, he does not intend to give up this part of his job.
Dennis currently lives with Joyce on his well-manicured three-acre ranch south of Gallatin. He is well-known at the county library as an avid reader who especially enjoys books pertaining to U.S. History. Other hobbies include outdoor photography, fishing, wine tasting, and managing numerous fantasy teams. One thing is certain: he will never be far from a game.
The Distinguished Service Award is a fitting tribute to a man who has dedicated his entire adult life to supporting student athletes.
— written by T.L. Huffman for the Gallatin North Missourian