News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 24, 2013

North, South bell game gets sponsor

New name, rotating location among changes to cross-town matchup

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The legendary Victory Bell Game between Terre Haute North Vigo and South Vigo high schools will have a new location and a title sponsor this year.

On Friday, the school district announced that Forrest Sherer Insurance will be the title sponsor of the game, which now will be called the “Forrest Sherer Insurance Victory Bell Game.”

Forrest Sherer will promote the game through advertising and will also make donations to North, South and West Vigo high school athletic funds.

Played at ISU’s Memorial Stadium since the early 1970s, the game between the cross-town rivals moves to Terre Haute North Vigo High School next Friday and begins at 7 p.m.

Starting this year, the two high schools will host it on a rotating basis. The change is being made for financial reasons.

“It’s a new tradition for us,” Superintendent Dan Tanoos said during a news conference Friday. “It’s going to be a very big evening. We expect a full house.”

The Victory Bell game has become one of the best attended high school athletic events in the area, officials say.

“We jumped at the opportunity” to be the title sponsor, said John Lukens, president/CEO of Forrest Sherer and a 1972 South Vigo graduate. Through the title sponsorship, the company hopes to “enrich the history of the game,” he said.

It will donate a few hundred T-shirts as well as cups for concession stands that show scores of all Victory Bell games since 1971.

The sponsorship is a three-year agreement, and each year, North and South will each receive a $1,600 donation to their athletic funds. West Vigo High School also will receive a donation.

As part of a fun promotion, someone in attendance at the Victory Bell game will have the chance to win $10,000 by completing a pass, punt, kick challenge during half-time.

The sponsorship includes boys and girls basketball matchups between North and South, as well as basketball games with West Vigo High School, totaling six games starting in December, according to Forrest Sherer.

“It’s really great to live in a community that has such great support from our business  partners,” Tanoos said, noting that Forrest Sherer has supported other programs as well.

North football coach Chris Barrett praised Forrest Sherer for its sponsorship. “We can’t function anymore without community support” in terms of athletic budgets, Barrett said. “It’s harder and harder to fundraise, and we want to continue to provide the best programs we can for our kids.”

South football coach Tim Herrin said support from businesses such as Forrest Sherer enables the football program to provide the opportunities that it does for players. And part of what the program does is build leaders who will give back to their communities, he said.

“We are looking forward to the [Victory Bell] game,” Herrin said. “We’ll do everything we can to make it one of the best games in [Victory Bell] history.”

After the news conference, Tanoos said that portable bleachers will be taken to the North football field to accommodate the crowd. Bleachers will come from middle schools and other high school sports facilities.

“I’m sure the first [Victory Bell game at North or South] will not be flawless, but we’ll learn a lot from it,” he said.

The move is being made for financial reasons, he said.

The school district athletic programs haven’t receive any concession stand money from the North/South competitions at Memorial Stadium and Hulman Center.

Tanoos has previously estimated the district has missed out “thousands and thousands (of dollars)” from concessions.

“We felt it was best for us to part ways and for us to make the money,” he said, in moving the Victory Bell game to the high schools.

Negotiations continue with ISU and Sodexo related to the North/South basketball games remaining at Hulman Center, but “right now, it’s slated to move back to the high schools,” Tanoos said. The issue continues to be concession revenue, he said.

At a time where many schools are instituting “pay-to-play” or are cutting athletic programs, “we’ve not done that,” Tanoos said.

By moving games to the high schools, the concession revenues go to the athletic programs. The district also looks to the community, and businesses such as Forrest Sherer, for their support, he said.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.