Column: Thank you, Howdy Wilcox

BY JEFF LAFAVE | @presslafave

It’s the classic rags-to-riches story: But he was the rags, and then worked tirelessly to find IU students the riches.

The birth of the Little 500 race is perhaps as charming as its own storybook legacy: Howdy Wilcox Jr., the race’s founder, “happened upon an informal bicycle race,” per the IU Student Foundation website, on a fall day in 1950 somewhere near Hickory Hall — a historic 10th Street dorm facility now included with the modern, sparkling Union Street Center group.

There are no photographs from Howdy’s fateful stroll through campus that day, but any graduate of IU might be apt to tell you of its majesty: A crisp afternoon amid colorful foliage, crunching under the steel wheels of students’ Schwinn cruiser bikes, perhaps on their way to Kirkwood Avenue, or to read by the Jordan River.

It was the sublime chance encounter necessary to stoke IU’s signature student event.

Howdy, then president of the general IU Foundation, had been urging legendary IU President Herman B Wells to take action on behalf the students to assist their financial situations.

“The IU Foundation simply had no identity on campus, neither with the students nor the faculty,” Howdy said, according to the IU Student Foundation website. “I wrote a letter to President (Herman B) Wells recommending that we form a Student Foundation Committee and charge that committee with spreading the word.”

But how?

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Jordan Bailey interview on WIUX

For those of you who don’t know, I also host a sports talk radio show on WIUX on Tuesday evenings. Last night, we had race director Jordan Bailey on to talk about Quals, ITTs and some of the surprise teams he’s seen so far this year.

I think it’s a pretty fun interview, but hey, I’m biased. Talk a listen for yourself at the link here.

Quals position often not a perfect predictor of race success


The name of this site may be 33to1, but there’s a lot more that goes into a team’s odds of winning the Little 500 on race day than meets the eye. Team experience, speed in exchanges, track conditions, unexpected crashes and so much else plays into whether or not a team will be successful at Bill Armstrong Stadium.

The spring series events help test those different variables. ITTs find the fastest individual rider. Team Pursuit lets us see the teams perform as a group. Miss ‘N Out combines both speed and strategy.

Throughout the spring series, I’ll be looking at the odds each team has in raising the Borg-Warner Trophy on race day. I’ll be trying to predict probabilities based off historical numbers charting past team’s successes and failures.

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