It's every DePauw student's obligation to study hard, to be honest and forthright, and to try to steal the Motion Bell.
This is an article from the Nov. 22, 1993 issue
The trouble is—as the reverend Martin Luther King Jr. learned in a Birmingham jail and as Henry David Thoreau noted in his own journal of incarceration—that the sound of a prison door clanging shut rings in one's ears like eternity. For Matthew Ingle the moment of truth came on Sunday, Sept. 19, when he found himself in the Montgomery County Jail, in Crawfordsville, Ind. In addition to felony counts of breaking and entering, and attempted theft, Ingle faced possible expulsion from DePauw University and who knows what punishment from his dad for using the family car as a getaway vehicle.
"But I wasn't really scared," Ingle said afterward, "until I found out the prosecutor was a Wabash grad."
Ingle was right to worry. The object he had attempted to pilfer—a 350-pound brass steam-locomotive bell mounted on a cast-iron stand—was the lawful property of Wabash College, an 806-student all-male liberal-arts college in Crawfordsville. To indicate to all that the bell was meant to stay put, Wabash had bolted it to a concrete slab above the doors in the lobby of the school gymnasium. That was where Ingle, wielding a wrench, had been perched at 2:30 a.m. that Sunday when Wabash security guard Don Money approached the building.
"Someone's coming!" Ingle said to two accomplices who were hiding in the shadows. Ingle quickly dropped to the floor and joined the others in a dash across the lobby. Throwing open the rear doors and leaping eight steps in a single bound, the fugitives tore out into the dark street, where two more conspirators were parked in a 1984 Subaru station wagon. Screaming "Go!" and "Get out of here!" Ingle and his friends piled into the car.
The getaway driver panicked: he couldn't remember how to start the car. "Turn on the lights so I can see!" he cried. With the dome light on, he got the engine to turn over, but by then Money, a white-haired man of 63, had made it around the building and was closing fast. While everybody in the car screamed, the driver yanked the gearshift into low, slammed his foot on the accelerator and gritted his teeth as the car crept away from the curb. Ingle estimated the Subaru was doing 10 miles per hour when it passed the security guard. Money aimed his flashlight at the license plate and calmly took down the number as the car chugged off.
"Needless to say, we think our driver deserves most of the credit for our capture," accomplice Damon Sanderson, a DePauw sophomore, grumbled.
In point of fact, no one was captured. The Crawfordsville police traced the car to Ingle's father, Stephen, in Indianapolis, and when Matthew got back to his dorm room at DePauw, in Greencastle, Ind., there was a message on his answering machine: "Call Patrolman Largent."
Ingle turned himself in that afternoon. Within minutes of his arrest and fingerprinting, he found himself behind bars, breathing the fetid air of Montgomery County Jail. Bail was set at $4,000. Ingle was advised to get a good lawyer.
"I expected a slap on the wrist or a lecture," Ingle said later, shaking his head in disbelief. "We didn't see it as stealing. We were just trying to return the bell to its rightful owners."
There is a long-smoldering dispute, it turns out, over who is the rightful owner of the Monon (pronounced MOE-non) Bell. Originally the dinger was the property of the Monon Railroad Line, and if The Ballad of the Monon Bell can be believed, "It rode like a masthead on engine ninety-nine, Crawfordsville to Greencastle, then further down the line." In 1932 the railroad offered the bell as a permanent trophy for the annual football game between the Little Giants of Wabash and the Tigers of DePauw. Since then the bell has traveled the 27 miles between the two campuses according to the football fortunes of the respective schools. The concept of shared ownership is honored in the bell's paint job: half of the yoke is coated in bright Wabash red and the other half is painted DePauw "old gold."
Amazingly, the football series between the two schools, billed as "the oldest small-college rivalry west of the Alleghenies," has been split almost as evenly as the bell. Last Saturday marked the 100th playing of the DePauw-Wabash grudge match, and the record going into the game was 45-45, with nine ties. Wabash destroyed that symmetry by defeating DePauw 40-26 before 8,400 in Greencastle, but the Little Giants' advantage is seen as temporary. Says Wabash head coach Greg Carlson, "I'm gonna guess that after 200 Monon Bell games, we'll be no more than three or four apart."
Given the closeness of the competition, one might expect the thrills and the agonies of victory and defeat to register equally on the two campuses. Instead, DePauw—larger than Wabash, with 2,100 undergraduates and a sprawling, architecturally diverse campus—feels outgunned and put-upon by what it calls the Cavemen from Crawfordsville.
Wabash leads DePauw in the all-important category of inventive Monon Bell heists and in most other dubious manifestations of school spirit. Over the years, for instance, a scarlet "W" has been daubed on Greencastle landmarks so many times that paint remover is a fixed item in the DePauw budget. (One story has DePauw football coach Nick Mourouzis calling his wife to the window one morning, saying, "Look, someone's burned an 'M' in our lawn—for Mourouzis!") Last year The DePauw, which calls itself "the oldest and coolest college newspaper in Indiana," decried such vandalism but lamented that most of the great tales of Monon Bell derring-do starred the Cavemen.
"Are we lazy?" the paper wondered. "Are we no longer creative and sly? Are we perpetually hung over? Whatever our problem may be, with some creative planning and a little Tiger pride, baby, we can surely get a plot a-brewin' that will give Wabash something to suck on."
Right. Ten months later the iron door slammed shut on Matthew Ingle, and Wabash students hooted in derision.
It's not hard to account for the mischief gap between the two schools: Wabash lacks the civilizing influence of women. Otherwise, Wabash and DePauw are strikingly similar. Both were founded in the 1830s as private liberal-arts colleges, and both thrive today in typical west-central-Indiana towns. Academic standards and the cost of tuition are high at both schools; the Greek system defines social life on both campuses; graduates of both routinely become doctors, lawyers and corporate leaders; and each school claims illustrious alumni. Dan Quayle graduated from DePauw, as did lawyer and civil-rights leader Vernon Jordan, U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton, popular novelist John Jakes, astronaut Joseph P. Allen and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Stewart. Wabash grads include AT&T chief Robert Allen, Buffalo Bill All-Pro tight end Pete Metzelaars, bestselling novelist Lawrence Sanders and Thomas Riley ("What this country needs is a good five-cent cigar") Marshall, vice-president under Woodrow Wilson. ("A two-term vice-president," a Wabash undergrad notes emphatically.)
Despite the similarities, the students see their differences writ plain. "We've stereotyped each other," says Wabash junior running back David Kogan. "We think DePauw guys are yuppies and pretty boys from wealthy families. They think we're caveman grunts with no style, no class, no social graces. There's no thought put into it. It's just tradition."
It's Wabash Wallies versus DePauw Dannies. (Wallies derives from the mascot, Wally Wabash, who wears a red letter sweater and a papier-m‚Äö√†√∂¬¨¢chè head that is four feet high and three feet wide. Danny, erroneously linked in recent years to Dan Quayle, is a decades-old euphemism for sissy. Wallies are reputed to be crude. When a Wabash raiding party left its "W" calling card and poured red dye in DePauw fountains before last year's game, the Dannies' response was predictable. "Here at DePauw," the campus paper sniffed, "students write with pens and pencils, not spray paint.... Spray paint will only impress big-hair high school girls."
The Wabash Bachelor answered by reprinting an article from an Oregon newspaper about a DePauw woman from Portland. "I like the school, but not the Midwest," the young woman said in the story. "Shopping in the Midwest is horrible. The closest city is Indianapolis and they are going to build a Nordstrom there but until then everyone just buys clothes from catalogs." A photograph of the pretty student in earrings and ball gown was captioned NATALIE'S DRESS COSTS $360.
Students on both campuses agree on one thing: The men of Wabash are more committed to the rituals of football season. DePauw's homecoming is celebrated with Church of England reserve, while Wabash's is a pagan pageant. The most singular Wabash tradition is a contest misleadingly called Chapel Sing, in which fraternity pledges link arms on the steps of the school chapel and try to outbellow each other in endless repetitions of Old Wabash, America's longest college fight song. The singers roar and chant for up to 40 minutes, raising a din equal to that of a street market in Djakarta. Members of the Sphinx Club, a campus-spirit organization, serve as judges, awarding points for volume and unity while stuffing stale crackers in contestants' mouths. (It used to be mice and chili peppers.)
Chapel Sing is good training for a greater, if unsanctioned, event: Monon Bell Heist. The rules in this competition are not clear, but purists say a heist, to be creditable, should occur during the fall, when guards are up and spirits are high. Weapons are forbidden, but alcohol is tolerated—for courage—and the bell has to be returned in time for the game.
In the early years DePauw students succeeded with relatively crude snatch-and-run tactics; they nabbed the bell in 1952, for instance, by cutting it free and letting it crash to the floor of the lobby of Chadwick Court, Wabash's basketball facility, before carting it off. ("And they call us Cavemen!" a Wally snorts derisively.) Wabash countered with guile. In '59, when the possession arrow pointed to DePauw, the bell was kept hidden in Green-castle. A Wabash student, posing as a high school senior interested in enrolling at DePauw, tricked the admissions director into revealing the bell's whereabouts, and—voilà!—a raiding party quickly spirited it back to Crawfordsville.
The standard for bell thefts was set in 1965, when Wabash sprang the Mexican Heist, also known as Operation Frijoles. In this scam Jim Shanks, a Wally sophomore posing as a Mexican dignitary, made a luncheon appointment with DePauw president William H. Kerstetter. Alternating between fluent Spanish and English, Shanks pitched the idea of a DePauw scholarship program for Mexican students under the auspices of the fictitious Mexican-American Cultural Institute. Kerstetter was enthusiastic and pledged to provide two full-tuition scholarships; he also invited Shanks to photograph campus landmarks—including the Monon Bell for distribution in Mexico.
Kerstetter did not know the bell's hiding place, so he asked his secretary. "I don't know if I should tell you or not," she joked. "The last time I told a visitor where the bell was, Wabash stole it." But tell she did, and that night the bell was filched. Within days, posters popped up all over Greencastle. They read, "Congratulations to Pres. Kerstetter and his Dannies for 1) Winning the No-Bell Prize. 2) Granting $20,000 in scholarships to needy Wabash students."
Wabash won the game that year, ending a 10-year DePauw hold on the bell, and many of the Wallies who swarmed the field wore sombreros and ponchos.
Another time, a group of Wabash men, angered because the bell was rung persistently at a basketball game that Wabash was losing in DePauw's Lilly Center, hid in the building until after closing one night several weeks later and stole the trophy from its perch atop a concession stand, dropping the bell into a portable high-jump pit that had been conveniently parked across the floor.
"As you can see," DePauw sports information director Bill Wagner said recently, "we've made the bell a little harder to reach." Indeed, the DePauw bell platform, vacant since 1991, juts out of the field-house wall 25 feet above the floor.
The visitor's eye is drawn, however, to an imposing object at the opposite end of the gym: a 25-foot rolling scaffold.
If sweet reason fails, and then larceny, the Monon Bell must be taken by force, i.e., football. Alums pressure coaches, coaches pressure assistant coaches, students scream for blood, and players phone their opponents at odd hours to taunt and provoke. Both teams' football seasons—those bruising games against Indiana Collegiate Athletic Conference rivals Anderson, Franklin, Hanover, Manchester and Rose-Hulman—are but preludes to Wabash-DePauw. "I think about it constantly," says Mourouzis, who has won more games (81) than any other DePauw coach and, with Saturday's loss, is 6-6-1 against Wabash. "It's like a season in itself."
Andy Dorrel, a senior lineman for Wabash, says the game transforms the players. "You just want to hurt, to pound, to beat up," he says. "We lost when I was a freshman, and I didn't even shake anybody's hand, I was so mad. The next year, when we won, it was the greatest experience of my life."
The depth of feeling is all the more remarkable when you consider that this is NCAA Division III football. There are no athletic scholarships and no academic favors for players. The teams practice about 7½ hours a week (15 is the average in Division I schools), and players watch game films and lift weights on their own time, not the coaches'. It is, in many ways, college football as the game was played a century ago.
In other ways it is a different game entirely. When Wabash met DePauw for the first time, on Nov. 22, 1890, at the Wabash athletic field, the players wore moleskin uniforms. It was three downs to a side, five yards for a first down; anybody could carry the ball, and the forward pass was science fiction. A contemporaneous newspaper account is opaque for the modern reader: "At the start Miner by the V trick gained 20 yards on DePauw then pushed the ball to within 10 yards of the Wabash goal when Randall failing in the criss cross trick was pushed near the line and a safety made by DePauw." DePauw won the game 34-5, its only victory of the season. Wabash finished winless.
What feeds the rivalry? To even ask proves one's ignorance of Mononism. "It's DePauw, and that's enough," says Wabash offensive coordinator Scott Boone, class of '81, who earned 11 varsity letters as a Little Giant. "It's Us against Them, roughnecks against pretty boys."
One theory blames the bell. It rang incessantly last Saturday, tolled on the Wabash sideline by members of the Sphinx Club and then by swarms of delirious Wallies to celebrate their team's win. "When you don't have the bell and they ring it, it makes you crazy," says Dorrel.
Stan Parrish, offensive coordinator at Rutgers and former coach at Marshall and Kansas State, was Wabash's coach from 1978 to '82. "I got that job when I was very young," he said, "and I was absolutely terrified when we went against DePauw the first time. Everybody reappeared that weekend like ghosts—the old players, the coaches, the alumni. Luckily, we won.
"The best team I had was the '81 team. We were undefeated, ranked second in the country [in Division III], we had Pete Metzelaars and a bunch of other great players—and we went down to Greencastle and just got whipped. I was devastated. Had we won that game, I was going to leave Wabash. But I could not see leaving [after] losing that last game, because that's the way they remember you."
The next year, with Little Giant Stadium packed and fans watching from the trees, Parrish's "third-best" Wabash team beat DePauw 31-6 and finished undefeated. That left the young coach free to pursue his fortunes in Division I. "I'd written my final chapter," he said, "and I could go with a clear conscience."
Parrish, a member of the Wabash Athletic Hall of Fame on the strength of his 42-3-1 record, allowed a sigh. "That," he said, "was the best place at the best time."
It still is. The front page of last Saturday's Indianapolis Star shouted THE MONON BELL in type usually reserved for war. A small box referred readers to page C1 for news about another game of local interest: Notre Dame-Florida State. One could picture ear-to-ear smiles on the faces of Wabash and DePauw alums reading the Star over breakfast.
A satellite was on line to feed the game live to 40 Monon Bell parties across the nation. Otherwise, game week followed decades-old patterns. Six Wallies were arrested in Greencastle on Wednesday night, caught with spray-paint cans outside Blackstock Stadium. In Crawfordsville, Wally fraternity pledges performed their traditional all-night sentry duty near the bell, warming their hands by trash-can fires and challenging strangers to recite lines from Old Wabash. Last Friday night 800 affluent alums from both colleges, with their spouses, gathered for dinner at the Indianapolis Westin Hotel, where AT&T's Allen, a two-way head-banger for the Little Giants in the '50s, told them they should be proud to have attended schools "where student-athlete is an objective description and not a cynical p.r. phrase." On Saturday morning, in a gray mist, the DePauw and Wabash chapters of Phi Gamma Delta joined in a charity relay run with a football.
The game? The clearest omen came at halftime, when DePauw students released scores of black and gold balloons, and a stiff southerly wind whipped the balloons out of the stadium and off toward Crawfordsville. The champion of the first hundred games was not decided, though, until the final two minutes, when DePauw, trailing by a touchdown, failed to cover an onside kick. Kogan, the Wabash running back, then rambled for a final, cauterizing touchdown, and the fate of the bell was sealed: back to Crawfordsville. "I played on two high school state championships, and I thought that was big," Little Giant quarterback Chris Ings croaked in the happy postgame scrum of players and fans. "But this is an incredible feeling." Behind him, a line of DePauw players shuffled off the field, their heads bowed.
Matthew Ingle was out of jail in time for the game. His sentence was commuted back in September to 45 minutes served. He paid $400 for bond and $110 for a first-offender program that reduced his charge from a felony to a misdemeanor, and he was ordered not to show his face in Crawfordsville for six weeks. His partner in crime Damon Sanderson got off with an "official warning" from DePauw, and no further charges were filed.
Sanderson, who is majoring in chemistry and physics, watched Saturday's game from the west stands. The view was dismal: Red-clad Wallies packed the opposite stands and prowled the sideline, chanting, cheering, waving a red flag and tirelessly clanging the bell.
"I hear they needed a torch to bring the bell down here!" Sanderson yelled over the din. "And when that didn't work, they used a metal cutter!"
His eyes narrowed, and he seemed to ruminate. Hey, they can't put a guy in jail for thinking.