Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Friday, May 24
The Indiana Daily Student

Who was Bill Armstrong?

Fast facts

Williams S. Armstrong, Sr. (sometimes known as “Army” to his friends) was inducted into the IU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994, not for his baseball skills (although he played baseball for three years at IU), but for his involvement with funding for and continual support of IU athletics.

Armstrong spent 31 years as the president of the IU Foundation.

Upon taking over the position, Armstrong grew the Foundation’s donations from the private sector from $80,000 in 1952 to more than $15 million upon his retirement.

Most famously, an IUF employee introduced Armstrong to former IU soccer coach Jerry Yeagley, who wanted to start a soccer club on campus.

In 1963 Armstrong appropriated funds for the creation of such a club. Two years later, with Armstrong’s continued support, the club became a varsity sport on campus. In 1982, 11 years after its creation the soccer team won its first NCAA soccer title.

“Without Bill Armstrong, we wouldn’t have the soccer program we have today,” Yeagley said in an interview with IU Athletics. “Bill made it all possible to not only be a varsity sport, but to also be a championship-caliber program.”

Today, Bill Armstrong Stadium is not only home to the Little 500 race track, but also the men’s soccer team’s home field.

Armstrong & the Little 500
Armstrong was also heavily involved in the Little 500.

He did not create it, but according to a 1994 interview with the Herald Times, former IU president Herman B Wells approached Armstrong in the early 1950s about the Little 500.

Wells believed it was a way to develop enthusiasm and muster a sense of community and pride in the University.

From there, Armstrong became an organizer of the event, and he quickly fell in love with it. “To this day, I think it’s a program second to none in enthusiasm,” he told the Herald Times in 1994.

During the event, Armstrong could always be spotted as the man in the red jacket.
Armstrong was so iconic and was such an integral part of the Little 500 that he even played himself in the 1979 film “Breaking Away.”

In the film, Armstrong is the race announcer and can be heard roaring over the megaphone “Gentlemen, mount your Roadmaster bikes.”

“He is the Little 500,” said former IU Student Foundation President Randy Rogers to the Herald times in 1998.

— Matt Callahan

The Stadium

Bill Armstrong Stadium opened in 1981; the Little 500 moved to Bill Armstrong Stadium that year.

Bill Armstrong Stadium was named in 1983.

The Little 500 used to take place where the Arboretum is now, in what was called Memorial Stadium (10th Street Stadium).

10th Street Stadium was demolished in 1982 to construct the Arboretum.

— Rebecca Westall

Get stories like this in your inbox