February 2021 One of Indiana\u2019s most renowned contributors to Indianapolis sports journalism, Bill Benner, has been selected into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) 2021 Hall of Fame Class. The USBWA, headquartered in Zionsville, Indiana, has selected Benner\u2014a lifelong Hoosier and highly respected, award-winning Indianapolis sports journalist, commentator and local sports expert\u2014as one of five sports writers selected throughout the U.S. to be inducted this April. Included in this year\u2019s HOF class are Benner\u2019s fellow inductees Pat Forde, Dana O'Neil, Brian Morrison and Loren Tate. A Brief Overview of the USBWA The United States Basketball Writers Association was formed in 1956 and is recognized as one of the most influential organizations in college basketball. Since its inception, USBWA has served the interests of writers who follow college and high school basketball in the U.S. The USBWA\u2019s postseason awards program honors national and district Players of the Year and Coaches of the Year, as well as the winners of the Most Courageous Award, the Katha Quinn Service award and inductees into the USBWA Hall of Fame. The organization\u2019s executive director, presidents and nine district representatives throughout the U.S. are responsible for selecting the USBWA HOF Class nominees. USBWA executive director and Zionsville resident Malcolm Moran shared his thoughts on Benner\u2019s selection and his contributions to sports journalism over the decades. Malcolm Moran: USBWA executive director \u201cIf Bill had continued as a columnist and did not have these other careers that he\u2019s excelled in, he would be just as authentic as he was then,\u201d Moran stated. \u201cThere\u2019s absolutely no doubt in my mind that his handling of different platforms would be just as authentic, just as responsible, and he wouldn\u2019t use it as an excuse to go off the deep end. The thing that gave so much credibility is that when he was critical of someone or something, it was absolutely authentic. It wasn\u2019t to irritate his audience or to draw attention to himself. It was because he had a remarkable institutional memory and it gave him a sense of conviction when he wrote. And I think that's why it's all the more reason to celebrate his work the way that the organization is.\u201d A Long and Illustrious Journalism Career Benner\u2019s career as an Indianapolis sports journalist and columnist spans several decades. Benner was a sportswriter and columnist for The Indianapolis Starfrom 1968\u20132001, then served as a sports columnist for The Indianapolis Business Journalfrom 2001\u201313. A young Benner in the newsroom at the Indianapolis Star During his career with the newspaper, Benner covered high school sports, the Indiana Pacers, the Indianapolis Colts, three Olympics (Seoul, Barcelona, Atlanta) and two Pan American Games (Indianapolis, Havana), Masters and U.S. Open golf, tennis and more than 20 NCAA Final Fours. He became a full-time sports columnist in 1990. Today, Benner continues to host the \u201cInside Indiana Sports\u201d segment on the statewide \u201cInside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick\u201dtelevision show and is serving in his third term as a board member of Special Olympics Indiana, on which he also served as board chairman in 2009 and 2010. Benner also serves on the board of Finish Line Youth Foundation. When asked what Benner thinks about the evolution of journalism\u2014specifically sports journalism\u2014Benner replied, \u201cI\u2019m still a guy who likes to have a little ink on my fingers as I read the morning paper. In the good ol\u2019 days, there was a true depth of coverage because media companies devoted people resources towards reporting and commenting on the news of the day, whether it be sports, features, music, the arts, you name it. Social media has dramatically changed what newspaper are. Let\u2019s say, for instance, if the Pacers have a bad first quarter, the tendency is to say the team is doing this wrong or that wrong and to be critical in the moment rather than in the days of traditional print journalism to actually allow the game to end. The Pacers might end up playing very well and win.\u201d Benner added, \u201cThe old days afforded time and perspective, whereas today\u2014driven by social media\u2014that is not a luxury. Is it better or worse? I will allow other people to say. It\u2019s just dramatically different.\u201d A Few Snippets From Benner\u2019s Memory Reel Benner shared a few memories of his innumerable experiences that chronicle the evolution of Indianapolis\u2014once a city that you flew over, it became the amateur sports mecca of the world. \u201cOne thing that I was very fortunate to cover, both in the \u2018beat\u2019 realm and then later as a columnist, was the evolution of Indianapolis as a sports capital,\u201d Benner shared. \u201cI covered the first Pacers game in Market Square Arena back in 1974 and saw the impact it had on downtown development. I witnessed the formation of the Indiana Sports Corporation as the umbrella organization that would attract sporting events and sports associations.\u201d Benner considers himself fortunate to have witnessed and written about the arrival of the Colts organization, the construction and life of the Hoosier Dome, Bankers Life Fieldhouse\u2014then Conseco Fieldhouse\u2014the attraction of the Final Fours and of the NCAA itself. \u201cI was fortunate to write all about that and to help chronicle Indianapolis\u2019 unmatched, unparalleled success in the realm of using sports to create an identity for itself,\u201d Benner expressed. \u201cIt\u2019s even more phenomenal if you take yourself back to the mid-1970s and recognize what Indianapolis was then and what it is today. And that\u2019s notwithstanding the long-term impact and presence of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it\u2019s been.\u201d Like any Hoosier who walked the earth in the era of Indiana University and Purdue University\u2019s rivalry in the days of head coaches Bob Knight and Gene Keady, Benner remembers the intensity of those collegiate basketball tournaments and what it was like covering two of the greatest college basketball coaches in the history of collegiate sports. \u201cI evolved to covering college basketball, including Final Fours, when Keady and Knight were in their heyday,\u201d Benner said. \u201cI felt compelled, especially as a columnist, to write my true feelings and observations. And certainly had his controversial moments, and I didn't shy away from weighing in on those moments. Because I was as concerned about the reputation of Indiana University as I was about the championships that were being won.\u201d Benner continued, \u201cWith Bob Knight, everybody who covered him\u2014and I mean everybody\u2014eventually came to a crossroads, and you essentially had to choose . And when my crossroads arrived, I chose that I was going to stay true to what I thought was my role and responsibility as a journalist and as a sportswriter. That being said, I never doubted for a second that if I had to choose one coach to win one game, especially if the other team had more \u2018talent,\u2019 I would have chosen Bob Knight\u2014he was a great, great basketball coach.\u201d Onward and Upward With the upcoming March Madness ahead of us, we asked Benner if Indianapolis\u2019 best sports days were behind us or if there are better days still to come. \u201cI think as we reemerge from COVID-19, we\u2019re also going to reemerge with a greater and true appreciation for seeing live sports and being part of that atmosphere,\u201d Benner expressed. \u201cI think we miss being part of the collective moments. I miss going to games, and I truly do miss the emotions of the crowds.\u201d The days of being confined to one\u2019s living room or \u201cmancave,\u201d watching sports on one\u2019s big-screen TV are numbered, and soon, sports enthusiasts will join together, creating and witnessing the vibrant energy that modern-day downtown Indianapolis was designed to cultivate. \u201cI don\u2019t like sitting in front of my big screen watching sports all the time,\u201d Benner admitted. \u201cIt\u2019s just not the same. It cannot replicate what it\u2019s like to be there. I\u2019m very hopeful that will reignite our thirst and our passion for being there with thousands of others, feeling the ups and the downs. I think, in some cases, we began to take it for granted, and as we come out of this , the perspective will have changed and for the better.\u201d Benner\u2019s Career at a Glance - Served as senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League (2010\u201313), director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association (2005\u201310) and vice president of communications for Indiana Sports Corporation (2001\u201305). - Served as senior vice president for corporate, community and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment and executive director of the Pacers Foundation. Benner also served as co-chair of the 2012 Indianapolis Super Bowl Host Committee media relations committee and currently serves as speakers bureau co-chair for the Indy Championships Committee. - Spent 10 years as an adjunct faculty member of the Butler University department of journalism, where Benner taught sports journalism. - Served as co-chair of the media relations and media operations committee for the 2012 Super Bowl and continued a history of involvement in major sporting events in Indianapolis, having also served on local organizing committees for multiple NCAA Men\u2019s Final Fours, the 2016 NCAA Women\u2019s Final Fours, the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Swim Trials and numerous Big Ten women\u2019s and men\u2019s basketball tournaments. Benner also served on the committee that produced a successful bid for the 2024 NBA All-Star.