The People’s Champs.
The Beatles had yet to visit America and John Kennedy was still president when Bob Otalski and his brother Richard started a joke in 1961 that would turn into the most successful collegiate cycling team and intramural athletic groups in Ball State University’s history.
“It was a joke between my brother and me.” Bob Otalski remembered. His brother Richard was a member of the Blue Key Honorary Fraternity and Bob came up with the idea of starting a group called the Black Key Dis-Honorary Fraternity. Later, someone thought of using the Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull as the basis for the group’s mascot and emblem, and thus, the Black Key Bulls were born.
The Black Key organization never had a permanent hangout. It didn’t require dues and its members didn’t go through initiation. They were, in the words of one former BKB, a “disorganized organization.” Former sponsor Dick Stucky came to know many of the members through what was termed as a “Godfather” type relationship. He’d help them out when they had problems and financed many of their teams. “Some were just guys who were ex-athletes. They’d come to college to be varsity athletes and just decided it wasn’t for them,” Stucky said. “Some were guys that became disenchanted with Greek life and were looking for something better. It was just a bunch of guys who had a hell of a good time. They were serious about their cycling though!”
In the mid-1990’s, after the Black Key Bulls back to back to back victories, Ball State University closed down their intramural cycling event, Bike-a-thon and with it the Black Key Bulls went dormant.
As the Phoenix rises from the ashes, so too have the Black Key Bulls. In 2006 the team resurrected itself and has consistently contended for the win at the centerpiece event of what is “The Worlds Greatest College Weekend” – Indiana University’s Little 500, the premiere collegiate cycling event in the world.
The Black Key Bulls are now in their twelfth year of the Little 500 at IU. After 8 top 10 finishes, including 3rd in 2007, BKB captured its first victory in the 2014 race. The team secured podium finishes in 2015 and 2016, 2nd and 3rd respectively. Most recently the team finished 1st for their second overall win in the 2017, 67th running of the Men’s Little 500.