Ferris State's Victory Bell Resonates Loudly
The referee blows the final whistle to signal the game's conclusion followed by the customary handshakes of sportsmanship.
And then minutes later in a full sprint, members of the Ferris State University football team run toward the direction of where a landmark icon is positioned just beyond the end zone of the Bulldogs' home stadium -- the Victory Bell at Top Taggart Field.
A fixture at Top Taggart Field for almost four decades, the sound of the Victory Bell celebrates each Bulldog football victory and also signals the start of the University's annual Homecoming celebration.
Presumably, the precise origin of the Victory Bell as a fixture of Ferris State athletics tradition belonged to the City of Big Rapids and served as the old Firehouse bell. Historical records indicate the Victory Bell only made seasonal appearances on campus during Homecoming when a temporary wooden framework would be constructed to hold the bell into place. The 1955 Ferriscope, for example, showed the bell being placed near the north entrance of the East (now Prakken) building on the northeast side of campus.
The original Victory Bell at Top Taggart Field, which was located at the north end of the field, served as an inspirational incentive to achieve victory as the Bulldog football players, coaches, and staff all shared in the motto of "Ring The Bell." The undefeated 1968 team rang the bell three times for its home victories before misfortune struck the bell. In the 1969 campaign, the Bulldogs had to resort to using a hammer to ring the bell as a result of the clanger coming up missing one early autumn day.
The Victory Bell remained at Top Taggart Field until 1998 when a crack formed in the bell prompting its removal. In the summer of 1998, the brick structure which the Victory Bell was anchored to was dismantled as an artificial-playing surface was installed on Top Taggart Field as part of a multi-phase renovation and construction project.
For the next 11 years, the Victory Bell remained "silent" until members of the 1968 football team stepped forward to fund a new, larger Victory Bell. The new Victory Bell, which was officially dedicated at the 40th reunion of the 1968 team on Oct. 25, 2008 during the Bulldogs' home contest against Northwood, is currently anchored at the south end of Top Taggart Field for greater exposure and fan access.
"The (Victory) Bell was a big tradition for us. It was definitely a part of our going undefeated - Coach (Bob Leach) would always say we weren't leaving the field until we rang the bell," said the late Larry Marfechuk, a 1968 team member and the lead donor in the funding of the new Victory Bell.
The original Victory Bell would resurface and is presently on display outside the City of Big Rapids' new Public Safety Building.