Jack Krebs ’63 came to Butler in 1958 with no fanfare. At 6-foot-1 and 155 pounds, he was talented enough to play quarterback at Shelbyville High School, but not big or strong enough to be recruited by Butler.
He chose Butler anyway, and walked on to the football, basketball, and track teams.
And then this happened: The football teams Krebs played on finished with a combined record of 34-2. The basketball team compiled a winning record every year, and in 1962 made the NCAA tournament. And Krebs made it to two NCAA national track meets, placing eighth in his junior year for the long jump and eighth in his senior year for the triple jump.
He may have been unheralded then, but on October 1, when the 1961 men’s track and field team is inducted into the Butler Athletic Hall of Fame, Krebs will become the hall’s first athlete to be inducted five times. Only Tony Hinkle (six) has more.
“Tony Hinkle would be rolling over in his grave,” Krebs, 76, said, laughing. “But it was just a great time to be here. It was really fun. We had terrific teams in all the sports.”
Krebs was inducted into the Hall of Fame as an individual in 1997 and as part of the 1959 and 1961 football teams (both undefeated, and both inducted in 2004) and the 1962 basketball team (inducted in 2007).
He said his main contribution to the basketball team was guarding Dick Haslam and Gerry Williams during practices. (“I think I helped make them better players because it wasn’t easy for them in practice.”) As for football, when Krebs arrived at Butler, the team had eight athletes who’d played quarterback in high school, so he wound up as an end. “And if I didn’t hit somebody first, I was going to get hurt.”
Krebs memories of those times are all fond ones. He recalled Hinkle coming into the locker room clapping and singing “The Butler War Song.” “He’d get tears in his eyes and everything. Everyone waited for that before they got dressed.” And when Hinkle had time off from coaching baseball, he was down at the track meets in his shorts and baseball cleats.
Krebs also remembered that Hinkle would not give him a scholarship. “But he gave me tuition the last year, which was $250. I was working at the time. My family had an insurance business by the fairgrounds on 38th Street. I worked there in the mornings, went to basketball practice in the afternoon, and went to school at night. I went in every semester asking him for money. He’d say, ‘Kid, your family can take care of you.’”
Hinkle called almost everyone “kid” or by the name of their hometown. Some years later, after Hinkle retired, Krebs ran into him at a golf tournament.
“He said, ‘Hi, Jack,’” Krebs recalled. “First time he ever called me that. It was a big surprise that he even knew names, as many kids as he coached.”
Track was where Krebs excelled—and had the most fun. The coach, Galvin Walker, “was a character,” Krebs said. “He’d give everybody a push toward something, then it was a do-it-yourself type thing.”
The 1961 men’s track and field team won the Indiana Collegiate Conference championship. Throughout the season, the team set new school records in the pole vault, discus, triple jump, and half-mile relay. The Bulldogs tied for first at the eighth Wabash Relays, which included 10 teams, won a dual meet with Indiana State, and won triangular meets with DePauw and Memphis State, and Indiana Central and St. Joseph’s, respectively.
In 1963, Krebs’s 47-foot, one-half-inch leap in the triple jump set a conference record that earned him the Scott Ham Award, which is given annually to the team’s outstanding track athlete.
Off the field, Krebs studied business and accounting at Butler. After graduation, he worked for the accounting firm Katz (now Katz, Sapper & Miller) for 10 years doing auditing work, sold clothes at a Roderick St. John’s store for a short time, and then found a home as the accountant for Gene Beltz Shadeland Dodge, where he worked for 37 years till he retired.
Krebs and his wife, Betty, who’ve been together for 54 years and married for 40, take every opportunity to visit campus—sometimes with memorable results.
Betty Krebs said that between eighth grade and freshman year of high school, Jack grew 11 inches and lost his hair. He faced unmerciful taunts from fans of opposing teams. People would spit on him at ballgames. They threw water on him and called him baldy.
But a few years ago at a Butler basketball game, something special happened.
As Betty tells it: “This guy came up and said, ‘Are you Jack Krebs? I just want to tell you—you’re my hero. I watched you play basketball at Hinkle, and you’re the reason I came to Butler—because I knew people would treat me right with my bald head.’
“That was so neat,” she said, “for him to come over and say that to Jack.”