Three men with significant ties to Indiana high school basketball will be recognized with Virgil Sweet Awards from the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association in 2022.
Dan Vance of the Outside The Huddle website and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Randy Shields of McDonald’s Restaurants of Indianapolis and Andy Amey of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star are the recipients of this year’s awards. One person is honored from each IHSAA district — Vance in District 1, Shields in District 2 and Amey in District 3.
Virgil Sweet Awards are presented to those who have provided meritorious service in the promotion of basketball across Indiana. The award is named in honor of Sweet, a former Valparaiso High School basketball coach and executive director of the IBCA from 1977 through 1984. This the 40th year that the Virgil Sweet Awards have been presented. The set of awards was first given in 1982, but no honorees were named in 2021 (when the 2020 recipients belatedly received their awards because of the COVID-19 pandemic. A list of winners from over the years — plus a bio of Virgil Sweet — are beneath the biographies of the 2022 winners.
These awards will be presented on Friday, April 22 as part of the 2022 IBCA Clinic. For more information about the IBCA, go to in.nhsbca.org
Here is more information about each Sweet Award honoree for 2022.
Dan Vance has been covering high school basketball in Northeast Indiana and the Fort Wayne area for nearly 20 years beginning in high school. He currently operates OutsideTheHuddle.net, which covers high school basketball and football in Northeast Indiana. He has won a variety of awards over the years, including honors from the Indiana Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hoosier State Press Association.Vance is a 2002 graduate of Fort Wayne North Side High School, where he first entered the journalism world as a sports editor for The Legend yearbook and a sports writer for The Northerner newspaper. He then attended IPFW and held various editorial roles, including editor-in-chief for The Communicator newspaper. Later, he served as the president of the Board of Directors for The Comunicator’s parent group IPSN Inc.
He began his professional writing career in 2003, becoming the sports editor at the Decatur Daily Democrat. At that time, he also did color commentary for games on WZBD Radio in Adams County. He later worked for Overtime Sports Weekly and launched Basketball Fort Wayne while in college. He has also freelanced for MaxPreps, the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel, the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette, Northeast Indiana Game Night and Fort Wayne Business Weekly, among other publications.
He joined the Vinton Voice, a Virginia-based weekly newspaper in 2009 as editor-in-chief. In 2013, Vance returned to Indiana and joined the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel as a page designer and later multimedia editor while handling the newspaper’s prep basketball coverage. Upon leaving the News-Sentinel in 2018, he helped launch Outside The Huddle. He has also provided play-by-play and color commentary for Summit City Sports.
Since 2003, Vance has been coaching basketball on various levels, including on the staff at Fort Wayne North Side High School (2003-2008) and with Fort Wayne Players club program (Class of 2010). He currently coaches for Indiana Elite Focus during the spring and summers with the Class of 2024. While running Outside The Huddle is his passion project, Vance’s full-time job is serving as the media relations manager for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA G League, where he handles media relations, public relations and social media.
Vance has been married to his wife, Ellen, for seven years. He has three sons – Xavier, 19, Ayden, 16, and Lincoln, 5.
RanRandall “Randy” Shields is a 28-year McDonald’s franchisee with multiple restaurants in the Indianapolis area. He is currently chairman of the board of the Ronald McDonald House of Central Indiana, which is a partner with the Riley Hospital for Children of Indianapolis. He is the recent past chairman of the board of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Shields received his bachelor degree in pharmacy from Purdue University in 1975. He later earned a master’s degree from Purdue’s Krannert School of Management in 1977. Shields worked for Eli Lilly and Company for 17 years before joining the McDonald’s franchise system in 1994 with the first restaurant of now five restaurants in Indianapolis.
He has been involved in a number of leadership positions with McDonald’s, the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, the Ronald McDonald House of Central Indiana, the Purdue Athletic Advisory Council, the Purdue University President’s Council and the Indiana Basketball High School Hall of Fame. He also has been active within his church while also supporting Indianapolis-area schools and neighborhoods as well as Indiana high school basketball events and programs, including the Indiana All-Stars and the IBCA/IHSAA Top 100 Underclass Showcase Workout for 25 years.
A native of Wisconsin, Shields is a 1970 graduate of Milwaukee Lutheran High School. There, he was a 1970 Wisconsin all-state selection and a three-time all-conference selection in basketball, helping his team to two conference championships. He averaged a double-double as a senior (23.0 ppg, 18.0 rpg) with high games of 39 points and 32 rebounds. He also played football two years, was a high jumper in track one year and was a National Honor Society student.
Shields matriculated to Purdue after being recruited by three of the 1969 NCAA Final Four teams, playing for coaches George King and Fred Schaus. Shields was honored to be a Big Ten student-athlete for the Boilermakers, who won the 1974 National Invitation Tournament and were ranked 10th in the national poll when he was a senior. He still holds the Mackey Arena’s all-time rebound record of 26 in a freshman team game against the Butler freshmen, and he was the team’s Red Mackey Leadership Award nominee as a senior.
Shields was presented Purdue’s “Diamond P Distinguished Service Award” in 2009, and he was inducted into the Milwaukee Lutheran High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017.
He and his wife Linda, a 1977 Purdue School of Pharmacy graduate, have been married for 46 years. The couple has three adult children and eight grandchildren.
Andy Amey’s byline has been a fixture in Terre Haute for more than 50 years with the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. But his journalism career began a long time before – in his second-grade classroom at Lowell’s Center Grade School when Amey wrote about the eighth-grade basketball team.
Since then, Amey has written millions of words about sports and people of all ages who take part in them. The best compliment that can be made about Amey is a line oft-repeated by his subjects, according to current Tribune-Star sports editor Todd Golden.
“When you’re out and about in the Wabash Valley, especially at Vigo County’s high schools, student-athletes will say that a story written about them is an ‘Andy Amey story,’ Golden wrote when Amey was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters & Sportscasters Hall of Fame in 2014. “Given Amey’s (then 43) years of service at the publication, he’s earned that level of esteem.”
A 1966 graduate of Lowell High School, Amey loved high school basketball throughout his youth, a quality instilled in him by his father. Amey still writes an “Amey Takes Aim” column that occasionally alludes to attending all-day sectionals as a youngster at East Chicago Washington, mentions standout Region basketball players of the late 1950s and 1960s, or recalls a sectional snowstorm that nearly prevented him, several friends and Lowell assistant coach Jim Forrester from getting home from the Hammond Sectional in 1965.
Amey went on to attend Indiana State University, where he enjoyed watching and describing the exploits of the Sycamores’ basketball team. He was sports editor of The Indiana Statesman for 4½ years and began seeking a teaching and coaching position upon graduation in 1971. When none materialized, Terre Haute Star sports editor Tom Reck hired Amey as a part-time sportswriter that August 1971, and the rest is history.
Over the years, Amey also worked as an Indiana State assistant sports information director, a substitute teacher, a stock boy, a survey writer for Prairie Farmer magazine and an assistant high school baseball coach. He has covered Larry Bird’s Sycamores in the late 1970s, the 1996 Turkey Run single-class softball state title run, a state tennis title for Terre Haute South, and basketball state championships won by the Terre Haute South girls and the Robinson (Illinois) boys.
“Sportswriting is a job that picked me, not one that I picked, but I am extremely fortunate that it’s come this far,” Amey said in 2014. “And it’s going to go farther. What am I going to do? Stop going to games?”
Amey and his wife, Jenny, have been married for more than 25 years after a long courtship. He has four stepchildren, two adopted children (from among 70 foster children), 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Virgil Sweet has been a part of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association since the group’s inception and an award is named after him. However, not everyone may recall what an outstanding coach Sweet was for 20 years at Valparaiso High School.
Sweet, who currently lives in Florida, will turn 95 on April 27.
A 1945 graduate of Covington High School, Sweet played basketball on a team that reached the Indianapolis Semi-State and lost 39-38 to Rushville as a senior. He initially went to Butler and played one year of football for Tony Hinkle, then transferred to Eastern Illinois and played football and baseball for the Panthers. He graduated from EIU in 1950 and later earned a master’s degree from Indiana University.
Sweet began his basketball coaching career as an assistant coach to Don Reichert for one season at Covington. Sweet became varsity coach for three seasons at Westville (Ill.) before moving to Valparaiso as the varsity coach from 1954-74. His Vikings won 296 games over those 20 seasons, going 48-6 in sectional contests, claiming 14 sectional titles – including 11 in a row – and twice reached the final eight of the state tournament.
In 23 seasons as a varsity coach, including the three years at Westville, Sweet’s teams won 342 games.
Sweet’s teams at Valparaiso were noted for their excellent free-throw shooting, largely because of 20-step system that became known as the “Valparaiso Free-Throw Method.” His 1963-64 squad shot .792 for the season, then a national high school record. He coached two high school All-Americans, 54 players who played college basketball and 16 players who became coaches. Sweet was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 1987.
After retiring as a coach, Sweet was chairman of the Valparaiso physical education department and served as the IBCA executive director from 1977 through 1984 after assisting Marion Crawley with the group for a year. He then retired from teaching and moved to Florida, where he has had a tremendously successful second career in real estate.
Sweet’s wife of 47 years, Paralee, passed away in 1999. They had two daughters, Shari and Sandy, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Sweet remains active, regularly playing tennis, and Helen Parks has been his companion for the past 12 years.