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University of North Texas  Spirit Bell by Rufus Coleman
Spring 2003      

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UNT Spirit Bell


You really can buy just about anything on E-Bay. Brothers Sherman ('82) and Keith ('90) Swartz bought a 1,600-pound UNT Spirit Bell and a 9,000-pound truck to carry it.

"For more than twenty years we've been searching for a bell, and in 2001 we decided we would move heaven and earth to find one," Sherman says. "We never would've guessed to just look on E-Bay."

The search
Keith (left) and Sherman Swartz
Keith (left) and
Sherman Swartz

Sherman, a former UNT Talons president, started his Spirit Bell odyssey in 1978, when he saw the first signs of an irreparable crack in the old UNT bell.

The 2,000-pound bell, originally brought from Michigan in 1891 to signal the change of classes and sound curfew, served as a call to arms for UNT fans during football games. The Talons rang the bell and ran up and down the field working up the crowd's spirit.

Over time, the crack in the bell warped its tone and made it impossible to ring. It was retired to the University Union in 1982 and replaced with a smaller bell at the games.

But it just wasn't the same, says Keith, who also served as Talons president.

"I literally grew up with the Spirit Bell in my life as a kid and they retired it before my watch on the Talons," he says. "And I've always felt like it needed to be replaced, it's so important. Plus, I guess you could say I love 'big and loud.'"

But because they weren't building a church or a school, it was almost impossible to find the right size bell, Sherman says.

"They were either too big or too small. We advertised, went to foundries and bell casting organizations and even called churches and schools to find a bell — with no luck," he says.

The discovery

Over the years, all the Swartz siblings — including Rebecca ('84, '91 M.S.) and Carl, who attended North Texas — joined in the search, relaying messages of any discoveries to match the old bell.

"Every time we got together for anything we'd talk about the Spirit Bell," Keith says. "And it was getting hopeless until we found this wonderful thing called the Internet."

Brosamer's Bells, a Michigan-based company that refurbishes and sells bells, posted one for auction on E-Bay that was the exact style and from the same time period as the original bell.

And you'd think buying the bell was the end of the story, but it wasn't, Keith says. The bell sat in a lot for six months because they needed a vehicle to tow it around Fouts Field.

"So we went on E-Bay again to buy a tug," Sherman says. "This vehicle, which seems small but weighs a ton, was used to pull baggage cars at an airport."

To make the tug usable, a welder had to reduce the weight. One bumper weighed 3,000 pounds.

The price of the bell was several thousand dollars, and shipping charges cost just as much. Between remodeling the tug and welding the bell to it, the project cost a good chunk of change.

"I can't afford to build a new stadium," Keith says. "But this is something I can do. We spent some money to do this, but more than anything it was spending the time. And that's something I've got."

Keith became an independent consultant in his 30s after working as one of the founding employees of with Mark Cuban.

The Mean Green spirit

The brothers are willing to admit that most people might think a 20-year search for a Spirit Bell is a little odd. But there's a reason the Swartzes bleed such a deep shade of Mean Green, says Rebecca, chief logistician in this endeavor and one of the first female Talons. UNT has been a part of their lives since they were children.

  Cheerleaders and the bell

Cheerleaders and the bell, 1967


In junior high, all the Swartz kids would sneak into campus computer labs to earn computer game playing privileges by helping UNT students with basic programming.

And when he was old enough, Keith attended UNT and met his wife and college sweetheart, Susan Hudak ('91, '95 M.S.), because she was a Talon.

Sherman also met his wife, Theresa Simmons ('88), at North Texas. His UNT spirit runs so deep that he's only missed one bonfire in 30 years and that was out of protest in 2000 when Christmas lights were used because of an extremely dry season in Texas.

The colored past

The university and the bell are like old family members, Keith says.

"I can remember as a kid repainting the Spirit Bell green after it had been stolen and painted burnt orange," he says. "Because I was the littlest I got to climb up and get the top of the bell."

And Rebecca, who denies all involvement in any misdeeds, can remember the fun of the antics that surrounded the bell.

"I'm sure the people at UT can tell you about the many things they've had turn up green over the years," she says. "You only travel the path from high school to college once. The memories you make along the way last a lifetime."

The Swartzes, who also play a key role in maintaining the Mean Green Model A, hope to someday establish a foundation to care for all the UNT symbols of spirit and pride.

And it's that need to leave something for future Eagles to make their own memories that inspired this great journey, Rebecca says.

"It's our traditions that make us who we are."

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