Back to All News

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana Sports Corp is set to host its State of Sports on November 16 at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. During the program, the organization will honor the Jim Irsay Family and INNOVATIVE with the distinguished Pathfinder Award while Bill Benner will be recognized as the Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award recipient. These individuals will be recognized during a cocktail reception from 3:30 to 5:30 PM, with Indianapolis Colts Vice Chair & Owner Kalen Jackson accepting the award on behalf of the Irsay Family. State of Sports is an annual fundraising program for Indiana Sports Corp and highlights its mission of impacting the community through sports.

The Pathfinder Award, presented annually since 1988 by Indiana Sports Corp, aims to recognize individuals who, through sport, have made a commitment and impact to improving the lives of others and inspiring change and action in their communities. Over the years, the Pathfinder Award has honored a tremendous list of recipients including Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Jeff and Karen Saturday, John Wooden, Jeff Gordon, Larry Bird, Governor Mitch Daniels, Tony Dungy, Peyton Manning, Jack and Barbara Nicklaus, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson, Jim Nantz, and Dick Vitale, among others.

Colts Owner and CEO Jim Irsay entered his 51st season with the organization this year with his involvement dating back to 1972 when his father, Robert Irsay, acquired the team. Jim Irsay took the helm of the franchise in 1995 and became its sole owner in 1997. Throughout his leadership, Indianapolis has captured 10 division championships, two Super Bowl appearances, and the team’s fourth world championship with a victory in Super Bowl XLI. Irsay’s three daughters – Carlie Irsay-Gordon, Casey Foyt, and Kalen Jackson – represent the next generation of Colts ownership and each entered their 11th season in 2022 as vice chairs/owners, respectively.

The Irsay Family has a longstanding track record of extensive community and philanthropic efforts under their leadership of the Colts. During this time, the Colts have been committed to improving the lives of people in their home city and state by helping build a healthy, inclusive, and compassionate community through meaningful outreach, projects, and partnerships. In 2020, the Irsays launched Kicking the Stigma, an initiative to raise awareness about mental health disorders and remove the shame and stigma often associated with these illnesses. Since starting this effort, the Irsays have committed more than $17 million toward expanding mental health treatment and research and raising awareness in Indiana and beyond. Beyond this initiative, the Irsays have given back through projects such as the Irsay Family YMCA, the downtown Colts Canal Playspace, Riley Hospital for Children, Wheeler Mission Center for Women & Children, Indiana University’s Irsay Family Research Institute and Irsay Family Wellness Center, and dozens of other important community initiatives.

“Indiana Sports Corp is honored to present the Jim Irsay Family with this year’s Pathfinder Award,” said Patrick Talty, president of Indiana Sports Corp. “The Irsays embody the spirit of this award and have made an invaluable impact on our community and beyond. We are grateful to have them in Indianapolis and their unwavering commitment to improving the lives of people in our city.”

INNOVATIVE was founded in 1993 and serves as a full-service agency based in Indianapolis built for smart marketing and strategic problem solving. Their team of talented creators has worked with countless local and national organizations to build brands and move the meter for their clients through their work. INNOVATIVE has served as a storyteller for Indianapolis and several local organizations including the Indiana Pacers, Hendricks Regional Health, Ascend Indiana, Indiana Innovation Institute, Roche Diagnostics, among others.

While operating as a full-service agency, INNOVATIVE has a steadfast dedication to assisting non-profits throughout the community tell their stories and often gives back to these organizations philanthropically. A sample of the organizations that have benefitted from working with INNOVATIVE are Indiana Sports Corp, Joseph Maley Foundation, Riley Children’s Foundation, IndyHub, and Concord Neighborhood Center. In addition, the INNOVATIVE team is often behind the scenes assisting in the bid process and elevating premier events in Indy including Super Bowl XLVI, countless Men’s and Women’s Final Fours, the 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship, among others.

“Often behind the scenes, INNOVATIVE has played an integral role in elevating Indianapolis through its work in the community,” said Talty. “The passion for our city their team exemplifies is unmatched and we are thrilled to recognize their impact with the Pathfinder Award.”

New in 2019, the Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award seeks to recognize those who share stories that showcase how the power of sports can inspire people to take action and invest in their community. The Award honors a sports journalist whose contributions positively impact the narrative of sports as a force for change. Previous recipients include Gregg Doyel, Sage Steele, and Malcolm Moran.

Bill Benner, often referred to as Indy’s resident storyteller, is noted as a long-time Indianapolis sports journalist, commentator, and local sports expert. He served as a sportswriter and columnist for The Indianapolis Star from 1968-2001, then worked as a sports columnist for The Indianapolis Business Journal from 2001-2013. Most recently, Benner hosted the Inside Indiana Sports segment on the statewide Inside Indiana Business with Gerry Dick television program. Benner retired from full-time employment in 2020 as senior vice president for corporate, community and public relations for Pacers Sports & Entertainment and Executive Director of the Pacers Foundation.

A lifelong Hoosier and graduate of Center Grove High School and Indiana University, Benner dedicated his career to being an Indy advocate, volunteer, and community storyteller. Whether he was behind the scenes working one of Indy’s biggest sporting events or gathering interview content for his latest column, Benner played a pivotal role in elevating Indiana as the state where champions are crowned. Benner won numerous awards for his writing during his newspaper career and was twice recognized as the Indiana Sportswriter of the Year by the National Association of Sportswriters and Sportscasters. In 2016, he was inducted into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sportscasters Hall of Fame and shortly thereafter, received a Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana’s highest individual honor, from Governor Eric Holcomb. In 2020, Benner was honored with the Indiana University Bicentennial Medal for distinguished service to the University. In April 2021, he was inducted into the U.S. Basketball Writers Association Hall of Fame.

“For more than 50 years, Bill has told the story of Indianapolis and served as one of our city’s strongest advocates,” said Talty. “We are excited to recognize him with the Inspiring Sports Storyteller Award for his iconic career and involvement in amplifying our city and state as a premier destination for sports and sporting events.”

For sponsorship information for the 2022 State of Sports, please contact Mike Karnuta at or (317) 237-5004. To purchase tables/individual tickets for the event, use this ticket link.


About Indiana Sports Corp
Founded in 1979 as the nation’s first sports commission, Indiana Sports Corp is a not-for-profit organization focused on bringing premier sporting events to Indiana to drive economic vitality, facilitate a vibrant community with civic pride and garner positive media attention. Because of this, Indiana Sports Corp is able to provide positive, sports-related opportunities for youth in the community. For more information, please visit

Back to All News