Friday, June 29, 2007

More on the BTN saga.

Jim Delany seems to be taking his pills. The Centre Daily provides some more insight on the BTN today. Our once-pugnacious commissioner has this to say about Comcast now:
"Comcast is an important and respected distributor," Delany said in a Capitol news conference. He said negotiations with the Philadelphia-based company, which serves Centre County, are ongoing."Their customers are our fans. And it's really about what is the best way" to deliver programming to them, Delany said.
Either Jim reconsidered, or the folks from Fox, which owns 49 percent of the endeavor, have been in his ear. Either way, he seems to be making some progress. He also makes some points that I have been trying to make concerning the appeal of the network and Comcast's new-found respect for its customers' pocketbooks:
"I've seen networks with far less compelling content than this (appear) on basic" cable, Delany said at the news conference.
"The fact is, we would not be the only network without 100 percent support from every subscriber," Delany said. " ... There's no one (channel) where 100 percent of people support it."
There's more info on the programming itself and what sort of advertising the network will accept:
The Big Ten Network has made several pledges, including a ban on advertising for
alcoholic drinks.
Makes sense.
It's also agreed to devote, within three years, equal time to men's and women's athletics, and to carry some academic programs.
Sigh. Of course, the women who play varsity sports work every bit as hard as the men. But come on. There are exactly two college sports with widespread viewing appeal: football and men's basketball. Other sports, including hockey (which the BTN won't have because it isn't a Big Ten sport), women's basketball, baseball, and soccer have niche followings, but the big two are basically it, in terms of attracting an audience of folks who aren't necessarily fans of the particular schools that are playing. I might watch Minnesota and Northwestern play football(might even do a bit of Sports Betting on it). I won't watch them play field hockey.
Earlier this week I noted that the nightly Sportscenter-type show had potential, unless the league decided to go all politically correct with how they treat various sports. I never would have guessed that the league would do that with actual programming. As with Title IX implementation generally, the teams that really will fall victim to this are the men's non-revenue sports. And I really don't have a problem with Title IX. As long as we are going to pretend that intercollegiate athletics are a purely educational activity, let the schools deal with Title IX. but it seems a strange business decision to impose Title IX restrictions where they aren't necessarily required. Actually making money off this enterprise would benefit non-renvue sports in a tangible way that broadcasting corss country meets will not.

Eshaunte Jones reopens recruiting.

Eschaunte Jones, a recent high school graduate who is prep school-bound, remains interested in IU but is reopening his recruitment. Jones is a low end of the top 100 type, so it's not a minor issue, but certainly isn't along the lines of losing Ebanks or Gordon. One does have to wonder if the Ebanks commitment has Jones feeling as if he has been recruited over, but that is pure speculation. For the long view, I highly recommend Mike Pegram's scholarship numbers page, which makes it a little easier to look a few years out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Football recruiting rolls along.

Astoundingly enough, IU continues to make some decent progress in recruiting. Yesterday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Alex Hunt, a running back from Duluth, Ga., committed to the Hoosiers. Also, Cortez Smith, a running back from Detroit, committed to IU a couple of days earlier. Particularly in football, verbal commitments often evaporate, but given the considerable uncertainty surrounding the IU football program, it speaks well of Coach Lynch and his staff that they are somehow managing to go about business as usual.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

A little clarification on the BTN.

I will never pass on the opportunity to kick some sand in Jim Delany’s face. His behavior has been embarrassing and amateurish, and couldn’t possibly be advancing the interests of the BTN. On the other hand, I can’t quite join with mgoblog, Maize-n-Brew, and others in concluding that the BTN is destined to fail. One crucial fact is that while it is the "Big Ten Network," the conference only owns 51 percent of the network. Fox owns the other 49 percent. While Delany’s public comments make him look about as sophisticated as George Costanza in his NBC negotiations, those of us who care (such as Comcast subscribers who don’t want to switch to DirecTV) can take some comfort in the fact that there are some genuine TV professionals involved in this negotiation. These folks didn't pull $1.10 out of thin air, and I don't think the current public posturing means that the network won't be on Comcast.
As Maize-n-Brew notes, from the football fan's perspective, the Big Ten Network is more relevant to fans of middle or lower-tier programs than to fans of Michigan and Ohio State (Jim Delany would say, "how dare you?! In the Big Ten,, all of our teams are first tier, from the champion all the way down to the 10th runner-up!"). As he notes, all or nearly all of Michigan's games will be picked up by ABC/ESPN/ESPN2. One thing that I am thinking may be worthwhile is the Big Ten studio show that is supposed to be on the BTN every night. I'm a college football/basketball junkie. I was the guy who would actually spend Saturday afternoon watching the Big Ten tripleheader on ESPN plus. I actually will watch the lesser games, even when my team isn't involved. Still, even if you don't care about watching the other games, the studio show could be useful for keeping up with other conference teams--that is, unless the BTN goes all politically correct and insists on treating soccer and field hockey and wrestling as if they are on par with football and men's basketball. I think it has potential, and I think that Comcast will end up paying something close to what the BTN is requesting.

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Big Ten recruiting rule?

Yesterday, my father-in-law told me that while reading an article in a hard copy of the Sporting News (he was at a doctor's office or something, so doesn't have a copy of the mag), he stumbled across a passage stating that the Big Ten had implemented what can fairly be called a "Sampson rule": my father-in-law reported that the rule forbids Big Ten schools from recruiting a kid who has committed to another Big Ten school and requires a coach who receives contact from a kid who had committed to another Big Ten school to call the coach who procured the commitment. I was shocked that I hadn't heard anything about it, and despite asking around on message boards I haven't found the TSN article in question, but this article by Tom Oates in the Wisconsin State Journal show that such a story did appear in TSN:
News: The Sporting News reported the Big Ten has a new rule prohibiting conference members from recruiting players who are publicly committed to another conference school.
Views: This is fallout from Eric Gordon reneging on his commitment to Illinois and signing with Indiana after the Hoosiers hired coach Kelvin Sampson. More important, it is an enforcement nightmare. After all, how does one define "publicly committed?" When it is confirmed by the kid? By his parents? His prep coach? His AAU coach? When it is in the newspaper? And what if the player truly initiates the contact?
Because I haven't found the article itself (by the way, if anyone has an electronic or even hard copy of the TSN article, please e-mail me at the address in the upper right hand corner), I won't comment on the second part of what I was told, the phone call issue. Nevertheless, as the State Journal reporter notes, this is an enforcement nightmare. Take the case of DeShaun Thomas. Thomas, a Fort Wayne resident who just finished his freshman year of high school, verbally committed to Ohio State back in early June. A few days later, his high school coach indicated that Thomas's parents want him to take more visits before making a final decision. I'm not sure if Thomas himself has offered any further public comment. So, under this rule, is DeShaun Thomas committed to Ohio State? Can this fifteen year-old's parents decide whether he is committed? Can they speak for him?
Again, I haven't seen the rule. But would it apply to basketball only, or to all sports? One of the issues that really exercised IU fans during the coverage of Eric Gordon's change of heart was the portrayal of recruiting a committed player as a deep moral wrong, while in reality such tactics are pretty well-accepted in the world of college football recruiting. Certainly, basketball recruiting classes are smaller, so the loss of even one player can cause quite a bit of damage, as Gordon's de-commit certainly did to the Illinois program. Still, the loss of a specialized player such as a quarterback, or any other player who fits a particularly glaring need, or the loss of a handful of top commitments can just as surely cripple a football recruiting class.
Another problem with this rule is that it will work to the disadvantage of the Big Ten. Suppose a high school junior-to-be wishes to make an early commitment. His finalists are Indiana, Illinois, Ohio State, and North Carolina. When a kid commits, of course, he probably doesn't contemplate changing his mind. Nevertheless, a commitment to a Big Ten school would have a high cost than a commitment to North Carolina because it would limit his future options should the circumstances change at one or more of the schools.
It would be unfortunate if Bruce Weber's sniveling resulted in a rule that works to the detriment of all Big Ten schools, including Illinois. Most kids don't chose a college until they are seniors in high school. Hell, some don't even start the decisionmaking process until then. I had known for years to which schools I was going to apply, but didn't make a final decision until April of my senior year. Unquestionably, it is in the interest of prospective student-athletes to be allowed to keep their options open. Should the Big Ten really be working to ensure that verbal commitments made by 15 year-olds in response to pitches from polished salesmen should be as binding as possible? My main problem with the criticism of Sampson last year was that if one took Bruce Weber's side, then Kelvin Sampson, who makes a seven-figure income for his job as the head coach at Indiana University, was supposed to subordinate his duty to his employer (not to mention the wishes of Gordon himself!) to his duty to be loyal to "the coaching fraternity" (gag). One would hope that the Big Ten, this coalition of fine universities, would care more about the autonomy of student-athletes rather than keeping peace between rival coaches and ensuring the enforceability of promises by young teenagers (who can't even enter legally binding contracts in most circumstances). But so it goes.
If there is an overwhelming need for recruiting reform, it seems to me that it should be national and should have some objective component so that coaches and players know where they stand. The NCAA could develop a nationwide, Internet-based "do not call" list. Every player who wished to be considered for a scholarship at an NCAA institution would be assigned an ID number and password. If a kid decided it was time to commit, then the school could confirm the scholarship offer, and the kid could confirm his tentative commitment. While the database reflects the kid as off-limits, no other school could contact him. This commitment would, however, be instantly and unilaterally revocable. I'm not sure if what I propose is necessary, but it would have the advantage of being uniform and objective. The Big Ten rule, at least as I now understand it, would work to the disadvantage of conference schools and is rife with potential for misunderstandings and general confusion.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Memorial service coverage.

Busy day, so no time for thoughts today. I would refer you to a thread on the Rivals forum from MyWifeRocks containing lots of video from the Hep memorial service.

The Star did a nice job on the coverage. Even Kravitz was tolerable.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Jim Delany's amateur hour.

Thanks to this post on mgoblog, we now know that Jim Delany has come unhinged about this Big Ten Network deal. The Big Ten sent an e-mail to various outlets that says this:
Comcast recently has characterized events that will be on the Big Ten Network as ‘second and third tier.’ I believe Comcast owes every Big Ten university an apology. The comments are an insult to Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin: To the universities, their students, their fans and alumni and their communities. There are no second-rate contests in the Big Ten.”
I love IU football, but if that November 10 contest at Northwestern qualifies as second tier, it will have exceeded expectations. We're adults, Jim. Those of us who follow such programs understand that IU-Northwestern isn't going to attract more viewers than Auburn-Georgia. Unfortunately, Mr. Delany seems to be utterly clueless about how to conduct a negotiation. Don't let them know it hurt, Jim.
Unfortunately, this is just the latest public statement by the commish that casts doubt on his fitness to lead a major conference. Let's not forget, just months ago, this ridiculous broadside against the SEC, including:
I love speed and the SEC has great speed, especially on the defensive line, but there are appropriate balances when mixing academics and athletics. Each school, as well as each conference, simply must do what fits their mission regardless of what a recruiting service recommends. I wish we had six teams among the top 10 recruiting classes every year, but winning our way requires some discipline and restraint with the recruitment process. Not every athlete fits athletically, academically or socially at every university. Fortunately, we have been able to balance our athletic and academic mission so that we can compete successfully and keep faith with our academic standards.
First, it's idiotic for a conference commissioner to issue any sort of statement, snippy or otherwise, to serve as a self-described response to "recruiting services and talking heads." Second, why impugn an entire conference? No one will soon confuse the SEC with the Patriot League, but our fine league, which I think is great, has had its share of black eyes in the last decade. The scandals involving the Michigan and Minnesota basketball programs were among the most breathtaking in the history of the sport. The disclosures about the class loads of Andy Katzenmoyer and Greg Oden make one wonder whether the typical Buckeye is getting anything approximating a college education. To be fair and balanced, one could note that one of the few Big Ten programs that has never been found guilty of an NCAA "major violation" hired a coach with a less-than-pristine compliance record. What an odd decision by Delany. And again, this wasn't an off-the-cuff temper tantrum in front of a live mike; this is a letter that remains on the Big Ten's website months later.
And let's not forget the Hartzell affair. You will recall that late in the 2005 season, IU, on the NCAA bubble, lost a close game at Wisconsin after a series of questionable calls. The game was officiated by Rick Hartzell, the athletic director at Northern Iowa and Ed Hightower, a trustee at Southern Illinois. Both schools were MVC bubble teams. Many in the media, including ESPN analyst and reformed credit card thief Doug Gottleib, criticized the Big Ten, not for any actual intent of the officials to steal the game from IU, but for the appearance of impropriety. Here's what the Big Ten said (this is a link to the Doug Ross @ Journal blog, a political blog that preserved the statement, which no longer appears on the Big Ten's website). Although Delany's name wasn't on the statement, it's in the same voice as the aforementioned SEC diatribe:
The Big Ten has communicated its extreme disappointment and concern to ESPN's management relative to statements made by Mr. Doug Gottlieb at the halftime of Thursday's Purdue at Illinois basketball game on ESPN2.Specifically Mr. Gottlieb called into question the integrity of Mr. Rick Hartzell, an official in Tuesday's Indiana at Wisconsin basketball game, telecast by ESPN. In addition Mr. Gottlieb questioned the professionalism of Big Ten Associate Commissioner Rich Falk relative to the administration of the Big Ten's men's basketball officiating program. Neither statement should have been made, and in our view these statements represent an example of irresponsible sports `reporting'. It is unfortunate that Mr. Gottlieb, whose own reputation for honest dealings has been called into question in the past, has been placed in the position by ESPN to pass judgment on a well-regarded, veteran official working a Big Ten basketball game, and a Big Ten associate commissioner who has rendered valuable service to the Conference and college basketball for decades. The Big Ten Conference considers this matter concluded and will have no further comment.
The Big Ten is a coalition of eleven prominent universities, yet the conference's leadership has no concept of "the appearance of impropriety," a pretty straight-forward concept used in many professions and contexts. With so many officials in the world, why would the Big Ten hire two guys with direct ties to bubble teams to officiate a game involving a bubble team? Because, in essence, Rick is good people, and Rich is good people, so the rest of y'all butt out. This parochial, dim-witted, good-old-boy stuff is what one would expect from the leadership of a backwater high school athletic department, not the Big Ten.
And, finally, the double standard of 2002-03. On September 28, 2002, Joe Paterno, angry about a series of calls that went against his team, chased down and angrily grabbed an official. No action was taken against Paterno, and Jim Delany laughed it off. Fast forward to December, when Mike Davis made a fool of himself by running onto the court and angrily confronting the officials during a nonconference game against Kentucky after a (proper) no call on a supposed foul. After doing nothing to an unrepentant Paterno, the Big Ten initially suggested that Davis, who was immediately and profusely apologetic and did not make physical contact with an official, should be suspended for six games.
The Big Ten has done well under Delany's leadership, but the more we see from the guy, the more I have to wonder whether it is because of Delany or in spite of Delany. It's a tribute to the strength of the member institutions that this guy hasn't ruined us yet.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Assembly Hall on the way out, someday.

Well, aren't we all. The IU Board of Trustees met yesterday in Gary, and as expected, said that replacing Assembly Hall, rather than an extensive renovation, would be the way to go.
Kansas City-based architecture firm HOK Sports estimated a renovation would cost
$115 million.Jim Edson, an architect at HOK Sports, said total cost for a new 18,000-seat arena would currently be from $130 million to $160 million. He said that was based on building the new arena immediately south of Assembly Hall and next to a basketball practice facility the school is preparing to build.
There is a bit of hand-wringing later in the article.
Indiana trustee Tom Reilly said he worried talk about a new basketball arena would hurt efforts to raise contributions toward a $55 million athletic facilities project, an upcoming IU Bloomington capital campaign and fundraising for IU-affiliated hospitals in Indianapolis.
Well, sure. I don't see Assembly Hall as an urgent need for the athletic department to address. By all means, finish the fundraising and construction for the football/baseball/softball facilities first. But I think we can all act like adults and "talk" about these things. Assembly Hall is entering its 37th basketball season, and the design was dated when it was constructed. The sightlines are terrible, the design is terrible, the space at the end of the arena is wasted, and the balconies simulate watching a game from the lip of the Grand Canyon. On the other hand, it has hosted IU's glory days, three of its five championship teams, and is immediately recognizable on television. Other than perhaps Cameron Indoor Stadium, I don't think there is as distinctive an arena anywhere. Any new arena will have to be designed with care to satisfy Hoosier fans.
It's important to consider the various reasons why an arena might need to be replaced: 1) too small; 2) falling apart; 3) doesn't meet the program's everyday (i.e., non-gameday needs); 4) facility makes game attendance undesirable for fans. IU doesn't have a glaring need in any of those respects, but has something of a combination of the four. As it stands today, Assembly Hall's most glaring deficiency is off the court: the locker rooms, the (nonexistent) practice facility, the lack of any nice space for players to gather, the coaches' offices, and the like. That situation, of course, is being recitified by the new practice facility soon to be built southeast of the Hall. As for the other factors? At 17,000 seats, Assembly Hall still is (I think) the second-largest facility in the Big Ten, but IU probably could fill a 20,000 seat arena. So, it's not too small, but could be bigger. As to the second factor, Assembly Hall isn't falling apart, but at nearly 40 years of age, it soon will reach the point where it will require some extensive work. Finally, as to the fourth factor, that plays into it a little bit. Certainly, IU fans still flock to Assembly Hall despite the sightline problems. The floor seats are fine, the lower half of each side of the court has good seats. The upper seats in the lower arena and the balcony seats are awful. IU still manages to sell these seats when school is in session, but not always for lesser games. And it is my understanding that many students simply decline to attend games for which they are assigned to the balcony. People still show up, but they would show up more if there were more good seats.
When you add in the desire to capitalize on high rollers with some sort of luxury seating, all of the factors point in favor of a new arena rather than spending a bunch of money to renovate a facility that is never going to provide an optimal viewing experience for fans. Still, from the perspective of recruiting, upgrading the off-court facilities is much more important, and IU is now resolving that issue. The players don't care about the view from the balcony. For all of its faults, from the floor, Assembly Hall is an impressive, imposing facility that provides a great homecourt advantage for IU. I'm at peace with the idea of replacing it, but I don't think it has to happen tomorrow.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Could IU's naming policy be an obstacle?

One thing to consider as some folks (including me) advocate naming the new end zone building after Terry Hoeppner is that IU's naming policy may make that impossible. I'm somewhat embarrassed that I didn't think of it before.

The policy distinguishes between Commemorative namings and Administrative namings and further sets forth a difference between naming of minor spaces (reading rooms, etc.), which can be approved by the university vice-president, and major administrative namings. Such major decisions require approval by the president, the board of trustees, and, a body you may not have known existed, the All-University Committee on Names. Cutting to the essence, here's the five year rule:

In general, for major facilities, there will be a five-year waiting period after the death of any individual before considering his or her name for commemoration in naming a major facility. The five-year delay was instituted by Dr. Wells to ensure that buildings were not precipitously named in the first emotional outpourings after the death of a public figure. He preferred a more contemplative process to safeguard the reputation of both the individual and the institution, and to eliminate overlap and duplication of namings. At his request, this rule was observed in the naming of the Herman B Wells Library. (Image of Herman B Wells Library courtesy of Indiana University).

Perhaps that is why Rick Greenspan has been non-committal on the issue. While I don't think calling the new building the Hoeppner Center would seem like a rash decision five years down the road, if the university wouldn't make an exception for Herman Wells, I'm guessing that they won't for Hep, if this policy applies.

That is, it appears, a big if. The article doesn't say either way, but it doesn't seem that the athletic department has followed the five year rule. For instance, the soccer stadium was named after now-deceased IU Foundation president Bill Armstrong years before he died. The field at Bill Armstrong Stadium now bears the name of recently retired soccer coach Jerry Yeagley. The soon-to-be-replaced weight room bears the name of retired coach Bill Mallory. Certainly, the weight room might fall into the minor category and outside the authority of the Committee on Names, but the soccer field and stadium would seem sufficiently major. Again, the policy, based on my quick reading, doesn't seem to mention athletic facilities but also doesn't seem to specifically except them.

Finally, every time the five year rule comes up, someone says, "but what about Mellencamp Pavilion?" Even if the five year rule does apply to athletic facilities, clearly it's different when someone is writing checks, and the policy says as much.
EDIT: In a sure sign that I have taken one too many "Hutch got scooped again!" cheap shots, Terry Hutchens beat me to the punch on the naming policy issue.

Thoughts on Coach Hep from around the country.

There have been some nice articles written about the late coach around the country today. A sampling, most of which I cribbed from posters on the Rivals IU football board:

From Tom Archdeacon of the Dayton Daily News, some wonderful anecdotes from Hep's days as a "Yankee" high school football coach in South Carolina:

He was called "The Yankee Coach" and before the season, he said one booster, looking over the many black players, asked: "Coach, how many white boys we got on the team?" Hoeppner shrugged: "I have no idea. When everybody puts on those blue helmets, I can't tell." For someone, that was the wrong answer. Two weeks later, the school burned down after an arsonist poured gasoline in the coach's office and lit a match. But Hoeppner didn't melt, and by the third year, he said he had believers: "We ended up 8-2 and what made it special was that after such a horrible beginning, they needed what I had to offer."

Pat Forde of had this to say:

It will be a challenge for the Indiana players to sustain that momentum after this tragic loss. It will be a challenge for interim coach Bill Lynch -- a former head coach at Ball State from 1995 to 2002 -- to sustain Hoeppner's grand plans and great enthusiasm. If ever there were a schedule tailored for a breakthrough season, this is it. The Hoosiers play neither Ohio State nor Michigan, and could go undefeated against a nonconference schedule of Indiana State, Western Michigan, Akron and Ball State. In fact, IU has a shot at a 4-0 start for the first time since 1990. The Hoosiers certainly have a memory to rally around. But inspiration can be fleeting, and it's a safe bet that Indiana will miss Terry Hoeppner badly -- this year and for several years beyond. He was the rare right fit at a school that rarely gets it right in football.

This AP article looks at the loss from a Miami perspective. The Cradle of Coaches has lost three former leaders in the last year Hep, Randy Walker, and Bo Schembechler.

Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel agrees with me:

Let’s not waste any time. You know that soon-to-be-built Memorial Stadium north end zone facility that has the sleep-inducing early tag of Hoosier Education and Performance Center? Name it after Terry Hoeppner. Call it the Hep Center for short, and move on to bigger things.Indiana University athletic director Rick Greenspan says he likes the idea of naming the $25 million addition after the former football coach, but it’s too early to make a definitive decision. So wait a day, and then make it.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Nice thoughts from Terry Hutchens.

Had this blog been around in the last year of Mike Davis's tenure, readers would have concluded that I wasn't a big fan of Terry Hutchens. And while I didn't like the way he covered (for) Davis, he always has seemed like a wonderful guy, and he has a nice reflection on Coach Hep on his Hoosier Insider blog.

More Big Ten Network information.

The BTN issued another release today concerning televised games. IU's game against Akron will be televised, which means that all four of IU's less-than-marquee non-conference matchups will be televised. I thought the most interesting aspect of this release was an answer to one of my key questions about the Big Ten Network: will there be regionalized coverage? Yes.
All games produced by the Big Ten Network will be available to cable and satellite operators nationwide as part of their agreements to carry the network. Whenever the Big Ten Network is producing more than one game airing at the same time, the network will split the feeds regionally among cable operators to allow Big Ten fans to watch the game with the most regional interest. In addition, cable and satellite providers that have agreed to carry the network will be offered the chance to carry the additional games via "overflow" channels.
The new round of announcements indicates that there will be four noon (Eastern) games on September 1, five on September 8, and three on September 15. IU's opener against Indiana State, which will air on the BTN at 8 p.m. on September 1, now shares the timeslot with Bowling Green/Minnesota. Of course, we will see this saturation only in September. When the conference schedule begins, there will be no more than six games per weekend. Still, it will be interesting to see how this works out for fans. An IU fan in Minnesota or outside the Big Ten footprint may be out of luck for the IU-ISU game, for instance. On the other hand, as a DirecTV subscriber, is it possible that I will have access to all of the feeds? Could I have five Big Ten Network games in the rotation on September 8, in addition to whatever ABC/ESPN/ESPN2/FSN are airing? This could compromise my marriage. In any event, the absence of the ESPN Gameplan option this year could prejudice fans of Big Ten schools who don't live near old alma mater. No wonder Fox loves the idea of this network. Scheduling issues could drive any number of Big Ten alumni into the arms of DirecTV.


At the request of the Hoeppner family, the show went on today. IU broke ground on the north end zone expansion of Memorial Stadium today. The H-T's Hoosier Scoop blog live-blogged it. Memorial Stadium will go from this:

To this:

Until told otherwise, I will refer to the north end zone building as the Hoeppner Center. In various forms and levels of detail, this project has been on the drawing board for years. It is no coincidence that this expansion moved beyond the idea stage during the Hep era.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hep's finest moment at IU.

I'm going to try to avoid the flowery prose today. For every writer who does it well, there are 20 who come across as schmaltzy and insincere. I'm no professional. I think the best tribute that I could give to Hep is to recall what I consider his defining moment as IU's coach, last season's game at Illinois. When superficially reviewing IU's three Big Ten wins last season (not overwhelming, but IU's highest total since 2001), the two that jump out are the home wins over Iowa and Michigan State. But for the Illinois win, however, it's hard to say whether the two later wins ever would have happened. IU began last season with a comfortable home win over Western Michigan and followed with a comeback win at Ball State. Then, Hep went on his second leave of absence, and IU lost close, winnable home games to Connecticut and Division I-AA Southern Illinois. Entering the season, and even after the close call against Ball State, 4-0 looked possible. Instead, IU limped out of the nonconference schedule 2-2 and then took a beating at home from Wisconsin. IU's next game was at Illinois. Despite the Illini's lackluster performance in recent decades, IU had not won at Illinois since 1979. Early in the second quarter, it appeared that yet another IU season was heading straight down the crapper. After an early 7-7 tie, Illinois pulled ahead 25-7 (it would have been 27-7 but for some Zookery regarding two point conversions).
Now, it helps to understand the psyche of the IU football fan. Those of us who invest emotionally in this program do so not because we are gluttons for punishment, but because we really believe that IU can achieve at least moderate success on the football field. Clearly, anyone who follows IU football closely cannot be described as a fair-weather fan, but we all have our moments. Every person has his limits. As I watched this game in my living room, when Illinois scored to make it 25-7, I was deep in the woe-is-me, this-is-supposed-to-be-fun-but-I-need-a-new-hobby-because-IU-football-is-taking-years-off-my-life mode. At that point, however, the TV cameras caught Terry Hoeppner dressing down every offensive,defensive and special teams player, coach, and waterboy. We've all seen coaches who lose control, but this wasn't that. Hep was simply insisting that the Hoosiers win this game. They stayed strong, came back, and eventually won the game on an Austin Starr field goal as time expired.
For those who live in Indiana but don't follow IU football closely, the main memory of Hep will be as a salesman. "Coach Hep Wants You!" "Defend the Rock!" "The Walk." Indeed, many opposing fans and even some IU fans dismissed Hep as a Lee Corso-style huckster. He wasn't. While he understood that selling the IU program was an essential part of the job, he was an intense, dedicated, and demanding coach on the field. Unlike Corso, who humiliated his players by having someone take a picture of the scoreboard when IU took the lead against some prominent program, Hep expected to win every game. For all of the fun-loving, gregarious stuff off the field, I think I'll remember Hep the most for his intense sideline demeanor, especially in that Illinois game. For all of his self-deprecating charm, this is a man who desperately wanted to win football games and did a wonderful job of passing on his passion to his players, the fans, and everyone associated with the IU program.

Terry Hoeppner, RIP.

Words escape me this morning. Rest in peace, Coach, and we will never forget your brief but enjoyable tenure at IU.
(Image courtesy of Indiana University).

Lynch finalizes staff.

Bill Lynch finish rearranging the coaching staff for the 2007 season:

Running backs coach and special teams co-coordinator Gerald Brown has been promoted to assistant head coach, while passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Matt Canada will take over as offensive coordinator. Kyle Conner, who served as the team's offensive quality control coach in 2006, will round out the staff and serve as tight ends coach.

This rearrangement is a reminder that whatever we might think of Lynch's resume or potential as IU's coach in the long term, it's probably not fair to judge Lynch for the losses to Connecticut and Southern Illinois during his brief interim tenure last season. A college football team is a fairly complex operation, and it can't be easy to switch coaches' job duties on a few days' notice as IU had to do last season.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sniping between Big Ten Network and Comcast.

The launching of the Big Ten Network is an issue that I have been following but I don't think I have had much or anything to say about it in this space. Today's New York Times contains an article detailing the apparently acrimonious negotiations between Comcast and the BTN. These cable deals often go down to the wire, but it's not unusual, be it the NFL Network, Fox News, or whatever, for a couple of the huge cable companies to hold off. I recall that when Fox News launched in 1996, Time Warner, which supplied cable to much of New York City, did not carry FNC for some length of time. I don't know enough about the cable industry to know whether this is the usual posturing or whether it could result in large parts of the Big Ten territory not having access to the Big Ten Network. The BTN is seeking to vary the cost per subscriber by geography:
[BTN president] Silverman said the network had balanced the interest in Big Ten sports inside and outside its region by seeking a monthly subscriber fee of $1.10 to be carried as an expanded basic channel to 18.5 million cable subscribers in the conference’s states, but 10 cents a subscriber everywhere else.
I don't know enough about the economics of the cable industry to know how reasonable that is. I haven't been able to find a comprehensive list of per-subscriber fees for cable channels, but here's this from a 2004 article by the Project for Excellence in Journalism:
Unlike the broadcast networks, cable channels acquire part of their revenue from subscribers. This is based on a subscriber fee negotiated between each cable channel and the cable providers. These fees are normally set up under long-term contracts of five to ten years. The most popular cable entertainment networks (such as Nickelodeon and TNT) charge roughly 50 cents to $1 per subscriber per month. CNN's subscriber fee has remained stable, at around 33 to 37 cents, since 1997.
Accordingly, it looks like the Big Ten Network, if the described price structure is what cable companies actually are paying for it, gets star treatment in Big Ten states but gets c-list treatment in other parts of the country. Here's another excerpt, from Variety's Multichannel News, concerning Fox News's most recent renegotiation of its subscriber fee:
Tim Carry, senior vice president of affiliate relations at Fox News, confirmed the pricing for the cable news leader. “We’re starting out with a dollar [per subscriber] for Fox News,’’ he said. Should Fox News get its price, only ESPN and regional sports networks would command higher rates in ad-supported cable. (emphasis added).
This quote provides some support for the Big Ten Network's position. In far-flung parts of the country, the network won't have much value other than to hardcore sports fans and scattered Big Ten alumni. Within Big Ten country, the channel will be more analogous to a regional sports network, and the channel likely will earn very high ratings for a cable network on certain occasions. For instance, I would guess that if the BTN were to carry an Indiana-Purdue basketball game, the rating in Indiana for that game would be far higher than any one-night rating for, say, the Travel Channel, in the same geographical area. The issue, I suppose, is whether the ratings would be any good on other occasions and how it evens out. My guess, and again, I'm just guessing at nearly all of this, is that the real value of the BTN for cable companies in Big Ten states is not so much the value of having the channel, but defense against the risk of losing a boatload of subscribers. I happen to be a DirecTV subscriber for sports-related reasons (baseball's insane blackout rules prevent me from buying Cub games on MLB Extra Innings because the Cubs have local rights to Indianapolis, even though the non-WGN Cub games are not available in Indy on an over-the-air or cable network. I watch them by ordering the Sports Pack, which gives me access to CSN Chicago). If I were not already a DirecTV subscriber, and my cable company declined to carry the Big Ten Network, I would drop cable immediately. Again, it's really hard to know, but I would have to think that there are tens of thousands of households in the eight-state Big Ten region that would do the same.
This post isn't very well-formed, but since it's the offseason, I will continue to try to track down some info on cable economics. Certainly, if Comcast and the BTN continue their impasse, this will be a big story here in central Indiana. Comcast provides cable to nearly all of the part of Marion County that is outside the old (pre-Unigov) city limits of Indianapolis. Stay tuned.
For pure comedic value, I loved this statement from David Cohen, a vice-president of Comcast:
“We’d like to make the network available to those who want to watch it and not force customers who have no interest in the content to have to pay for it.”
Ah, yes. If cable companies stand for anything, it is their profound respect for the rights consumers to avoid paying for channels that they don't want. My parents are Comcast subscribers. Perhaps I should ask if they want me to call Mr. Cohen on their behalf and tell him, respectfully, that they would rather not pay for all of those home shopping networks and televangelist networks and ten different versions of the Discovery Channel and the CNN financial channel. I'm sure Mr. Cohen would understand, because Comcast isn't in the business of making people pay for channels that they don't want, right?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Devin Ebanks commits to the Hoosiers.

Hoosierland received some good news this weekend. Devin Ebanks, a top ten-type recruit from New York City, committed to the Hoosiers this afternoon. Considering the sanctions, Sampson's recruiting has been impressive. Again, I'm no recruitnik, but anyone who followed IU during the Davis era remembers his remarkable ability to finish second for kids like this, i.e., highly rated kids with no particular ties to Indiana or the midwest: Luol Deng, Charlie Villanueva, Brandon Rush, etc.

Coach Bill Lynch.

Lynch brings 14 years of head coaching to the job, including eight years at Ball State in Division I-A. He coached Butler from 1985 through 1989, Ball U from 1995 through 2002, and Division III Depauw in 2004. Butler was in Division II until 1992, when the NCAA prevented schools from competing in different divisions in football and basketball. So, BSU was Lynch's only D-I job, and that's where we will focus.

Unfortunately, HTML is not my friend. I had hoped to post a table with Lynch's record, but it wasn't to be. Check out College Football Data Warehouse's page with Lynch's coaching record if you want it in front of you. Lynch was 37-53 at Ball State, but his career really can be divided into three parts. Lynch went 20-14 in his first three seasons at Ball State, 1-21 in years four and five, and 16-18 in his last three seasons. Certainly, the concerns with Lynch's record start there. The Cardinals lost 21 games in a row and had the nation's longest losing streak before beating, of all teams, Terry Hoppner's Miami Redhawks. Dave Letterman had quite a bit of fun with his alma mater's futility, and the BSU program became something of a national laughingstock. Still, Lynch rallied to post decent records in his last three seasons.
In his second season, 1996, BSU went 8-1 in the MAC and lost to Nevada in the Las Vegas Bowl. In 1997, BSU fell to 5-6, but won its last four games after a tough start. In 1998, it got really ugly. The Cards beat Northern Illinois on October 13 for their only win of the season and didn't win again until October 7, 2000. BSU did win five of its last seven that season and finished a respectable 4-3 in the MAC. His last two seasons were mediocre, and that was that. Despite the awful losing streak, Lynch was over .500 against the MAC in his last three seasons (combined, not individually). According to Lynch's IU bio, Ball State won the MAC West in 2001.
So, there it is. Clearly, this isn't the resume of a coach who typically ascends from the MAC to the Big Ten. Still, the resume is not without success. Lynch has been to a bowl game more recently than IU. Lynch has nothing to lose. As I have said on many occasions, this season's schedule is bowl-ready. If he doesn't get IU to a bowl game, he's no worse off. If he does, then he will likely have a shot at a long-term deal if Hoeppner does not return.
On a side note, I wondered how IU would finesse the website. Well done, IU athletic department. Hep is listed at the top but with no title. Lynch is listed as head coach/offensive coordinator/tight ends coach.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Lynch to coach Hoosiers in 2007.

While not the worst news possible, it's still bad news. Terry Hoeppner will not coach IU in 2007, and Bill Lynch will be the head coach this coming season. I'm in between work and a family function, so I don't have time to consume much media. I don't know if Mrs. Hoeppner was present at the press conference or why she, rather than Hep, made the statement. I hope it isn't as it looks, and I hope Hep is back to lead the team through the tunnel at the expanded Memorial Stadium in September 2008. In any event, at least we now know how to picture the 2007 season. Bill Lynch, despite a less than stellar record as a I-A (er, Bowl Division) head coach and an 0-2 record as an interim coach last year, is respected in the football world and has been a trusted confidant to Hep and Bill Mallory, IU's two finest coaches of the last quarter century. For now, that's good enough for me. This team isn't going to go 12-0, but for the first time in my recollection, I wouldn't be shocked by a win in any single game. Hep or no Hep, we can go bowling, and there wouldn't be a better tribute.
The release does not describe Lynch as the interim coach. As a practical matter, he is, but it would appear that he is "Indiana football coach Bill Lynch." Despite the non-application of the interim label, expect many articles discussing whether Lynch has done enough to remove the interim tag or some such thing.
I'll have a look at Lynch's record in the next couple of days.

Some sort of word on Hoeppner today.

All indications are that IU will be making some sort of announcement today concerning Coach Hoeppner. Doug Wilson of the Herald-Times seems to be the only mainstream media source reporting this (Hutch scooped again! Shocking!) with some message board scuttlebutt as well. No one, from Wilson to mac624 to anyone else, seems to know what is going to be announced. It's hard to know what all of this means. The timing of the announcement would suggest a return, but IU is being so tight-lipped about this that it's hard to think it will be good news. These words from Wilson are interesting:
athletic director Rick Greenspan and president Adam Herbert will hold a
press conference, probably Friday afternoon, regarding Hoeppner.
Does that mean Hep won't be there? It's hard to imagine that he wouldn't be there if it were good news. In any event, I will be away from the computer for most of the day but presumably I'll have something to say about this tonight.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Always an adventure with Eli.

The Eli Holman saga continues. As I documented in a post a few weeks back, Holman, despite growing up in a rough town and despite the red flag of the referee incident, seems to be a high-quality kid with a promising future. After the unfortunate incident early in his junior season, Holman had to fight hard for the right to finish out his senior season. Soon after he won his appeal with California's high school athletic association, he was grazed by a bullet.
It has been apparent that Eli is not yet qualified academically, and Doug Wilson of the H-T raised some red flags this week when he posted that Holman and his assistant coach, Lon Coleman, had stopped returning calls, whereas they had always been highly cooperative in the past. Yesterday, however, Doug reported that Holman is in Bloomington, and several posters on the Rivals forums provided eyewitness confirmation. It's hard to say what to make of this. My guess is that if Holman were qualified, someone would tell us so. Still, if the situation looks hopeless, I doubt Eli would be in Bloomington. At this point I suppose we should presume the status quo--Eli and co. are optimistic that he will do so but it hasn't happened yet.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Hoosiers add late football recruit.

Spring practice begins in a few weeks, but IU recently added to its 2007 recruiting class by signing Donnell Jones, a 5-10 kid from Lakewood High School in Florida. We can only hope Jones is as impressive as another late recruit from Florida. The linked STP Times article indicates that Jones didn't qualify until April, which might suggest a higher quality than the typical last minute recruit. Kellen Lewis, you might recall, received high-quality offers (at least a couple of Florida's big three, I believe) to play DB or WR, but enrolled in a prep school so that he could continue to pursue the opportunity to play quarterback. When Mike Vlahogeorge quit football, IU snagged Lewis, and the rest is history (well, not history yet, but he looked damn promising as a redshirt freshman). Certainly, it's unclear whether Jones ever will have an impact at IU, but both of these signings point to the effort and organization of the IU staff. (Hat tip: who else? Doug Wilson of the H-T).

More on Coach Hep.

Here's a post on Coach Hep from a blog called Cobra Brigade, which seems to be something of a general interest/Chicago Cubs blog. Overall, a well-written and well-reasoned piece. I'm a little uncomfortable with the degree of medical speculation there, particularly with the rather explosive notion that Coach Hep knew there was more than scar tissue after last fall's surgery. It's certainly possible, but if that's true, that goes well beyond privacy protection and into out-and-out lying. Again, it's possible and to some degree understandable that Hep's public pronouncements were intentionally inaccurate, but I wouldn't be comfortable going there based on speculation. Still, some nice work there, and hopefully Cobra Brigade will have more to say about IU football in the months to come.

Monday, June 11, 2007

IU football recruiting blog.

Even at the early stage in the life of this blog, I think it's pretty obvious that I'm not much of a recruitnik. Certainly, I pay attention to the big ones, particularly on the basketball side, such as Eric Gordon and Devin Ebanks. Football recruiting just involves too many names for me to really follow. So, while I will try to touch on all newsworthy IU-related topics, this blog will never be the first stop for recruiting info. So I point you to mac624's blog. Mac624 posts under that handle on the Rivals IU football forum and seems to have some nice connections inside the football program. The current posts include discussion of various offers to recruits and some discussion of the Coach Hep saga. Check it out.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Dakich hired.

As seemed likely a few days ago, Dan Dakich has been named IU's director of basketball operations.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Excellent article on the Hep situation.

In contrast with the recent AP reporting, here's a really nicely done article by Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News Sentinel. DiPrimio, many IU fans will recall, wrote for Inside Indiana for many years.

Bad publicity begins to mount.

The Terry Hoeppner story is beginning to get some national media coverage, and the quotes that generated interest in Indiana are now beginning to get some coverage nationally. An Associated Press article appears in various sources under headlines to the effect of: Hoeppner's Contract at Indiana Could Be Voided. MSNBC really lays it on thick: Indiana might void ailing coach's contract. The article is based upon Hep's contract, which the AP obtained with an Open Door Law request and contains provisions that the article suggests are standard in coaching contracts. The AP then quotes a bunch of people saying that none of the steps set forth in the contract have gone forward. A couple of AOL bloggers, Brian Grummell and Brian Cook (the latter best known for mgoblog) describe IU as "cold" and "heartless," respectively, for the way they have handled things this week. Cook notes that Greenspan moves directly into a discussion of how Hep's situation affects marketing. Here's the full quote from the Q&A:
Question: Is there some point, or some date, when you have to make a
decision about Hoeppner's future as the IU football coach?
Answer: "The way I'd answer that is that we want to do something at the right point. That would be the right point for our university, the right point as we approach the season, and the right point as far as the feedback and the sense of health and well being and rest and recovery and capability from Hep. Where those exactly intersect I don't have a date that's etched in stone, but we're certainly getting to be within two months of freshmen reporting for football. It's closer than it was in March. At that point we were obviously very hopeful that he would be back by now. It is a concern, that's the best I can say."
Q: Coach Hoeppner has been the visible face of IU football. Has his absence affected your market strategy?
"It affects our marketing strategy in the sense that Terry has been appropriately very well received by not only our fans but people around the state. It doesn't affect our energy, our need, our requirement, our sales desires and all the rest of those kinds of things. But in terms of Terry being able to be out there as he has the last few summers, certainly it impacts us not having his personal presence. We've said this and we'll continue to say it, we're not standing still. We had what I thought was a good strong, solid and healthy spring football season. We've got a lot of kids on campus either at summer school, or working or whatever, getting stronger. So, we're certainly by no means on a treadmill, but Terry has been both a face and a leader of this team. And so, in terms of his personal visibility and what that means to us, yeah, we'd love to have him out there."
Greenspan finished an answer to one question and then answered the next question, which specifically addressed marketing. I'm not sure why Greenspan, whatever the mrits of the first answer, is to blame for the content of the next question. It doesn't seem so bad to me. Further, we don't really know whether Greenspan set out to put pressure on Hoeppner or if this was simply the direction a routine interview took. The second batch of articles arose from the AP getting a copy of Hep's contract and included not a single substantial quote from an IU official. It's early June. None of IU's teams are practicing or playing. IU officials can't comment on basketball recruiting. That makes Hep the most significant story on which Greesnpan could comment. To the extent that Hep isn't keeping IU officials in the loop, I don't think a little pressure is so bad. I don't view any of Greenspan's comments as trying to force Hep to make a decision. I don't think forcing Hep out helps anyone. Even if Hep is permanently unable to return and announces as much in the next week, IU isn't likely to hire a long-term replacement at this time of year. It seems to me that either Terry Hoeppner will return or Bill Lynch will be the interim coach.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Danny D coming back to Indiana?

I am reporting that John Decker is reporting that the Herald-Times is reporting that Dan Dakich is a candidate for the director of basketball operations position that Jerry Green vacated when he retired a few weeks ago. Does anyone know if the "Dan Dakich liars bench" is still outside the Convenient Food Mart at 17th and Dunn?
When I heard the rumors I used Google's news search to try to find the story. Unfortunately for Dan, most of the active news stories for him concern his less than farsighted decision to change his mind after accepting the West Virginia job in 2002, a saga that has been dredged up for a number of Billy Donovan articles.

TV schedule.

One of the reasons (well, really, the only reason other than mental illness) that I remain optimistic about the future of Indiana football is the changed landscape in college football over the last couple of decades. Certainly, the NCAA gave lesser programs a better shot at top talent when they began reducing the scholarship limit from 120 down to its current 85, but I think the influx of television coverage has been just as important. Take this season's IU schedule. IU, despite some strides last season, remains a program that hasn't won more than five games since 1994, hasn't been to a bowl since 1993, and struggles like virtually no other public school that is a BCS conference member to attract fan interest. Yet, the official IU site reports that as of June 4, at least six of IU's twelve games will be televised. The opener against ISU will be televised in prime time on the Big Ten Network. The second game, at Western Michigan, will be televised on ESPNU. The Big Ten games at Michigan State, at Iowa, at Wisconsin, and at home against Penn State already are slated for TV coverage, MSU in prime time on the BTN and the others on the ESPN networks. The games against Illinois, Northwestern, Minnesota, and Purdue presumably still have a chance depending upon how the teams perform.
This is not a particularly attractive schedule. IU doesn't play Michigan, doesn't play Ohio State, and plays three MAC schools and I-AA Indiana State in the non-conference portion of the schedule. Still, IU is already guaranteed significant TV coverage with possibly more to come. This certainly benefits all schools, but I think it could allow IU to close the gap with on-the-fence recruits by taking away the TV card. I don't mean to overstate the benefit, but it's easy to forget that the moderately successful IU teams of the mid 1980s through early 1990s didn't get this sort of TV coverage.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Summer fun.

Not much going on in IU athletics these days, at least not stuff that’s fun to discuss, so here are some Youtube clips for some nostalgia.

Smart takes the Shot...

The first-ever One Shining Moment montage...

Post-championship coverage from Channel 13, Indy’s NBC affiliate. I think we may need to consider the possibility that Rich Van Wyk is a robot, or muppet, or animatron. He looks the same today as he did in 1987. Bruce Kopp looks a bit older today, but the helmet o’hair looks surprisingly similar to today’s version.

Twenty years is too long.

Baseball wrapup.

Before my hiatus, I began tracking the baseball team but hadn't checked in on the guys in a while. It turns out I didn't miss much. The Hoosiers finished 19-35 overall, 8-23 (10th place) in the Big Ten. Wisconsin doesn't have a baseball team, so that's last place. Outfielder Andrew Means, also a wideout on the football team, was second team All Big Ten, but that was about it. Here are the final stats. A few notes:
  • The trend I noted in earlier posts continued. The Hoosiers simply did not hit for power. They finished the season with 8 HR, compared to 29 for their opponents.
  • Freshman pitcher Matt Bashore didn't keep up with his early season pace, but struck out 50 in 70 innings.
  • IU's top four pitcher by ERA were freshmen or Sophomores: sophomore Tyler Tufts, Bashore, freshman Chris Squires, and sophomore Joe Vicini.

Tough year for the Hoosiers, but the youth of this year's team plus the imminent groundbreaking on the new stadium should point the program in the right direction.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Football miscellany.

The good and the bad. First, the good: I happened to be in Bloomington yesterday and took a look at the north end of Memorial Stadium, the site of the stadium expansion. Nothing by way of true construction activity seems to be ongoing, but as has been noted in other sources, the rickety end zone bleachers are gone. There are stakes all over the north embankment foretelling some sort of work. The footprint of the new project seems to be bigger than I realized.

I drove up the road that runs along the north side of the stadium--not the asphalt path that runs right behind the scoreboard, but the north part of the oval shaped road that encircles the entire stadium. There were green paint marks all over that road and some stakes on the north side of the road. There has been some debate about whether IU should have enclosed the south end, but considering the location of the practice fields, it especially makes sense when standing right there.

On the bad side, we have yet another article quoting Rick Greenspan on Terry Hoeppner. The quote most interesting quote was this one:

Q: Do you still talk to coach Hoeppner regularly?
A: "To the degree that I
can without bugging the family. I talk to (his wife) Jane and I talk to Terry,
but I've tried to the best of my ability to be reasonably informed and yet not
be invasive. I'm just trying to keep a balance."

Again, I won't speculate on Hep's condition, but I had assumed that the AD was in the loop. It sounds like he knows a bit more than those of us on the outside, but not much more.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Mike Davis and his enablers: the gifts that keep on giving.

Maybe I should take it easy on Mike Davis. Perhaps I should adopt the media's conventional wisdom, and think of Davis as a nice, decent, shy, retiring man cruelly run out of town by pitchfork-wielding Hoosiers. Even if I don't adopt that line of thinking, perhaps I should just move on, give thanks for our current competent coach, and rubberneck as Davis drags UAB down to the cellar of C-USA. And then I remember the cost of Davis's last season. As I discussed during the NCAA Tournament, the indefensible decision to retain Davis in 2005, after he produced consecutively IU's two single worst seasons since the early 1970s, didn't just affect IU. That decision did, however, help create a monster in Columbus. In the summer of 2005, when IU's coach was a dead man walking, former Butler coach Thad Matta came back to his old town and obtained verbal commitments to attend Ohio State from Greg Oden and Mike Conley, probably the best set of teammates in the history of Indiana high school basketball. Would hiring a new coach in 2005, whether it would have been Kelvin Sampson or someone else, have guaranteed that Oden and Conley would come to Bloomington? Not at all. Thad Matta, by all indications, is a masterful recruiter, expert at the relationship-building part of the job. But at least IU would have been in the game. Instead, a probation-ravaged football school 150 miles to our west became the "it" school for college basketball recruits. Certainly, Matta would have succeeded at OSU in any event. But did we have to make it so easy for him? Lou Holtz used to say that "luck is where preparation meets opportunity." Matta's excellent recruiting skills demonstration that he provided the preparation, but the IU coaching situation enhanced the opportunity.
And that leads us to today's news. Deshaun Thomas, a freshman (sophomore to be) from Bishop Luers in Fort Wayne, perhaps the best player nationally in the high school class of 2010, verbally committed to Ohio State. It's also worth noting that Kelvin Sampson's sanctions may have played a role here, although if a player is going to commit as a freshman, what can you do? Again, I like Sampson. I think he's a very good coach. He is good enough to restore IU basketball to glory. But the monster on the eastern border makes it a much tougher job, and that monster was created in part by the IU administrators who coddled the incompetent ingrate Mike Davis.

Coach Hep update

This isn't much of a feelgood story for my triumphant return, but there is an update on Terry Hoeppner. Not much of an update, really, other than to make clear that it's going to be a while before we know whether Hep will coach the team in the fall. Over on the Rivals board, folks are making much of the following quote from AD Rick Greenspan:

"I love what Terry did for our program," Greenspan said. "It needed the adrenaline rush he gave it. Wins
and losses are one thing, but we needed to re-establish credibility with our
fans, and he has helped us do that." (emphasis added).

I don't put much stock in the past tense. Hep has enhanced IU's fan support, but Greenspan isn't necessarily saying he won't bring that again in the future. We can hope, at least.
As I said weeks ago, I'm not going to speculate about Coach Hep's health, and I don't consider the following to be such speculation. Regardless of what anyone associated with IU says or doesn't say, rumors will fly during the recruiting process. Hell, the rumors were flying in recruiting circles long before anyone knew that Hep was going to miss spring practice. Still, would it be worthwhile for IU to announce that in the event that Hep's absence becomes permanent, Bill Lynch will be the new coach (i.e., not an interim coach)? It's probably not worth it. They guy had a pretty ordinary record at Ball State. He started well, dipped to an 0-11 season, and finished with a couple of 5-6 seasons. Such a move would cut off the uncertainty a bit, but perhaps the uncertainty is better than locking in an unfit successor.