Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Is Darius Willis Indiana's Tailback Answer?

Is Darius Willis IU’s tailback answer?

Hold that thought.

Once upon a time, when Bill Mallory was coaching the Hoosiers, running backs reigned supreme.

Specifically, it was Anthony Thompson, Vaughn Dunbar and Alex Smith who helped turn IU into a mini Running Back U.

Thompson set the school rushing record with 5,299 yards. Smith had 3,492 yards in three years. Dunbar had 3,029 yards in two years. Dunbar’s 1,805 rushing yards in 1991 remains the school record.

The tailback dominated attack is tough to duplicate in this more sophisticated era, when offenses are often spread and defenses are relentlessly swift.

Still, the Hoosiers are committed to the run and have Willis, a talented sophomore back who has struggled to stay healthy. He rushed for 607 yards and six touchdowns last year in nine games while averaging 4.9 yards a carry. That average beats Thompson’s average in three of his seasons, two of Smith’s seasons and one of Dunbar’s seasons.

The Big Ten returns a ton of quality running backs and that doesn’t include Purdue’s Ralph Bolden, who is expected to miss the season after blowing out his knee in the spring.

It also doesn’t include Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, who rushed for 779 yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 4.8 yards a carry.

So where does Willis rate?

Let’s take a look.

The two most heralded returning running backs are Wisconsin’s John Clay and Penn State’s Evan Royster.

The 6-1, 248-pound Clay follows in a long line of big Wisconsin backs. He surpassed 100 rushing yards nine times and finished with 1,517 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Royster rushed for 1,169 yards and six touchdowns.

There’s also Iowa’s Adam Robinson (834 yards) and Brandon Wegher (641), Ohio State’s Brandon Saine (739) and Dan Herrono (600), Illinois’ Mike Leshoure (734) and Jason Ford (588).

Of course, a running back’s numbers often reflect the quality of the offensive line as much as the back’s skill. But as far as sheer running ability, the 6-foot, 225-pound Willis has the size, speed, strength and skill you want in a dominant running back.

Do you remember him out-racing the entire Michigan defense en route to a huge late touchdown that put IU on the brink of victory? Of course you do. He had 152 rushing yards against the Wolverines and later had 103 against Northwestern and 142 against Purdue.

Willis can do more of that and will need to if IU is to have a winning record. He has to be a big-play threat as well as a consistent performer. That’s why Indiana recruited him, and if he lives up to his potential, the Hoosiers will have a chance to have a special season.

So is Willis Indiana's tailback answer?

The answer is, he'd better be.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Measuring Up -- Where Does IU's Chappell Rate In Big Ten

As we know from our football history lessons (and from the number of hot babes dated and endorsements received), a team’s success is directly related to the quality of its quarterback.

Yes, it’s a team game and defense, as we have noted before, is a huge component. But no position has a bigger impact than quarterback.

So where does Indiana’s Ben Chappell stack up in relation to the other Big Ten QBs?

Let’s take a look.

First, Chappell is a senior with extensive experience over the last two seasons. As a sophomore he split time with Kellen Lewis and threw for over a thousand yards. Last year, Lewis was kicked off the team and Chappell became the main guy. He became the first IU quarterback to complete better than 60 percent of his passes (62.6 percent). Just as impressive was the fact he learned how to throw the ball away. Although not the most mobile quarterback in America, he was sacked just 16 times.

Of course, a lot of that had to do with the quality of his protection (the offensive line did a solid job), but he still was good at avoiding drive-killing sacks.

He threw for 2,941 yards and 17 touchdowns. His 15 interceptions were high. In an ideal world he’d cut the interceptions to fewer than 10 and get the touchdown passes to over 20 this season.

Six other experienced Big Ten quarterbacks return.

The best is likely to be Ohio State’s Terrelle Pryor because of his dual-threat ability.

While his running gets much of the attention (he rushed for 779 yards and seven touchdowns last season), he also completed 56.6 percent of his passes for 2,094 yards and 18 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Not great, but not bad. You can bet the house he’ll be better this season.

The most accurate returning quarterback is Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien. He completed 64.3 percent of his passes for 2,705 yards, 16 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

The quarterback known for playing the best in the fourth quarter is Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi. While his overall numbers weren’t great (56.3 percent, 2,417 yards, 17 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) he came up big in big moments, a huge reason why the Hawkeyes went 11-2 last season. Stanzi was injured in their losses to Northwestern and Ohio State.

Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins had a solid season. He completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 2,680 yards, 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions.

The other returning quarterbacks are the inconsistent Adam Weber of Minnesota (52.0 percent, 2,582 yards, 13 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) and the youthful Tate Forcier of Michigan (58.7 percent, 2,050 yards, 13 touchdowns, 10 interceptions as a freshman).

The bottom line is Chappell is smart, experienced and has a strong group of receivers to throw to. He has a chance to be the Big Ten’s second-best quarterback. If IU is to have a winning record, he has to be.

Nobody said playing quarterback was pressure free.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Indiana Football Facts To Ponder

Sure, you’ve heard all the talk about how important defense is in turning Indiana from a perennial loser to a perennial winner.

Here are a few facts to back that up.

We should warn you –- a lot of it isn’t pretty. So you need to ask yourself three questions:

1) Can you handle the truth?

2) Do you feel lucky ... PUNK?

3) Which movie stars in which movies actually asked those questions?

Anyway, last year IU averaged 23.5 points on offense. That’s not great, but it’s not horrible. You can win with that if you have decent defense.

Decent defense, of course, comes grudgingly to IU.

Last year the Hoosiers gave up 29.5 points. That IS bad until you consider it was a significant improvement over the 2008 season, when Indiana allowed 35.3 points.

In the last seven years the Hoosiers have allowed 31.2 or more points five times. Their best defensive average during that stretch was 28.5 points in 2007. That was the bowl season when they averaged an impressive 31.7 points on offense

In the last three years Indiana has been decent against the run in terms of yards per carry. Last season opponents averaged 4.0 yards. In 2008 it was 4.1. In 2007 it was 3.8.

By comparison, Ohio State hasn’t allowed more than 3.5 yards per carry in the last seven seasons. It has won five straight Big Ten titles.

Is that a coincidence?

We think not.

The Hoosiers also haven’t been great against the pass. Five times in the last seven years opponents have completed at least 60.8 percent of their passes, with a high of 67.1 percent in 2003.

No wonder IU has a history of blowing leads.

It’s way past time for that to change. The Hoosiers know that, of course. But knowledge doesn’t always equal doing. As a famous movie star once sort of said, actually the same one who asked Question No. 2, Go ahead Hoosiers, make my day.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Repeat After Us -- IU Football Will Not Finish 10th

Here we are, just over two months from the start of the football season and Indiana is taking a prediction hit. This one comes from Phil Steele’s 2010 College Football Preview. It has about every statistic imaginable, and even a few that aren’t.

We have taken all those numbers, fed them to the Hoosier Hoopla computer and spit out a Steele future in which IU is picked to finish 10th in the Big Ten, just ahead of Minnesota and just behind Purdue.

Yes, we’ve seen this before. Wouldn’t it be nice if just once those numbers predicted, say, a top-5 finish?

On the positive side, the magazine does pick the Hoosiers to sweep their four non-conference games. Of course, a lineup of Towson, Western Kentucky, Akron and Arkansas State is not exactly a murderer’s row. These teams combined to go 9-37 in 2009.

No matter. This is EXACTLY the kind of non-conference schedule IU needs. The air-head days of scheduling trips to Oregon (although the Hoosiers somehow won that game) have given way to a saner scheduling approach.

A 4-0 non-conference record means IU would need to win two Big Ten games to become bowl eligible, three to clinch a bowl bid. How likely is that? Consider that in the last three years IU is 5-19 in conference games, the worst record of any Big Ten team. In the last five years it is 9-31. In the last 10 it’s 18-62. Those last two totals are easily the worst in the league.

The past, of course, does not predict the future. Repeat that 100 times and you might believe it. You can also believe this -- while IU lost 22 lettermen from last year, it does have talent and potential.

If it makes you feel better, repeat that 100 times as well.

You might think Mr. Steele would really like Hoosier receivers, which seems to be the team’s strongest area. And the magazine does acknowledge the potential with Tandon Doss on its first-team All-Big Ten list and Damarlo Belcher making its third team.

However, overall the magazine rates IU receivers sixth in the Big Ten, with Wisconsin at No. 1 and Ohio State at No. 2.

The Indiana position rated highest by the magazine is at quarterback. Ben Chappell tops a unit rated as the third best behind Ohio State and Michigan.

Chappell completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

The least appreciated units are the defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs. They all rank 10th.

This isn’t a surprise. The No. 1 culprit in IU’s 17-year run of mediocrity (brightened only by the 2007 Insight Bowl appearance) is bad defense.

So what does all this mean? For a Cream ‘n Crimson optimist, it means nothing. In the end it’s all about performance. The Hoosiers will have plenty of opportunities to prove critics wrong.

Will they take advantage of those opportunities?

It will start, and very likely end, with defense.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Now What -- 18 Commitments Give IU Intriguing Possibilities

So what would you do if you were coach Bill Lynch and have all but wrapped up your football recruiting class for 2011 before vacation time?

Yes, football coaches take vacations, mostly in July because that’s between the end of their summer camps and the start of their preseason camp. NCAA rules keep them away from their own players and recruiting is on low burner. Of course, after the recruiting June Indiana just had, coaches have earned some time away.

The Hoosiers picked up 10 commitments in the last few weeks and now have 18 overall. The latest was Cincinnati receiver Jay McCants, who has good size (6-5 and 200 pounds) and decent speed (4.7 seconds in the 40-yard dash). He had an offer from Buffalo and was getting long looks from Purdue, West Virginia, Michigan State, Cincinnati, Louisville and Wisconsin.

There’s a chance the Hoosiers won’t keep all 18 of these commitments, but that’s true for every program. IU coaches will continue to recruit these guys and most will sign next February.

You figure the pace will slow down. No other Big Ten team has gotten so many early commitments. Penn State, for instance, has one. Ohio State has 15.

This summer blitz isn’t an aberration. IU had 21 commitments by Aug. 1 of last year, including 11 in July.

Lynch’s strategy is simple –- go after good players who are good fits, get them to commit early, redshirt most of them, develop all of them, and reap the benefits.

Those benefits haven’t produced bowl bids the last two years, but the upgrade in talent is obvious, at least on paper. Now it has to produce on the field.

The commitment surge is helped by IU’s Midwest focus. All the commitments are from the central part of the country –- Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Kansas.

Yes, some coaches, including Purdue’s Danny Hope, hit the Southeast hard, particularly Florida. Why? Because there’s a ton of speed and athleticism there. It seems that part of the country has more fast players than anywhere else, and if you don’t recruit that area, you have no long-term chance in the profession.

IU, by the way, does recruit that area. It has players from Georgia and Florida, plus the equally talent-rich states of Texas and California.

Here’s the deal. IU has a few scholarships remaining. Why not use them to go after some 5-star studs?

The key, of course, is having a realistic shot at these studs. It would help if the state of Indiana had some 5-star guys in the Class of 2011. It does not. It would be good if there was a connection, say the IU coaches know the kid’s high school coach or parents. Maybe the kid’s family went to Indiana. Something like that.

The Hoosiers are in the mix for three-star players such as defensive linemen James Adeyanju and Keith Heitzman ( has a great list with its defensive hot board), but wouldn’t it be nice if say the nation’s No. 1 prospect according to, defensive end Jadeveon Clownes, would consider the Hoosiers.

Yes, the competition is fierce. Alabama, LSU, USC and Georgia are in the mix for the 6-6, 242-pound standout from South Carolina. IU would probably make better use of time and money by going after someone else.

Still, on a warm summer day in Bloomington with a solid group of commitments lined up and all things possible, it’s okay to dream.

Reality is for the fall.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sallie Secret -- Is IU Interested In Ex-Memphis Player?

Okay, so what should we make of Indiana reportedly taking a look at one-and-done guard Roburt Sallie?

Let’s emphasize that the reporting –- courtesy of a “tweet” by’s Jeff Goodman -– is not etched in stone.

It might even be wrong.

But then, they also say that about Bigfoot.

So let’s assume it’s true. Here’s the first thought –- not ANOTHER guard. The Hoosiers already have set an NCAA record for most guards on a roster. Two incoming freshmen are guards. The two guys back from injury (Maurice Creek and Matt Roth) are guards. The senior (Jeremiah Rivers) is a guard. You could argue that forwards Christian Watford and Derek Elston are just blown up guards. And then there’s Verdell Jones and Jordan Hulls and …

Sorry. The second thought is who is Roburt Sallie? Well, he’s a well-traveled California native who spent the last two years at Memphis. He’s a three-point sharpshooter (47.1 percent, 41.3 percent the last two seasons) who averaged 10.5 points last season. He’s listed at 6-5 and 200 pounds, so technically you could call him a forward, but that would fool no one.

Anyway, Sallie already has graduated from college, but has one year of eligibility left. The NCAA has changed its rule so that transfers who already have graduated don’t have to redshirt a season. They can play right away.

Sallie is reportedly set to visit Louisville and then Indiana. He brings a veteran backcourt presence and a knack for rebounding. He averaged 4.0 boards last season. Rebounding was among the many issues IU has struggled with the last couple of season.

Sallie was California junior college player of the year while leading City College of San Francisco to a 29-4 record a couple of seasons ago.

The key point is Sallie would only be around for one season. In essence, he would be a mercenary reminiscent of forward Marco Killingsworth at the end of the Mike Davis era. It didn’t quite work out then -– Killingsworth put up big numbers (17.1 points, 7.8 rebounds), but IU went just 9-7 in the Big Ten and Davis was pushed out the door.

Of course, a 9-7 Big Ten record for next year would be kissing-Megan-Fox good (not that we KNOW what kissing her is like) given IU has won just five conference games in the last two seasons.

Getting Sallie became a possibility after forward Bawa Muniru recently decided to transfer, thus freeing up a scholarship. Because it’s only for a year, it would have zero affect on IU’s Class of 2011 recruiting

Nothing is certain. Sallie might not pick the Hoosiers. Coach Tom Crean and his staff might decide it’s not a good fit team-wise, chemistry-wise, skill-wise.

And, of course, it might not even be true.

Still, if it is true, it’s a chance to get a good-shooting experienced player used to winning. IU can’t make this a habit (the risk of chemistry conflict is high), but extraordinary times require extraordinary measures.

Two years of playing the Big Ten patsy makes this a very extraordinary time. Is it enough to warrant getting Sallie?

Only Bigfoot knows for sure.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Sin City Awaits Hoosiers -- Is That So Bad?

For Indiana basketball, what happens in Vegas goes around the college basketball world.


Because the Hoosiers are set to be part of the Las Vegas Classic and a field that includes two schools with ties to the Cream ‘n Crimson ways –- New Mexico and Colorado –- and one big bully in Northern Iowa.

Yes, Northern Iowa.

What, you were expecting Wayne Newton?

Anyway, New Mexico’s Indiana connections come in two parts. First, former IU All-America Steve Alford coaches the Lobos. Second, they recently accepted Emmanuel Negedu, the former Tennessee player whose heart condition ended his career with the Volunteers. He wanted to come to Indiana, but school officials nixed the idea, although the team medical staff cleared him.

That is just stuff to talk about. The main thing is New Mexico went 30-5 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It returns one of the nation’s best point guards in senior Dairese Gary. Alford was named Mountain West coach of the year and finished third in the vote for AP national coach of the year.

IU assistant coach Steve McClain was an assistant coach at Colorado. He was in the running for the head coaching job that opened this spring. When he was shot down for that position, Indiana coach Tom Crean hired him.

McClain was instrumental in helping to rebuild the Colorado program. The Buffaloes return all five starters from a 15-16 team (their best record in five years). That includes All-Big 12 guard Cory Higgins (1,391 career points) and Big 12 freshman of the year Alec Burks (17.1 points).

As far as Northern Iowa, well, the Panthers might be the best team in the field. They won 30 games last year and reached the Sweet 16. They’ve won two straight Missouri Valley regular season and tournament championships. They return two starters and seven of their top-10 scorers, including senior point guard Kwadzo Ahelegbe (10.6 points).

Also in the field are SIU-Edwardsville, The Citadel, Longwood University and South Carolina State.

Each team will play four games in the event. The first two will be at school arenas. The last two are set for Las Vegas’ Orleans Arena on Dec. 22-23.

As far as the glitzy Vegas scene, don’t expect the Hoosiers to see any of it. This is a business trip, which means they’re there to win basketball games. The other stuff -- check out the movie “The Hangover” to see what can happen -- can wait till they graduate.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Streaking Hoosiers Stay Recruiting Hot With 4-Star CB

Yes, Bill Lynch can land elite recruits. The Indiana football coach proved it when 4-star cornerback Raymon Taylor committed to the Hoosiers.

Taylor is, in fact, IU’s SECOND 4-star recruit. The other is linebacker Zach Shaw of Ohio.

Taylor has the one thing you really want in a cornerback -- speed. He’s run the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds. He ran a 10.6 100-meter dash in track.

He isn’t the biggest guy at 5-10 and 167 pounds, but that’s not an issue. IU coaches will put him on a weight lifting program that should boost him to over 180 pounds by the time he’s an upperclassman.

Here’s how much Lynch and his staff wanted Taylor. They had decided to take just three cornerbacks for the Class of 2011 and got them with Kenny Mullen, Mark Murphy and Nick VanHoose.

But then Taylor decided that he wasn’t interested in scholarship offers from Purdue, Illinois, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Akron and Toledo, or the fact that Ohio State, Michigan State, Michigan and Iowa were recruiting him. He wanted to be a Hoosier.

Why? Because IU was the first school to offer a scholarship and that came even before Taylor’s strong showing in last January’s U.S. Army National Combine. Hoosier coaches never stopped recruiting him.

He noticed.

How good is Taylor? At Highland Park High School near Detroit he does everything except coach the team. He’s a running back, a receiver and a cornerback. As a junior he rushed for more than 300 yards, totaled more than 450 receiving yards and intercepted six passes, returning three for touchdowns.

In other words, he’s the kind of shut-down cornerback IU needs. It has had them before in recent years, specifically with Tracy Porter, who spent his winter intercepting future Hall of Famers Brett Favre and Peyton Manning to help the New Orleans Saints win the Super Bowl.

But given how bad the Hoosiers’ pass defense was last year, they need all the defensive back help they can get.

Also, Lynch returned to Michigan to get his 17th commitment in Jalen Schlachter, a 6-6, 273 pound offensive tackle. He’s a three-star prospect.

IU beat out Wisconsin, Missouri and Central Michigan. Schlachter has the tall, athletic frame Indiana coaches like to see in their offensive linemen. A couple of years in the weight room ought to get him past the 300-pound barrier.

The Hoosiers figure to sign around 20 players, which means they are close to wrapping up this class. And as hot as the Hoosiers have been lately, maybe they should save it for a 5-star commitment.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Knight Commission Report Bad For Indiana, Big Ten, College Sports

Are they serious? Have Knight Commission members spent too much time sniffing the ivy covering their academic building walls and not enough time dealing with reality.

This group wants to funnel athletic money into academics. They suggest schools take 20 percent of the postseason money generated by BCS bowls and give it to the academic side of their universities. They want to do this because they believe financial pressures are hurting college sports.

Given that most schools’ athletic programs lose money (although the report confusingly suggests otherwise), this seems a unique approach designed for disaster. Of course, it’s university presidents and campus leaders saying this. In other words, athletics is all out of whack so let’s fix it by giving us some of the money.

This would be like the athletic department saying, hey, the school of music has lost perspective because of all the money its concerts are generating, so give us 20 percent of the gate and all the problems will go away.

To be blunt, this is very bad for Indiana, the Big Ten, college sports and probably world peace.

For this we can thank the Knight Commission’s report, "Restoring the Balance: Dollars, Values and the Future of College Sports."

As justification they point to the expansion movement that nearly destroyed the Big 12 Conference and threatens to create 16-team super-conferences that will alter the college sports world forever.

Hey, this could finally force a national playoff, so how bad could it be?

Anyway, the Knight Commission has 22 members that include current and former presidents and chancellors from Michigan, UCLA, Georgia, Southern Methodist, Florida, Georgetown and Bowling Green. They believe athletic programs have all this extra money floating around and are using it in bad ways -- like paying coaches millions of dollars a year and building ever bigger facilities.

The report said that from 2005 to 2008, spending on sports increased twice as fast as spending on academics for the 103 Football Bowl Subdivision schools. It said those schools spend six times as much on athletics per student than on academics. It also said most schools use general university funds to balance their athletic budgets.

If athletic programs have all this extra cash, then why are they using university funds? It’s because they don’t have extra cash. They’re trying to get more money to pay for all their sports and still remain competitive. They don’t have 20 percent to give to, oh, the chemistry department.

Sure, schools such as Texas and Notre Dame probably have surpluses, but that’s not the norm. Most schools are hurting, which is why many have cut sports, dropped media guides, frozen salaries and more.

So let the Knight Commission write reports and make headlines. Just keep them far, far away from the power to actually make those reports come true.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Should IU Target These Stud Football Recruits?

OK, for all you critics who believe Bill Lynch and his staff spend too much time on three-star guys and not enough time on superstars, here are a few thoughts.

Tom Lemming, one of the most respected recruiting analysts in the country, has come out with his list of the top 100 studs for the Class of 2011. These are the best of the best, the guys Alabama, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State and Florida will go after.

Now imagine you’ve just been named Indiana’s head football coach. You’ve got the pressure to become a perennial bowl participant, and the No. 1 priority is getting and developing talent. Do you go after these players, knowing the competition you’re facing, or do you go after players you have a better chance to land?

It would help if some of these players were from the state of Indiana. A lot of guys want to stay close to home. Unfortunately for the Hoosiers, no one in Lemming’s top-100 is from Indiana, although you’ve got some from Ohio, Illinois and Michigan.

Is that close enough? You’ll have to make that call.

You could just go with need. IU needs defensive players. It could use a great pass rushing defensive end, a dominating linebacker, a shutdown cornerback. On Lemming’s list you have Jadeveon Clowney, a 6-6, 240-pound defensive end from South Carolina rated as the nation’s No. 2 player. You’ve got No. 4 Stephone Anthony (North Carolina linebacker), No. 14 Ray Drew (6-5, 245-pound defensive end from Georgia), No. 16 Wayne Lyons (Florida defensive back) and No. 17 Jermauria Rasco (a 6-4, 244 pounds defensive end from Louisiana).

Those are just the guys in the top 20. They are difference makers. Sign a few of these guys and who knows what you could do.

Of course, all these players are from SEC country. They grew up watching Louisiana State, Alabama and Florida kick rump. They know all about Florida State and Texas, who aren’t in the SEC, but who are elite football powers. Yes, we know Florida State has a new coach and hasn’t dominated lately, but the Seminoles still have recruiting clout.

So you’re going to have to convince these guys to come to Indiana. Yes, the Hoosiers now have the nation’s largest weight room. Renovated Memorial Stadium is very impressive. And the Big Ten is very much a cool conference to play in.

Still, is that enough? What do you think the odds are of any of these guys coming to Indiana? Would you and your staff better utilize your resources by targeting players a step down from this list?

That, in fact, is what Lynch and his staff have done. They target players they have the best chance of signing. Sure, if Clowney wants to wear Cream ‘n Crimson, the Hoosiers will offer him. If not, they’ll move on to the next guy.

And so they have.

For the record, IU has players from Florida and Georgia and California and Texas. They’re not superstars, but they have potential. If they work hard, if the coaches put them in their best positions and develop them to their fullest, they can make a difference. They can take the Hoosiers where they want to be.

In an ideal world, the Hoosiers can have classes loaded with 4- and 5-star guys. But you know what? In the end you win with quality guys, effort guys, high-motor guys, players who don’t get out of position, who are disciplined and accountable and who care. Players who lead, who do the right things on and off the field, including going to class and earning solid grades.

If Lynch gets enough of those players, he’ll win. He has two years to get it done. In truth, there needs to be a big jump made this season. If not, he’ll be gone and someone else will get a shot.

And then the critics will have a new target to pick on.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why Wait -- Indiana Football Recruiting Roll Continues

Suddenly Bill Lynch is on a recruiting roll. Indiana’s football coach is getting the guys he wants, and if they’re not the same guys Urban Meyer wants, who cares.

Lynch has always been about getting players who WANT to be at Indiana, who are good athletes and versatile performers, guys who will take maximum advantage of what the Hoosiers offer as far as football, academics and overall development.

He’s also about getting these guys to commit as soon as possible and for the second straight year he’s close to wrapping up his next class before July 1.

Case in point is defensive end C.J. Robbins from Illinois. His oral commitment is the Hoosiers’ 15th, and fourth in the last few days. He committed after a one-day football camp at Indiana, which followed an unofficial visit to the campus.

IU beat out Illinois State, Ball State, Eastern Illinois and Western Illinois to land Robbins, a three-star player. Yes, none of those schools will challenge for BCS glory, but that’s not the point. Upgrading the talent level is the point and Lynch has done that the last few seasons.

The 6-4, 240-pound Robbins has a 29-inch vertical jump. He runs a 4.9 40-yard dash. IU coaches see him as a potential offensive tackle in the mold of ex-Hoosier Rodger Saffold, the No. 33 pick in the recent NFL Draft.

The Hoosiers also landed a pair of in-state defensive backs in Kenny Mullen of Fort Wayne Bishop Luers and Center Grove’s Nick Stoner. There’s also Ohio defensive back Mark Murphy.

The 5-10, 178-pound Mullen, who has been timed in 4.46 seconds for the 40-yard dash, is rated as the nation’s No. 75 cornerback. He’s a versatile player who rushed for nearly 1,100 yards and 30 touchdowns last season while helping the Knights win the Class 2A state championship. He also caught 21 passes for 251 yards and a TD, and excelled as a kick returner.

“The Indiana coaches told me they recruited me as as a corner, but it wouldn’t be a bad idea if I went both ways if I position myself in that aspect,” Mullen said. “They like what I did on offense, and also what I did on defense. I’ll just wait until I get there and see what fits.”

Stoner isn’t the biggest guy in the world at 6-1 and 155 pounds, but he is fast. He’s run the 100 meters in 10.72 seconds, and finished second in the state meet earlier this month. He needs to gain weight and if he can do that and maintain his speed, the Hoosiers will have a very special player.

That also could be true of Murphy, a 6-2, 195-pound safety. He chose Indiana over Air Force, Arizona and Kent State.

IU’s emphasis on defense is obvious. Eleven of its 15 commitments are defensive players. That unit has been a major problem in the last 15 years. The defense has to improve to at least middle of the Big Ten status if the Hoosiers are to consistently challenge for bowl bids.

Indiana figures to sign around 20 players during February’s national signing period. It will likely save a few scholarships for really special players or late-developing guys who have monster senior years.

Who might those guys be? That's a topic for another day.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Why Bawa Said Bye Bye To Indiana Basketball

So here we are, three weeks into June, and the Indiana basketball announcement that should have come a month ago rockets through Cream ‘n Crimson cyberspace like an errant Tiger Woods’ tee shot:

Bawa Muniru is leaving the program.

Are you shocked?

Of course not.

The timing is odd. Usually transferring players announce they’re leaving right around the time the second semester ends. After May passed and then much of June without any movement, it seemed as if everybody would be back.

Now, we know they all won’t be. Perhaps the announcement was delayed because of academics. Muniru will first finish his summer classes at IU before going wherever it is he is going. Muniru's guardian, Brian Privett, told the Bloomington Herald-Times' Dustin Dopirak it was a mutual decision as it became clear in off-season workouts that Muniru wasn't developing fast enough to warrant more playing time next season.

The announcement does somewhat solve the mystery of where coach Tom Crean is going to get enough scholarships to accommodate all the offers he is making for the classes of 2011 and 2012. Losing Muniru opens up one. More than likely others will open up as well.

Who else could leave?

That is a blog for another day.

For now though we have Muniru, a 6-11,, 242-pound package of potential (he was rated the nation's No. 11 center coming out of high school) who never seemed to fit Crean’s system. Muniru was a caring kid, a dedicated student and a sit-the-bench fixture. He arrived with plenty of expectations (even if most were unrealistic) and never got a game chance to show what he could do. He played in just 19 games, averaged 3.3 minutes, 0.6 points and 0.7 rebounds, and looked lost most of the time. He never scored more than two points or grabbed more than three rebounds.

As the season went on and Muniru’s minutes dropped to virtually zero, momentum grew to play him and give him a chance. Why not? The Hoosiers, after all, were losing badly and often. It’s not like they were contending for a Big Ten championship and Crean couldn’t risk blowing it by playing a guy who wasn’t ready. Seriously, how bad could Muniru be? Could IU have played any worse than it did?

The bottom line was coaches never trusted him enough to be where he needed to be on offense and defense. In other words, he was out of position a lot. Even more important, they felt they could trust guys such as Bobby Capobianco and Derek Elston. Those guys played. Muniru sat and, apparently, steamed.

In truth, Crean’s pro-like system can get complicated for someone who lacked the basketball upbringing that makes state of Indiana players so valuable at all levels. Muniru is from Africa and got a later start in the game. Crean rotated defenses from man to zone and back again. His set-play offense demanded players go to the right spot, make the right cuts and set the right screens.

Muniru struggled with that.

Still, he was 6-11 and had long arms and could run and jump. A lot of major college coaches wanted him. You figured if he did nothing but rebound and play defense, he’d make a major impact. But whatever impact Muniru made stayed hidden in practices, which were closed to the media, the public and even the spies.

Yes, we tried to plant some spies. We failed. Crean’s security is too good.

Muniru has three years of eligibility remaining. He wants to play. He wants to make an impact. That wasn’t going to happen at IU. So he decided to leave. IU coaches did not disagree.

“As a staff we think the best thing for Bawa is to go to a program where he can play and continue his education,” Crean said in a university release. “His desire for more playing time was very evident. We told him his best opportunity to play was likely going to have to happen somewhere else.”

In the end Muniru, much like fellow African native Tijan Jobe, was a project, and IU couldn’t afford a project. He needed a redshirt season to develop, which leads to an obvious question -- if you saw how raw he was and were going to play him so little, why not redshirt him? The seemingly obvious answer –- Crean must have promised not to redshirt him in order to sign him.

It was a gamble that didn’t work out. And in a bit of irony, because of NCAA transfer rules, Muniru will now get that redshirt season.

“I feel it is in my best interests to pursue my basketball career somewhere else,” Muniru said in a university release. “I have appreciated my time at Indiana.”

Appreciation was apparently mutual.

“We always want to give our players the best opportunity for growth as a player and as a person,” Crean said. “(Bawa) has worked extremely hard in the classroom and we appreciate all he has done in representing the program.”

In an ideal world, Muniru and IU will be better off apart. In this real world, we’ll have to see. It’s a shame it didn’t work out because the Hoosiers could really use a 6-11 athletic inside presence.

At least our spies told us that much.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Did Saving Big 12 Cost Big Ten Notre Dame?

Just when it looked like Notre Dame would have to join the Big Ten, Dan Beebe altered everything by saving the Big 12.

Sure, Beebe, the Big 12 commissioner, had to grant Texas everything but the Fountain of Youth (Joe Paterno still has that locked away in a secret Nittany Lion vault), but the fact remains that now that the Pac-10’s bid to take Texas and a big chunk of the Big 12 is done, expansion fever will cool.

At least for a little while.

If the Pac-10 had become the Pac-16 (it’s the Pac-11 right now, and has invited Utah to make it 12 teams), the ripple effect would have likely created four 16-team leagues and jump-started a national playoff.

Notre Dame’s desire to remain an independent in football would have left it as an outsider in such a scenario and likely forced it into a conference, almost certainly the Big Ten

For now, at least, it can wait.

Who would have guessed that a few days ago when Colorado bolted for the Pac-10 and Nebraska joined the Big Ten. The Big 12 was on the verge of disappearing. Then Beebe went to work and somehow got assurances that future TV deals would generate a lot more money for each conference school. The conference also agreed that Texas could have its own TV network. It would not have been able to do that in the Pac-10.

This seems unfair given that Texas already has the nation’s most profitable athletic department. In 2008, the last year figures were available, it totaled $138.4 million in athletic revenue, the most in the nation, $20 million more than second-place Ohio State.

Do you really want to be giving those guys even more money?

Fairness isn’t a priority. Clout is and the Longhorns have plenty of it.

Of course, all this could change by next week. The SEC made strong overtures to Texas A&M. Rumors are swirling about Arkansas leaving the SEC for the Big 12, although Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long said the Razorbacks aren’t interested in leaving the SEC.

Right, and aliens DIDN’T land in Roswell, New Mexico.

Anyway, for now the Big Ten is focused on getting Nebraska on board for the 2011 football season (the same for all its other sports) and dividing up the league into divisions so it can have a Big Ten football championship game.

But don’t be surprised if the league and Notre Dame have some secret, secret talks. In the long run, football independence will have to end.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

In Big Basketball Picture, Crean is Right IU Fit

So now we know Tom Izzo will be a Spartan for life. He will not succumb to NBA temptation with its mega-million-dollar salaries and LeBron James possibilities.

The Big Ten is better for it. So is Michigan State. It seems unlikely that anyone could duplicate Izzo’s success in East Lansing, just as it’s been impossible to duplicate what Bob Knight did at Indiana and John Wooden did at UCLA.

Izzo is a guy who has taken his team to six Final Fours in the last 12 years, something only Wooden and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski have done. He’s won a national title and a bunch of Big Ten championships. He returns a team with strong national championship potential.

There are some in Indiana circles who are disappointed in Izzo’s decision. They hoped that if Izzo went to Cleveland, Michigan State officials would hire Tom Crean away from the Hoosiers.

In this scenario, Izzo goes to Cleveland, Crean goes to Michigan State (he’s a former Spartan assistant coach under Izzo) and somebody new, say Brad Stevens of Butler, ends up in Bloomington.

This is not unexpected or a negative. Okay, it is a negative if you’re Crean, who is giving his heart and soul to the IU job, but we’re looking at it from the big picture perspective.

These are passionate Cream ‘n Crimson fans who are tired of losing. Any coach who wins 16 games in two seasons, as Crean has done, is not going to win a popularity contest, especially if he’s just 1-for-3 in landing top-15 recruiting classes and has yet to fully tap into the state of Indiana’s mother lode of high school talent.

That Crean had to gut the program because it was full of guys who, and we’re being kind here, were not IU material, is no longer relevant. Fans want victories and stud recruits. They want hope in this era of Purdue and Butler thriving on the national scene.

Crean has already used Twitter (we still don’t understand the attraction of this thing, but we do understand it’s making somebody a lot of money, just not us) to state he’s not interested in the job. Now, of course, it’s irrelevant. Izzo will likely be at Michigan State for at least another 10 years, maybe more.

Crean, of course, remains focused on restoring Indiana’s basketball glory. The Hoosiers are pushing the off-season pace to get bigger, stronger and more skillful, and if they have to do it without strength coach Jeff Watkinson, who is now ex-Hoosier Eric Gordon’s personal trainer, well, it’s just another challenge Crean must overcome.

And he will.

The key remains recruiting and Crean is fully committed to landing a big-time class dominated by some of the state’s big-time prep talent. That commitment needs to produce results. This summer and fall will be huge.

In the meantime, grumbling will continue. Some will keep wondering if Crean is the right guy for the job. IU fans, you see, really aren’t fickle. They just want the Hoosiers win again, thrive again, thrill again. They want IU to kick some behind, starting with Kentucky and Purdue.

Is that asking too much?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

IU Football Gets Defensive

It’s mid-June and Indiana is about halfway done with its football recruiting class of 2011. The Hoosiers have 11 oral commitments, although it’s uncertain how firm Ohio linebacker Max Pirman is given his recent visit to Notre Dame.

Hey, at least the Irish want guys committed to IU, and that’s a sign the Hoosiers’ recruiting is picking up.

In fact, it has picked up for the last couple of years, which is a topic we’ve already discussed. For now, let’s analyze where the Hoosiers are in their football recruiting.

Let’s start with the latest commitment, which is which is defensive tackle Donte Phillips. He was IU’s third commitment of the week and he has the potential to be a college defensive end. He’s listed at 6-2 and 255 at Homestead High School in Wisconsin. He’s a strong run stopper who is quick enough to get to the quarterback.

At every level of football a guy who can sack quarterbacks is unbelievably valuable. That’s why they are among the highest paid players in the NFL.

Anyway, seven of IU’s commitments are defensive players, including four linebackers. This isn’t an accident. Defense is the No. 1 reason why the Hoosiers have just one winning season since the early 1990s. They have consistently ranked among the Big Ten’s worst during that period. They couldn’t win even when Antwaan Randle El was terrorizing the league at quarterback because the defense couldn’t stop anybody.

Coach Bill Lynch and his staff understand that. Shaky defense was the biggest contributor to IU’s inability to close out opponents last season. It easily could have been 8-4 instead of 4-8 if it had controlled the fourth quarter. Coaches need talent and depth. They’re gathering the former, developing the later.

Zack Shaw is rated No. 11 nationally at his inside linebacker position, the best of the commitments. While he likely isn’t the second coming of Ray Lewis, he doesn’t have to be. He’s 6-3 and 218 pounds and he’ll probably be 230-pounds-plus by the time he’s a college veteran.

Two of the commitments are offensive linemen and both Ralston Evans and Kirk Harris have the rangy size coaches want. Evans is 6-4 and 275. Harris is 6-5 and 285. They could easily bulk up past 300 pounds in college.

The philosophy started under former coach Terry Hoeppner. Tall, athletic offensive linemen fit the spread offense he ran and while Indiana has switched to more of a power game with its pistol attack, coaches still want to get the ball into the hands of one of the Big Ten’s top receiving corps, which means they still want to spread the defense as well as pound it.

The Hoosiers also have lined up a tight end in Jake Reed, and while they haven’t featured the tight end as a receiver much recently, that could change. Reed, who is ranked 23rd nationally at his position, could help with that.

They even have a dual threat quarterback in Tre Roberson from Indianapolis. While he isn’t the biggest guy in the world (6-1, 170 pounds), he’s fast and athletic and if quarterback doesn’t work out in college, he likely would make a good receiver.

Recruiting is designed to address needs, and these 11 players do that. Lynch basically had last year’s class locked in by the start of the football season. With June the month for football camps -- a big tool for coaches to get players on campus, evaluate them and offer scholarships to those who warrant them –- look for this year’s commitment numbers to increase swiftly. And if the talent level rises with it, future prospects are awfully good.

If not, well, we’ve all been there before.

Dividing The Big Ten -- Where Do You Put IU?

So now that Nebraska is officially in the Big Ten, which makes it the Big Twelve in everything but name, we get to the detail part, which means dividing the league into two divisions to set up a conference football championship game.

Yes, that means that the league that already pays members about $23 million a year each thanks to the Big Ten Network, will soon be raking in even more money. The Big Ten title game -– how does Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium sound as a permanent site? -- is certain to generate big-bucks interest from advertisers beyond what will be made in ticket sales, concessions, parking (they were charging as much as $45 to park near Lucas Oil Stadium during the basketball Final Four), souvenirs and heaven knows what else.

So how do you divide the league?

Geography makes the most sense. It will help with travel costs and lend itself to rivalries. An east-west split would be a good bet. Here is our unofficial new league look:





Ohio State

Michigan State

Penn State








Teams would play five games against everybody in their division, then rotate three games against teams in the other division. That would still mean eight total Big Ten games, plus a conference title game for the two division winners. Teams would still have four non-conference games.

This assumes, of course, that there will be no more expansion. But in this fast-changing college sports world, nothing should be assumed except more change is coming.

Notre Dame, of course, remains the No. 1 target. And while Kansas isn’t getting much Big Ten play (it doesn’t offer much in the way of big-city markets), it does have a big-time basketball program that would add extra pop there, something Nebraska –- or even Notre Dame -- doesn’t come close to doing in that sport.

Missouri seems to be out of flavor-of-the-week status, but that can change. Rutgers offers East Coast exposure and Pitt would seem to be a natural, although Penn State officials might not think so.

For now, this is our speculation, but as the kids tell us all the time, what the heck do we know? So how do you think the Big Ten should be divided? Let us know and we’ll post the results.

Friday, June 11, 2010

What Happens To Crean If Izzo Moves To NBA

Just in case you’re wondering, Tom Crean does not see Indiana as a basketball coaching stepping stone. This is a final stop, not a means to an end someplace else.

We mention this because of speculation on what would happen if Michigan State coach Tom Izzo leaves to take the Cleveland Cavaliers job. Crean, as you probably recall, was a long-time assistant coach under Izzo before leaving to take over at Marquette and then at Indiana. He’s very familiar with the Spartans and their program.

Izzo has reportedly been offered $6 million a year to coach Cleveland. He has said he’ll make a decision by today.

So would Crean take over for Izzo?

The Indiana coach won’t go there.

“I’m at Indiana,” Crean said. “It doesn’t make any difference what job opens across the country. When you take a job like Indiana, you take it because it is one of the great jobs in all of sports. We can get it out of the equation just for being a great college basketball job. This is one of those destination places everyone dreams about getting.

“Indiana is a place that we will continue to work and build. It’s a hard job, a hard challenge and you don’t take a job like this thinking anything about it is going to be easy.

“It’s a great, great thing to try to undertake day in and day to get this thing back to where it is going to be.”

IU’s program isn’t there yet, of course. It has had two straight losing seasons. It is a Big Ten cellar dweller. Still, potential is there and that includes the Academic Progress Rate, which measures how well athletes do in classes and toward getting a degree.

IU got a 975 in Crean’s first year, well above the minimum requirement of 925. Its four-year average of 878 is better than last season’s 866 average.

“I’m proud of what is going on here academically,” Crean said.

One thing Crean wouldn’t address is Big Ten expansion. Nebraska has left the Big 12 for the Big Ten. A lot of teams are looking to switch conference affiliations.

“I don’t get a lot of media request on conference realignment,” Crean said. “Most of us as coaches will know (about expansion) at the same time. We’ll know when we read it or when we hear it. I don’t have any inside information and, frankly, I don’t ask for it.”

Thursday, June 10, 2010

For IU Football Recruiting, It's About Evaluation and Development

Let’s face it, when it comes to football recruiting, Indiana ain’t gonna land the next Tim Tebow and Reggie Bush. It’s not gonna rival Florida, Texas and Ohio State in elite signing.

But you know what, it doesn’t have to.

The key for the Hoosiers is doing a thorough enough job in evaluating and developing players.

Case in point is commitments No. 9 and No. 10 in the Hoosiers Class of 2011, Ohio defensive back Nick VanHoose and Michigan defensive tackle Shafer Johnson. Neither is ranked. Neither has a bunch of stars by his name. Neither was wooed by national powerhouses.

But VanHoose is very fast (a sub 4.4-second time in the 40-yard dash) and Johnson is very big (6-1, 300 pounds). Both are good athletes. There is potential there.

Okay, it’s hard to see that potential when IU's main rival for VanHoose was Ball State, or when it had to beat out Bowling Green and Arkansas State to get Johnson. Those aren't exactly college football superpowers.

Still, that misses the point. It’s not as much about getting highly rated guys as it is getting good players who are the right fit for Indiana.

Coach Bill Lynch has a philosophy of getting under-the-radar players, redshirting them if they can’t be instant-impact freshmen, developing them (the new 25,000 square foot weight room makes that easier) and then turning them loose.

VanHoose fits that description. He has decent, but not great size (6-foot, 175 pounds). He’s a versatile athlete and Lynch loves those kind of guys because it maximizes the things coaches can do with him. For instance, last year VanHoose rushed for 1,877 yards and 25 touchdowns as a tailback. As a defensive back he totaled five interceptions and 12 pass break-ups. He also returned kicks, was the placekicker and did everything but drive the team bus.

VanHoose is from the same St. Paris, Ohio, high school as IU co-defensive coordinator Brian George. In fact, George is a family friend and was a big reason why VanHoose came to Indiana.

Johnson, meanwhile, is a big guy who can get a lot stronger. The goal is to turn him into a run-stuffing defensive tackle opponents will struggle to handle.

For those who equate recruiting success with recruiting rankings, consider that four of IU’s 10 commitments are ranked nationally at their positions. They are No. 11 linebacker Zach Shaw, No. 23 tight end Jake Reed, No. 30 offensive lineman Ralston Evans and No. 44 linebacker Max Pirman.

Yes, it would be nice to be 10 out of 10, but that's not realistic. And the fact remains Lynch and his staff do sign talent. In fact, they are recruiting better players all the time and just because the Hoosiers aren’t beating out Ohio State and Penn State to get them doesn’t mean these guys can’t play.

They can play, but in the end that won't mean anything unless the Hoosiers win.

The sooner, the better.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Expanding Big Ten -- What's In It For IU?

So here comes E-Day, Expansion-Day, with Nebraska and Missouri poised to join the Big Ten by Friday if you believe the reports, unless Notre Dame beats them to it, and all heck will break loose in college athletics.

That leads to one big, over-riding Cream ‘n Crimson question -- What’s in it for Indiana?

First, it’s interesting how the Big Ten and commissioner Jim Delany lost the hammer they held over the college landscape. Seems like it was just yesterday they were talking about an 18-month timetable to decide on expansion. They were dictating the terms and everybody else cowered over their move.

Cowering ended when the Pac-10 jumped into expansion mode and offered to take half the Big 12, with Texas and its money-making machine the crown jewel. That leads to a second question –- what’s wrong with Kansas? Nobody seems to be talking about the Jayhawks, one of the nation’s basketball super powers with a decent enough football program and ...

Sorry. We got sidetracked. If Nebraska and Missouri join the Big Ten that will give the league 13 teams. Only witches, warlocks and BP officials are into those kind of things, which is why three more teams are likely to join. The Big Ten would love one of those to be Notre Dame. The Irish have huffed and puffed about wanting to preserve their football independence, but that’s becoming out-of-touch with reality in these times-they-are-a-changing days. They don’t want to be left out in a world of 16-team super conferences and for a lot of reasons, heck, for every reason, the Big Ten makes the most sense.

But then comes word that Notre Dame and the Big Ten are in super secret negotiations and that if the Irish join, the Big Ten will lock in at 12 teams and be done with expansion talk forever.

So let’s get back to Indiana. A bigger Big Ten, no matter who joins, will have tremendous football power. It won’t be a place for mediocre programs. The Hoosiers will have to ratchet up the talent level to stay competitive.

From a money standpoint, expansion will boost IU and every Big Ten school, impressive considering they’re already raking in $20 million each thanks to the Big Ten Network.

From a football success standout, the Hoosiers will be in trouble. It’s already difficult for them to consistently compete in an 11-team Big Ten. It will be even more challenging after expansion brings in some more powerhouses. Not impossible, but very, very difficult. IU will almost have to become national in its recruiting.

Coach Bill Lynch and his staff are competitive guys. They’ll embrace the challenge if it happens.

Embracing is one thing. Thriving with a schedule that could include Ohio State, Penn State, Notre Dame and, well, you get the picture.

Nothing is etched in stone, of course. Nebraska and Missouri could stay in the Big 12. The Pac-10 could pass on expansion. Notre Dame could stay football independent forever. The Big Ten could stick with 11 teams.

Yeah, right. We don’t buy that, either.

So what’s in it for Indiana besides money? Mr. T once said, in reference to his second fight with Rocky, "Pain!" A cynic would say, be afraid. An optimist would say, bring it on. For now we’ll stick with, let’s wait and see. By the end of the summer, we’ll know.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Losing Watkinson A Big Blow for IU Basketball

If Bloomington Herald-Times sports editor Chris Korman and sports writer Dustin Dopirak are right, and bet the house that they are, the Indiana basketball team just took a big hit, and ex-Hoosier Eric Gordon is the culprit.

See what being a multi-millionaire can do for you.

Gordon just wrapped up his second NBA season with the Los Angeles Clippers by averaging 16.9 points and 3.0 assists. But he wants to get better and part of that is getting bigger and stronger. Enter IU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Watkinson.

Check that. Put a FORMER label to Watkinson’s title. Korman and Dopirak report that Gordon has hired Watkinson to be his personal trainer.

That means somebody else has to take over IU off-season workouts. Somebody will, of course. And no matter what happens, team trainer Tim Garl will have a big role, as he has done so well for so many years.

In four seasons at IU Watkinson developed into a strength coach of national renown. He assisted the NBA in its pre-draft workouts. He helped prepare Gordon and D.J. White for their NBA careers.

Watkinson did that job well enough to convince Gordon to hire him. Injuries and illness limited Gordon to 62 games this past season. Watkinson will work with Gordon on strength and conditioning, diet and basketball skills.

Figure that Watkinson got a significant raise to do this job.

Also figure that coach Tom Crean won’t waste much time in deciding how to handle Watkinson’s loss. This offseason is huge for the Hoosiers given their youth and how much bigger and stronger they have to get. And they will improve in those areas, just not with Watkinson.

Also, in case you were wondering, Crean does fully understand the importance of signing in-state players, especially with the talent-loaded classes of 2011 and 2012. But because there are no guarantees, he hasn’t ignored out-of-state prospects. That’s why he brought in a couple of Ohio players in 6-5 guard Jalen Ragland (Class of 2011) and 6-8 forward Malik London (Class of 2012) for unofficial visits.

Neither is the second coming of LeBron James, but both have potential. Wake Forest, Ohio State and Xavier have offered the offensively challenged London, whose 7-1 wingspan makes him a shot-blocking-and-rebounding force. Ragland is a perimeter sharpshooter who averaged 14 points a game last season. At 6-5, he has the size you’re looking for from a shooting guard.

Assembly Hall Part II

This is to clarify a comment that Assembly Hall was based on Memorial Stadium's design. In fact, it was the other way around.

IU officials came up with the design for a new basketball arena in the early 1950s, but didn't have the money to build it. In the late 1950s they realized they needed a new football stadium. Rather than spend money to design a football stadium, they figured, "Hey, we've got this design already paid for, and it would work for football, too, because most of the seats would go between the two end zones, so let's use this." So they did.

The football stadium was built first because a 52,000-seat football facility would generate more money than a 17,000-seat basketball arena. So up went Memorial Stadium (it was done by 1960) and by the end of the 1960s they were ready to start building Assembly Hall.

Love it or hate it, it remains one of the most recognized college facilities in the nation, if not the world.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Does Cook Hall Delay Replacing Assembly Hall?

A funny thing happened to Indiana on its way to building a new Assembly Hall.

It built the new Cook Hall and now everything is all askew.

Suddenly a lot of the reasons why Assembly Hall is such a spectating disaster (were designers TRYING to kill elderly fans and torture balcony spectators with the arena’s brutally steep steps and painful views) became a lot less of a priority because $25 million Cook Hall has enough amenities (practice courts for the men’s and women’s teams, a state-of-the-art training room, a state-of-the-art weight room, and a Legacy Court that displays Indiana’s greatest basketball moments) to keep IU facility competitive.

In other words, athletic director Fred Glass can put off trying to raise the $150 million or so it would take to build a new basketball facility and concentrate on a more immediate facility need –- a new baseball stadium.

That’s a topic for another day. For now consider Glass’s enthusiasm for Cook Hall.

“The building is fabulous,” he said. “We think it’s the best of its kind in the country. It will be the WOW factor we need. It sends chills and brings tears to fans around the state. I hope it become a destination for people to visit.”

All that shelves plans to push for a new basketball arena.

“Cook Hall has the effect of extending the longevity of Assembly Hall,” Glass said. “That’s good news because Assembly Hall is a tough place to play for opponents.

“Having the latest technology and eye candy and whiz-bang effect of Cook Hall, combined with venerable Assembly Hall, is a 1-2 punch that will be good to us.”

“Good” comes with this perspective -– the Assembly Hall design was based on a North Carolina livestock pavilion. In other words, a barn. Why? Because officials wanted a large arena with most of the seats between the baselines and were, and we’re being diplomatic here, frugal with their money in terms of design.

Oh, there’s one other thing. The arena’s architecture plans were drawn in the early 1950s. The building wasn’t finished until the early 1970s. In other words, it was obsolete the first day it opened.

We’re just saying.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Basketball Struggles Save IU $900,000 -- Sort Of

So let’s say we flash forward into a future where Indiana regains its basketball mojo, victories come at a machine-gun pace and officials make room to hang another championship banner in Assembly Hall.

What do you think that would be worth?

That depends, of course, on who you’re talking about.

For fans it would once again be a time of excitement, with big-time wins, national acclaim and March Madness euphoria.

For coach Tom Crean it would mean peace of mind, vindication for all the struggles of a first couple of years no one expected to be so challenging.

However, because we live in a materialistic world where green is just as much about money as it is the environment, we offer you contract perspective.

Crean makes a little over $2 million a year even if the Hoosiers don’t win a game. If they win a lot, he makes more. How much more? Let’s take a look.

His contract guarantees him $50,000 for winning the Big Ten regular season championship, $25,000 for an NCAA tourney berth, $125,000 for reaching the Final Four and $250,000 for winning the national championship.

That means Crean has saved IU $900,000 by failing to achieve those goals in his first two seasons.

Does that make athletic director Fred Glass happy?

Are you nuts?

Glass would have loved to have shelled out the extra cash because it would mean big-time success and a big-time financial boost via surges in attendance, concessions, merchandise and alumni giving.

Such bonuses are not unusual, by the way.

Michigan State coach Tom Izzo gets $50,000 for winning the Big Ten regular season championship, $25,000 for making the NCAA tourney, $25,000 for making the Sweet 16, $100,000 for making the Final Four and $150,000 for winning the national title. That means this season Izzo made an extra $200,000.

Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun makes about $29,000 for making the NCAA tourney, $58,000 for making the Final Four and $87,000 for winning the national championship.

And then there’s Kentucky coach John Calipari, who gets $100,000 for getting to the Sweet 16 and $375,000 for winning the national championship.

Yes, that seems unfair in these economically challenged times, but it isn’t about being fair. It’s about being competitive and that’s what big-time coaches make these days.

Still, consider this -– John Wooden never made more than $35,000 a year as the coach at UCLA.

Now THAT seems unfair.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Best Coach Ever -- Knight Vs. Wooden

So if you had to vote on who was the greatest basketball coach of all time between John Wooden and Bob Knight, who would you choose?

Be objective.

Yes, Knight is the all-time leader in major college coaching victories (902), with 662 wins and three national titles coming at Indiana, but when it comes to long-term excellence and dominance, it would be hard to pick anyone besides Wooden, who died at 99 on Friday.

You could mention Wooden’s 10 national championships (no one else is close) or the 88-game winning streak or the words of wisdom -– highlighted by his “pyramid of success” –- that separate him from all the rest.

Here’s how dominant Wooden was. In his final 12 years, ending with the 1975 national championship, his teams were 330-19, including four 30-0 seasons, and those 10 national titles. He finished with 620 wins in 27 seasons.

He won with a full-court pressing, uptempo style that attracted superstar players such as Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton. He demanded extreme fitness to handle that style. He had three etched-in-stone rules -– don’t be late, don’t swear, don’t criticize teammates.

Unlike the colorful Knight, Wooden didn’t swear, although he, like Knight, had no trouble chewing on officials. He would say things such as, “Dadbum it, you saw him double dribble” or “Goodness gracious sakes alive.”

Scary stuff, isn’t it?

Wooden’s “pyramid of success” included enthusiasm, industriousness, patience, faith, loyalty and self control. At the top was competitive greatness.

He would tell players to “Be more concerned with your character than your reputation because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Wooden, by the way, was an imposing player good enough to help lead Purdue to the 1932 national championship. Look at pictures of him in his prime. He was a powerful-looking athlete during an era when almost nobody lifted weights. He was named college player of the year as a senior.

Oh, yes. He also led Martinsville to the Indiana state title in 1927.

In the end, though, Wooden will forever be remembered as a coach’s coach, a teacher gracious with his time, and a man still in love with his wife of 53 years, Nell, his childhood sweetheart, 25 years after her death.

He had many sayings, but here are two that will be true as long as humans exist:

*“Learn as if you were to live forever; live as if you were to die tomorrow.”

*“Don’t give up on your dreams or your dreams will give up on you.”

Dadbum it, that is good stuff.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Critical Season Looms For IU Football, Lynch

Fred Glass is a man of his word. He insists football coach Bill Lynch will get the final two years of his contract to produce a consistent winner. If Lynch does, a new contract will come. If not ... well ... no sense in being negative.

When you look at what IU has, the prospects are intriguing. It has one of the Big Ten’s best receiving corps with Damarlo Belcher, Tandon Doss, Terrance Turner and Dre Muhammad. It has a big-time tailback in Darius Willis, although he’s been prone to injury his first two seasons. It has a veteran quarterback in Ben Chappell (pictured), plus QB depth (and some dual-threat athleticism) with Edward Wright-Baker. The defensive tackles are solid with Nicolas Sliger, Jarrod Smith, Mick Mentzer and Larry Black.

There is some uncertainty on the offensive line, more at linebacker and the secondary. Young players will have to step up, and if they do, the Hoosiers have a chance at a special season. If they don’t … well … it’s not like we haven’t seen Cream ‘n Crimson struggles before.

Anyway, Lynch and his staff seem to have recruited well. They’ve redshirted most of their freshmen to better prepare them for Big Ten opportunity.

Come August, opportunity will arrive. After seasons of 3-9 and 4-8, it’s time for the Hoosiers to show their football patsy days are over.

“This is a real important season,” Glass said. “We feel we’ve been putting the right building blocks in place. Coach Lynch has done a great job. He’s taken the long view. He could be making decisions with a short-term payoff in nature. He’s taken a long-term approach which is important in redshirting.

“Last year we were 4-8 and I get that. You are what your record says you are, but we were really close to being 8-4, 9-3, and the talk of the conference. Those are reasons to be optimistic.

“I am optimistic, but at some point all those things we are doing the right things in, the building of the team leadership core, a good redshirting policy, being academically successful, having a good off-season, at some point that needs to translate into wins. I’m hopeful we’ll start seeing that in a positive way.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Legacy Or Not, Yeagley Ready To Make His Soccer Mark

By now you know that Todd Yeagley is back in Bloomington charged with the task of restoring Indiana’s soccer greatness.

Yes, that means dealing with the legacy of his Hall of Fame father, Jerry, but he’s addressed that before. The bottom line -- he embraces that legacy, he doesn’t fear it, and wants to get the Hoosiers back to their title winning ways ASAP.

For the record, IU has won seven national titles, six while coached by Jerry Yeagley, one while directed by Mike Freitag.

Now it’s the younger Yeagley’s turn and his philosophy includes a go-for-the-jugular approach designed to bring back the intimidating presence the program once enjoyed.

For now, though, the focus is on the summer, and while NCAA rules prohibit Yeagley and his staff from working with his players, he has provided each with a blueprint for development.

“Each kid has a uniqueness we want to stress,” he said. “Some need games. Some need to get stronger. Some need more fitness and more functional work. We want to get them in an environment to help them grow, and they have to do it on their own.

“One thing that is a challenge for all the fall sports is that you have to come in ready. We can’t play catch-up with the fitness base with only two weeks of preseason. With what we want to get done these players have to be fit and ready for the challenge ahead. So they have to work on that fitness base and staying sharp. A lot are playing with different teams or clubs.”

Yeagley was a four-time All-America for the Hoosiers. He played seven years in Major League Soccer. He spent five years as an IU assistant coach and one year as the Wisconsin head coach before returning to Bloomington.

As athletic director Fred Glass has said, Yeagley has “IT,” that special quality that produces greatness. Come the fall Yeagley will get his first crack at proving it.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Truth Is Out There -- The Latest Scoop On Big Ten Expansion

Do you want to know what’s REALLY going on with Big Ten expansion? Sure you do. Are you going to get it from Commissioner Jim Delany?

Not a chance.

The guy with the North Carolina basketball pedigree and lawyer training is releasing information on a need-to-know basis and basically nobody needs to know.

This, of course, is unacceptable.

The truth is out there, to borrow a phrase from the X-Files, and we will find it. So we turn to Indiana football coach Bill Lynch. He was at last month’s Big Ten meetings in Chicago. He listened to Delany discus expansion.

Does he have inside information?


Can he reveal it?

You be the judge.

“It’s interesting that at the Big Ten meetings there was media from all over the country,” Lynch said. “I’ve never seen that many for a spring meeting of any kind. The Commissioner shared with us where they are in the process. He told us all we needed to know.”

Could that have been information on the likelihood of high-profile schools such as Notre Dame, Nebraska, Missouri, Texas and Rutgers joining the Big Ten to form a super-conference the likes of which college sports has never seen?

Lynch wouldn’t go that far.

“A lot of things are going on behind the scenes,” he said. “It’s a process. They are following the process the commissioner first introduced in December. There is a lot of exploring going on to make sure it is the right thing for all of our institutions. Who are those schools? Are they compatible with Big Ten schools? Do they want to do it? What are the ramifications?

“This is not something you do by sitting in smoke filled rooms. This will affect a lot of people. How far reaching it is I don’t think they even know yet. When we’ll hear something I don’t know. As a coach you control what you can control. This is not a situation that we do.”

Will coaches have an input in the final decision?

“I don’t think so,” Lynch said. “This is a decision for the commissioner, the presidents, the athletic directors, the faculty reps. It affects so many people and we as coaches have tunnel vision. All we see is how it affects football. It needs to be people who are responsible for the big picture. As coaches we need to be positive and move in whichever direction they go.”

To discover that direction we turn to IU athletic director Fred Glass. He’s a no-bull kind of guy. He KNOWS something. We just have to ask the right –- Did you order the Code Red -– kind of question.

So Fred, what do you know and when did you know it?

“I have plenty of thoughts,” he said, “but I’ll keep them to myself. Commissioner Delany has asked us to go from a quiet stage to a silent stage.”

Are you SERIOUS?

“They do their thing and evaluate what they should do,” Glass said. “I certainly won’t comment on schools or what they should do. The good news from the Big Ten perspective is the conference is so strong financially that we don’t have to expand. It’s always good to go into a business relationship and not have to do a deal. We don’t have to. If it’s not a great deal, we won’t do it.

“My thoughts are momentum is building toward expansion and we’ll end up doing something.”

Will you have input?

“This is a decision for the presidents, but it’s fair to say athletic directors are a working group that will be kept apprised of the situation. I would expect most if not all the presidents would ask input from athletic directors.”

What will that input be?

That, it seems, remains a mystery.

For now.