Saturday, July 31, 2010

Silence Isn't Golden For IU's Oladipo

Victor Oladipo doesn’t buy the silence is golden myth. Not when he’s playing basketball. There’s too much passion and fun to unleash.

So when the 6-4 freshman guard finally makes his Indiana public debut –- put mid-October’s Hoosier Hysteria on your calendar -– look for him whenever you hear a scream or see a highlight-reel dunk.

“I’m an energy-type player,” he said. “I like to scream, get the crowd into it. I like dunking. I like the high-tempo game. When it’s high tempo, I’m high tempo and when I’m high tempo, I think my team thrives off that.”

We’ll have to take his word on that. It certainly worked last season for Washington D.C.’s DeMatha High School. He averaged 11.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.6 blocks for a 32-4 team that won city and Washington Catholic Athletic Conference championships.

Will it work for the rebuilding Hoosiers, who seem poised to return to their winning ways after two seasons of Kelvin Sampson-inspired misery?

We won’t know until games start in November. For now Oladipo is adjusting to what college is all about, from summer school classes to 6 a.m. weight lifting sessions to full-throttle pickup games.

“I’m just trying to get my feet wet and get used to everything,” he said. “Becoming an Indiana basketball player is not as easy as it sounds. It’s not like high school. I’m just trying to have fun and get used to it.”

At DeMatha Oladipo was a hard worker whose leaping ability made him a YouTube regular and who, while recovering from a broken foot during the summer before his sophomore year, worked summer league scoreboards and picked up trash to stay involved with his team.

That’s the kind of attitude Hoosier coach Tom Crean is seeking to help restore the glory of old IU. It’s among the attributes that made Crean offer Oladipo a scholarship.

As far as accepting that scholarship, there was a bit of a family disconnect. Oladipo’s father, Chris, a native of Nigeria, wanted Victor to spend a year in China doing martial arts and learning discipline. Then he wanted him to go to Harvard or Maryland.

Victor did neither, and it seems that Hoosiers are set to reap the benefits.

Of course, like so much else with the program, we won’t know until the season starts.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Michel Could Be A Big Answer To IU's Inside Questions

So how good is Guy-Marc Michel, the giant of a center who comes to Indiana via the Martinique-France-Idaho trail.

That’s impossible to say because we haven’t seen him play or practice. But we have SEEN him and he is big, 7-1 and 278 pounds and says he possesses a 7-foot-8 wingspan.

We believe him.

You hope, if you’re an Indiana fan, that Michel is not a project in the manner of seldom-used Tijan Jobe and Bawa Muniru. Surely, Michel can at least rebound and play defense. If so, he can be a significant contributor. And if he has some kind of offensive game, well, maybe the turnaround season Hoosiers hope for is just a few months away.

Anyway, here is what newcomers Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey think of Michel after working out with him this summer.

“I don’t know if it’s 100 percent true,” Sheehey said, “but I think Guy can stand on the ground, put his hands straight up and pretty much touch the rim without jumping. Try touching the rim without jumping and that’s what you got with Guy.”

Actually, Oladipo said, you’ve got more than that.

“He’s getting better every day. From turnaround hooks to turnaround jumpers off the backboard, and catching (alley oops) that are uncatchable, he’s improving every day. I know he’s going to help us in the fall. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Michel is at IU because assistant coach Steve McClain is at IU. McClain recruited him while he was at Colorado and Michel was at Northern Idaho Community College. When McClain came to Bloomington, Michel followed him.

Nobody expects Michel to be the Big Ten’s most dominant big man this season. He understands the challenge that he faces. He says he’s never faced the kind of competition he’ll see in the Big Ten.

“I have to be more aggressive and play harder. Those are the two biggest aspects of my game I need to work on.

“I think I’ve gotten better since I’ve been here on my hook shot. My footwork is getting better. I think defensively is going to be a huge part to work on.”

Every player needs to work, but not every player is 7-1 and 285. If Michel can put that size to good use, look out.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is IU's Football Schedule Too Easy Or Just Right?

Let’s address Indiana’s non-conference football schedule. We think it’s smart scheduling given the current state of the program. Some think it’s pathetic, embarrassing and just plain wrong. Then they think we’re idiots.

Let’s take a look to see who’s right (EDITOR’S NOTE: It is our blog, so we have a built-in advantage).

IU hosts Towson, Akron and Arkansas State. It plays at Western Kentucky. These teams combined to go 9-37 last year.

Akron might be the worst team in the Mid-American Conference. Western Kentucky used to be in what was once called Division I-AA and is now called something like subterranean championship division. Whatever. The NCAA can never make things simple. Anyway, Western Kentucky moved up to Division I-A last year –- it’s in the Sunbelt Conference -- and went 0-12.

Arkansas State also is in the Sunbelt and went 4-8. It is projected to finish in the middle of the Sunbelt pack. Towson is a member of the whatever division. Okay, it’s actually called the Football Championship Subdivision. Anyway, it’s a notch down from the big boys. In other words, it should be fodder for the Hoosiers.

On paper this is a lackluster schedule. It will not stir the blood, generate huge sellouts and bring ESPN’s College Game Day to Bloomington.

That, of course, isn’t the point. The Hoosiers are trying to build a program. They need winning records and bowl games, and if it comes in part from playing not-quite-ready-for-prime-time teams, so be it.

IU tried playing the Oregons and North Carolina States of the world several years ago and it didn’t go well. Yes, we know the Hoosiers somehow upset Oregon in a game where you wonder if somebody sold somebody’s soul to You Know Who, but overall it was a disaster.

If Indiana puts together a string of winning seasons, if it shows it’s ready to sustain a run of solid success, much in the way that Northwestern has, then it can slip in a Vanderbilt or Colorado or Navy. Yes, restoring the Kentucky rivalry would be good.

For now, though, bring on the patsies.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How About 7-5 For Indiana Football

Let’s project, for just a second, what kind of football season Indiana could have.

It’s still July, practice hasn’t started yet and all things are possible. Maybe these Hoosiers could duplicate the Cardiac Kids of 1967, when they improbably shared the Big Ten title and lost a close game to USC in the Rose Bowl.

The odds are against that, of course. There’s too much losing history, too many struggles, too much defensive uncertainty for that to be realistic.

Still, let’s take a look.

First, IU has scheduled well in the non-conference (its four opponents were a combined 9-37 last year). It almost certainly will sweep these games, which means a 3-5 Big Ten record would be enough to guarantee a bowl game at 7-5. Yes, a 2-6 Big Ten record would make the Hoosiers bowl eligible, but that guarantees nothing.

Anyway, they open at home with Towson, which is -- and we’re being diplomatic here -- a bad program. The Tigers were 2-8 last year and got hammered by Northwestern 47-14. IU will win big. If not, well, let’s not go there.

Then the Hoosiers play at Western Kentucky, a decent program, but one that shouldn’t give the Cream ‘n Crimson problems. Next is Akron at home. The Zips were 3-9 last year and are projected to be near the bottom of the Mid-American Conference this season. IU should roll again.

Next comes the Big Ten opener against Michigan. The Wolverines have had all sorts of problems in Rich Rodriguez’s first two seasons. His spread attack has produced a 5-16 record in Ann Arbor and that ain’t nearly good enough. IU nearly won at Michigan Stadium last season. It would not take a miracle to beat the Wolverines at Memorial Stadium this year.

Next comes a trip to Ohio State. Forget it. Indiana loses big. Then comes the Homecoming Game against Arkansas State, which had the best record among IU’s non-conference opponents at 4-8. The Hoosiers should roll again.

Next is a game at Illinois, which has really struggled the last couple of seasons. This is, without a doubt, a winnable game.

By this point IU could be 6-1. Could be. Heck, maybe it could even be ranked.

Did we mention, could be?

After that life gets complex. Indiana hosts Northwestern and the Wildcats are nearly two decades removed from being a doormat. They have been to bowl games five times this decade, including two straight. They’ve won three Big Ten titles in the last 15 years. Do not assume IU wins this game.

The Hoosiers’ last four games are hosting Iowa, at Wisconsin, against Penn State in Washington D.C. and at Purdue. To win they will have to play rib-rocking defense, something they haven’t done since Bill Mallory was coaching.

At best Indiana wins one of its last five games. That could make it 7-5 and put it into a bowl. It wouldn’t have any season-ending momentum, but that’s a worry for another season.

How likely is this? There are three main keys. First, IU has to stay healthy, especially at quarterback. It lacks the depth to overcome major injuries.

Second, it has to play at least middle-of-the-Big Ten defense. That will be a challenge given only four defensive starters return from a poor defense, but there appears to be plenty of young talent available. It will have to play beyond its experience.

Finally, the Hoosiers have to score. They’re very solid at quarterback and receiver. They have talent at running back and on the offensive line. This unit has potential if quarterback Ben Chappell cuts back on his interceptions (going from 15 to 10 or less) and if fumbles are kept to a minimum.

That’s how we see it a week or so before the start of training camp, but it’s not about what we see. It’s about what Indiana does. Come Sept. 2 against Towson, we’ll start finding out.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Indiana Receivers Set To Step Up In Big Way

So here we are, five days away from a bunch of crucial Big Ten football meetings, nine days from Indiana’s training camp opener and here are two things we know:

1) Big Ten officials will make some crucial decisions regarding the future of the conference in terms of divisions, having a football conference title game and the location of that game.

2) IU might just be bringing together the best group of receivers in the Big Ten.

Yes, not all the experts agree with that. Wisconsin, Ohio State and Penn State are all projected to have better receivers

Still, look at what IU has.

It starts with junior Tandon Doss (photo courtesy of IU athletics), an All-Big Ten choice last year after catching 77 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns. Then there’s junior Damalo Belcher, who totaled 61 catches for 770 yards and five downs. Look out for senior Terrance Turner, who had 46 catches for 443 yards and a touchdown.

Also in the picture is Dre Muhammad, a transfer from Purdue.

Don’t forget super talented redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson out of Columbus, Ind. He has as much potential as any receiver on the roster. He showed that last year on the scout team and in spring practice. Now he’ll have to prove it during games. If he does, well, there’s a reason why IU coaches decided to move receivers Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest to defense, and it wasn’t because they were bad receivers.

Don’t take our word for it. Here’s what receivers coach Billy Lynch has to say.

“We have a chance to be a very good group, a very productive group,” he says. “The biggest thing is we have three guys with a lot of experience in Tandon, Damarlo and Terrance.

“Beyond that, with Mitchell and Matt moving to defense, some guys have to step up and prove they’re ready to play and that they can play. We’re very confident they will be able to do that.

“They’ve all heard how good a group of receivers this is. My point to them is we have the talent, we have to step up.”

Monday, July 26, 2010

Do Big Ten Coaches Make Too Much?

In a world of highly paid college coaches, how much is too much? Is there even a too much?

That answer likely depends on whether you’re on the receiving, giving or watching end of the salary equation.

How is it that Indiana’s Tom Crean will make $2.16 million this year while most people won’t make that much in a 40-year career. Is the system screwed up? Does it need major fixing, as some suggest. Is there a problem when some schools have athletic budgets of over $100 million, with projections boosting that to $200 million in another decade, with more and more of that going for coaches salaries?

Some would say that this is capitalism at its best, supply and demand, market meeting talent, the going rate for elite coaches in an elite conference. Shaky job security demands high compensation, although you could argue that high compensation lessens job security by increasing win-or-else pressure.

In other words, these are deep questions requiring deep answers that won’t come easily or in this blog.

For now let’s take a look at the guaranteed income for Big Ten coaches in football and basketball. Keep in mind this doesn’t include bonuses or any other perks, which can substantially boost these already substantial salaries.

Who do you think is the highest paid coach (football or basketball) in the Big Ten?

If you guessed Crean and his $2.16 million haul, you would be wrong. He’s not even close. The highest-paid coach, in fact, is not in basketball.

No, it’s not Penn State’s Joe Paterno, the winningest football coach in major college history who seemingly first started coaching when the Great Pyramid in Egypt was built. He only makes $1 million a year. Again, that doesn’t include incentives, which can include going to a bowl game, winning a Big Ten or national title, or a team GPA above, say, 3.0.

The highest paid Big Ten coach is Ohio State’s Jim Tressel, who makes $3.4 million a year to run the Buckeyes football program. Second place goes to Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz and Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo. Both make $3 million annually.

Can you guess who is the lowest paid Big Ten coach?

The answer is Penn State basketball coach Ed DeChellis, who comes in at $642,000. That’s just ahead of Indiana football coach Bill Lynch at $658,750.

Only two Big Ten football coaches make less than a million dollars a year -– Lynch and Purdue’s Danny Hope ($900,000). DeChellis is the only Big Ten basketball coach to make less than $1.1 million a year.

Here is, in order, the annual salary of all the Big Ten basketball coaches for next season: Izzo, Ohio State’s Thad Matta ($2.4 million), Crean, Minnesota’s Tubby Smith ($1.8 million), Michigan’s John Beilein ($1.6 million), Illinois’ Bruce Weber ($1.5 million), Wisconsin’s Bo Ryan ($1.5 million), Purdue’s Matt Painter ($1.325 million), Iowa’s Fran McCaffery ($1.1 million), Northwestern’s Bill Carmody ($1.1 million) and DeChellis.

Here are the football salaries: Tressell, Ferentz, Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez ($2.5 million), Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio ($1.8 million), Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema ($1.7 million), Illinois’ Ron Zook ($1.5 million), Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald ($1.2 million), Minnesota’s Tim Brewer ($1 million), Paterno, Hope and Lynch.

Granted, none of these coaches are destitute. You can make an awfully good living with DeChellis’ salary. Still, there is a wide gap between the richest and the poorest, and the success of these programs reflects that.

Here’s the bottom line –- if the NCAA tries to regulate salaries, it will get sued into defeat. The market will do the regulating. That’s as deep an answer as we can give.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Is Lambeau Field The Best Option For the Big Ten Title Game?

Okay, by now you’ve heard that the Green Bay Packers have pitched the Big Ten about hosting its conference football championship game at Lambeau Field.

This is, on the surface, incredibly intriguing.

For starters, Lambeau Field is one of the most historic sports facilities on earth. In fact, Sports Illustrated named it the eighth-best facility in the world to watch sports and the only NFL stadium to make it. SI also named Lambeau Field as the NFL’s No. 1 stadium experience in 2007 and 2008.

It’s been around for 53 years, making it the NFL’s oldest continuously occupied stadium. Can you guess what the second oldest is?

We’ll wait …

And wait …

And …

Okay, it’s San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, home of the Chargers, at 43 years. In pro sports overall, the only ones older are Boston’s Fenway Park (98 seasons) and Chicago’s Wrigley Field (96 seasons).

Green Bay’s stadium was originally called City Stadium when it debuted in 1957 (imagination must have taken a holiday back then), but was changed to Lambeau Field after the 1965 death of Curly Lambeau, the Packers founder and first coach.

The place seats about 73,000, or 40,000 more than the original stadium. Packers officials are talking about increasing the capacity. The field is heated by 30 miles of radiant heating pipe. The stands are heated by fans’ behinds.

Or something like that.

Oh, and we can’t stress this enough, scientific studies have proven that the average temperature at Lambeau Field in the first weekend in December, which is when a title game would likely be played, is one degree warmer than Absolute Zero. That’s basically -459 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. That’s COLDER than outer space. That means life would cease to exist right at kickoff, which would certainly hurt attendance -– at least, after the first game.

Remember, Lambeau Field was the site of the famous Ice Bowl, which the Packers won when the Dallas Cowboys froze into statues on the goal line, thus allowing Green Bay QB Bart Starr to sneak in for the winning TD.

As you know, several other cities have expressed interest in hosting the game, which doesn’t actually exist yet, but which is expected to debut in 2011 to coincide with Nebraska’s entering the conference.

Detroit, Minnesota, Cleveland, Indianapolis and Chicago also are interested. Detroit, Minnesota and Indianapolis have indoor stadiums. The other three do not.

Big Ten officials will consider all the options. Next week is the annual football media gathering in Chicago and it’s 100 percent certain that the championship game –- and possible location –- will be discussed. Perhaps even finalized.

As we mentioned in an earlier blog, our choice is Indianapolis because of fan friendliness, central location, lowest cost for hotels and meals, accessibility to downtown hotels and meals, the world-class Lucas Oil Stadium and because it’s God’s will.

Yes, God’s will.

For those who disagreed with us and picked Chicago, well, you weren’t really disagreeing with us, you were disagreeing with the Highest Power and is it REALLY in your best interest to do that…

Sorry. We’ve tried that argument with our kids. They didn’t buy it. We figure you won’t either, which is a shame because, and we also can’t stress this enough, the entity guarding the Pearly Gates is Peter, which also just happens to be the name of the entity writing this blog.


We think not.

Friday, July 23, 2010

For Dan Dakich, The Best Is Yet To Come

So Dan Dakich (photo courtesy IU athletics) has made the big time. He’s in with Dick Vitale, Digger Phelps, Bob Knight and, heaven help us, Doug Gottlieb at ESPN.

Hey, who knows? Jay Leno won’t host the Tonight Show forever.

It’s been a quick ascent up the broadcasting ladder for Dakich. First, he landed a daily sports talk show for Indianapolis radio station 1070, The Fan. He still has it, by the way, and it runs from noon to 3. He’s good -– knowledgeable, opinionated, entertaining.

That got him a job with the Big Ten Network. His efforts there set up the ESPN opportunity.

Now, Dakich gets to handle color commentary for the network that brought us Sportscenter (a good thing) and LeBron James’ The Decision (a REALLY bad thing).

Does this mean the former Indiana basketball player’s coaching days are over? Not necessarily. Steve Lavin spent eight years as an analyst at ESPN before taking the job at St. John’s last spring.

It’s funny the way a guy’s career can change. A few years ago, Dakich was running the show at Bowling Green. He went 156-140 there with two NIT appearances. That included a 24-9 season. At one point he got the West Virginia job, then discovered some potential NCAA issues and wound up back at Bowling Green. It wasn’t the same. The last couple of seasons were rough and he moved on.

That led him to Indiana and Kelvin Sampson’s reign of error. He started as the director of basketball operations, then became an assistant coach when NCAA violations started cutting into Sampson’s staff. He became the interim head coach when Sampson resigned under pressure. He led the VERY dysfunctional Hoosiers to a 3-4 record. He did everything he could to restore pride and discipline into the program -– making players accountable for going to class, kicking players off the team, trying to get them to understand the tradition that made IU one of the elite programs in the country.

Many of these guys never figured it out. Yes, that’s a shame.

Dakich applied for the permanent IU job and didn’t get it, thus setting the stage for his broadcasting career.

So now Dakich will get the kind of national exposure he hasn’t seen since the legendary Shutting Down Michael Jordan Game. As all Cream ‘n Crimson fans know, IU was a huge underdog against No. 1 North Carolina in that 1984 NCAA tourney Sweet Sixteen contest. Dakich was assigned to guard Jordan, college basketball’s player of the year. When Dakich found out, so the story goes, he threw up. Jordan was a stud. Dakich was, well, not a stud. It was a huge mismatch. And yet, by the end of the game, Jordan was a non-factor, IU had the upset and Dakich had fame everlasting.

Legend has it that Dakich’s inspired man defense shut down Jordan. Facts suggest that foul trouble and some early poor shooting did in Jordan. Doesn’t matter. If Dakich lives to be 800 years old and wins a hundred Emmys at ESPN, that game will continue to define him.

There are worse fates, of course. Just ask Jim Gray (Did he REALLY ask LeBron James if he was a nail biter?).

Yes, he did.

Anyway, maybe the best thing to happen to Dakich was to NOT get the IU job. In fact, Dakich will make it so. We’ll get to see it starting next basketball season.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

IU's Quest For Ideal Linebacker

Let’s say you’ve just been named the dude assigned to recruit future linebackers to Indiana University. Yes, Indiana already has such a dude in Mike Yeager, but for the sake of this discussion, let’s say Mike has just been named USC’s new head coach after Lane Kiffin is revealed as the latest Russian spy and is deported to Moscow (Yes, this would explain some of Kiffin’s odd behavior while he was the coach of the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers. It would not explain Al Davis).

Anyway, as the linebacker recruiter, you need to get impact players, aggressive players, players who can deal with the run and the pass, rush the quarterback and handle all the spread offenses that now rule college football.

That sounds easy enough, but is it?

For this we’ll turn to Yeager, who has juggled the jobs of recruiting coordinator as well as linebacker coach for IU. It’s a dual role that’s becoming rarer these days as teams make recruiting coordinator a full-time position.

Should IU go that direction? That’s a debate point for another day. For now, let’s stay on topic and ask ourselves, what does Yeager look for in a linebacker?

“The first thing is a guy who has the ability to play hard,” he says. “He’s got to have a good motor to play sideline to sideline as hard as he can every single play. If he does that, he has a shot.

“After that I like to see a physical player who can get off blocks and make plays at the point of attack.

“After that I like to get some speed out there as well. Those are the three things you really look for.”

In an ideal world you’d have a guy who is 6-3 and 245 pounds with 4.4 40-yard dash speed and an 800-meter runner’s endurance.

Or would you?

“You can have a guy who runs a 4.7 or 4.8 who can run a 4.7 or 4.8 on game day in pads,” Yeager says. “You have a lot of guys who can run a 4.4 or a 4.5 in shorts, but play slow. To me, speed is the game speed and the ability to play fast when the ball is snapped.”

Playing fast involves more than fast-twitch muscle and speedy times. You have to anticipate, read plays, be in position and study film. All those things factor into game speed.

“That comes back to football smarts,” Yeager says. “You need the ability to stay on your read and not get sucked up in play-action pass. You’re looking for good players. There are not a whole bunch out there. There are not thousands and thousands of great players. There are a lot of good athletes out there, but you’ve got to find good players.”

IU hopes it has found those players. If so, they are young in the aftermath of losing graduated veteran linebackers Matt Mayberry, Will Patterson and even Justin Carrington.

Tyler Replogle is the only true veteran in the group. That means the young guys will have to step up. If IU has done its job in recruiting and developing, they will.

Yeager likes the talent. He doesn’t expect there to be a performance drop off. Maybe that’s wishful thinking. Maybe it’s wise analysis.

All we can tell you for sure is Lane Kiffin can’t help.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Even a Klingon Would Like IU'S New Scoreboard

Okay, in the scoreboard wars -- yes, such things do exist -- Indiana is not going to out-size Texas, the world’s richest university and lover of all over-sized things. But it is going to kick the rumps of Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and, of course, Purdue. Why? Because athletic director Fred Glass likes cools things.

Hold on. Glass is a cool enough guy, but that’s not why he’s forked over a couple of million dollars to install a 36-foot high by 91-foot wide high definition video screen in Memorial Stadium that will do everything but beam Klingons into your living.

That feature, by the way, comes next year.

Glass wants to boost the entertainment value of football game day experiences. Yes, it would help if the Hoosiers go on a decade-long winning streak that includes five unbeaten seasons and two national championships, but that’s unlikely to happen.

So Glass will dazzle fans with “wall to wall” video that will provide enough stats, graphics, animations, live video and recorded video to rival Disney World. The only bigger scoreboard in the Big Ten is at Minnesota. It will rate among the nation’s 10 biggest college scoreboards.

Think about that, then consider the overall renovations to Memorial Stadium, including the 25,000-square foot weight room that IS bigger than the one at Texas.

“This incredible scoreboard will be another new ‘wow’ factor for Memorial Stadium and our football fans, reflecting a continuing investment in, and commitment to, our football program,” Glass said in a university release. “Football games this fall at IU will be the best of both worlds: all the hoopla of live big-time football with the luxury of a gigantic flat screen as if you were watching in your living room.”

There’s also a powerful custom audio system sure to rock your world and irritate the prune-juice crowd that griped about the noise last year. No matter. Special sensors have been installed in each Memorial Stadium seat to monitor the age and attitude of every fan and those who show an inclination toward Lawrence Welk preferences will be instantly zapped and …

Sorry. Only kidding.

If you like numbers, the new scoreboard will be 325 percent larger than the video screen on the old scoreboard that was installed in 1999. If you like ads, the new scoreboard will mean more sponsorship opportunities, more money and, perhaps, more cool things in 2011.

“The more versatile scoreboard will give us greater capability to maximize the marketing potential of Memorial Stadium and IU football,” IU deputy director of athletics Scott Dolson said in a university release. “This scoreboard will be a powerful asset for our season sponsors.”

Oh, if you’re wondering, why now for a new scoreboard, parts for the old scoreboard were no longer available, thus forcing Glass’ hands. In fact, the football scoreboard is one of six new scoreboards at IU. The others are being installed at Armstrong Stadium (soccer), the Counsil-Billingsley Aquatic Center and the Tennis Center. These will impact football, men’s and women’s swimming and diving, water polo, men’s and women’s soccer, and men’s and women’s tennis.

The original cost was $3,470,600, but was discounted by nearly half a million dollars. The football scoreboard cost $2,062,900.

That leads to the obvious question -- who paid for all this? The answer is the athletics department, in part thanks to the $23 million or so pumped in by the Big Ten Network.

Now, all the Hoosiers have to do is win about nine games this season and you’ll really see the meaning of a “WOW!” factor.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Can IU's Chappell Match Kirlew?

So what’s up with Ben Chappell? Does he rescue cats stuck in trees on the side? Help little old ladies cross the street?

Suddenly, everywhere you see a distinguished list of award candidates, you’ll find the Indiana quarterback.

The newest honor for this senior is the Allstate AFCA Good Works Team. AFCA, by the way, stands for American Football Coaches Association. The honor is for athletes who give back and volunteer, who are heavily involved in community service, who make an impact beyond their sport and who represent the “best of the best” among more than 50,000 student athletes at four-year colleges.

This year 112 student-athletes have been nominated, the most in the 19 years of this award. The previous record was last year’s 106.

Chappell is one of them. In fact, he’s the third straight Hoosier to be nominated, joining kicker Austin (remember how his field goal beat Purdue?) Starr and Jammie Kirlew.

Kirlew made last year’s 11-player team. He's the only Hoosier to do so.

Nominees did things like support the Haitian relief effort, work with rural and minority students to get to medical school, organize campus fundraisers for pediatric cancer research.

The award spokesperson is former Notre Dame football coach and ESPN broadcaster Lou Holtz.

The voting panel includes Holtz, Pat Forde from, Tom O’Toole from USA Today, former Air Force football coach Fisher DeBerry and Allstate vice president Guy Hill.

Chappell earlier made the list of candidates up for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, which is more of a football achievement than just being a great person.

All this is great, but if Chappell throws for five touchdowns and 25 interceptions this season, well, nobody will care what award he’s up for. It’s all about production and Chappell, as accurate a thrower as IU has ever had, will get plenty of opportunities to produce.

And if he saves a cat and kisses few babies along the way, all the better.

Monday, July 19, 2010

IU Offensive Line Big Enough To Take The Heat

Can the Indiana Hoosiers win with a middle-of-the-pack offensive line?

Let’s put that in perspective -- do the Hoosiers have a middle-of-the-pack line? Is it better or worse than that?

According to Phil Steele, the guy who picked Oklahoma as his preseason No. 1 when basically everybody has or will pick defending champ Alabama, IU will have the Big Ten’s seventh-best offensive line. The best belongs to Ohio State.

All this leads to the obvious question -- who’s Phil Steele?

He’s a sportswriter and analyst who publishes annual college football and NFL preview publications that are famous for their mind-numbing amount of information. He’s done the college football magazine since 1995 and writes every two-page preview of every team himself. During the fall he watches football almost non-stop on weekends thanks to the TWELVE TVs he has in his office, not to be confused with the SIX TVs he has at his home office.

Anyway, love him or not, the guy has a LOT of information at his disposal, and he’s not afraid to unleash it in his college football preview.

That’s a long-winded way of getting back to Indiana’s offensive line. The Hoosiers have a new offensive line coach in Mo Moriarity (technically he coaches centers and guards), who gave up a successful run at Carmel High School to return to Bloomington.

Moriarity, by the way, is pictured here courtesy of IU athletics.

They lost a pair of four-year starters in Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon, but return lots of experience with senior Cody Faulkner, sophomore Will Matte, junior Justin Pagan and senior James Brewer. In fact, IU has six linemen with some starting experience, including expected starting left tackle Andrew McDonald.

If size means anything, IU should be in good shape. Brewer is listed at 6-8 and 335 pounds. Pagan is at 6-5 and 332. Faulkner is at 6-5 and 315. McDonald is at 6-6 and 304. The runt of the group is Matte at 6-2 and 295.

So what does all this mean? Basically, the Hoosiers have the potential to have a better-than-average offensive line. This is crucial because they want to run the ball better. That’s why they switched from a spread attack to a pistol offense last year. They didn’t exactly tear up the league, ranking eighth in Big Ten rushing, which is part of the reason why they finished just 4-8.

That has to improve. If it does, Ben Chappell instantly becomes a better quarterback and he wasn’t bad last year (the first Indiana QB to complete better than 60 percent of his passes). That could lead to more points (IU averaged 23.5 points last year) and, ideally, more victories and more job security for Lynch and his staff.

Wow. That’s a lot of pressure on the offensive line, especially given the fact the real key to Indiana’s success this season is defense.

But guess what? These guys are big enough to take it.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

In-State Emphasis Paying Off For Indiana Football

And then there were seven.

That’s seven in-state football commitments for Indiana coach Bill Lynch out of 20 overall commitments for the Class of 2011. That’s the latest example of Lynch’s home-state emphasis and reflects the continued improvement of in-state talent.

Indiana will likely never produce as many elite football players as it does basketball players, but the gap is narrowing. Why? The high school coaching is better and the off-season development has improved (thanks to the IHSAA allowing coaches to work with their players), and the result is more in-state players are ready for major-conference impact.

Six of IU’s seven in-state commitments are rated with three stars (out of five) by The seventh, Fort Wayne defensive back Kenny Mullen is at two stars, but that seems low given his overall athleticism and versatility.

The others are defensive back Nick Stoner of Greenwood, running back D’Angelo Roberts of Bloomington, quarterback Tre Robinson of Indianapolis, tight end Jake Reed of Columbus, linebacker Kyle Kennedy of Indianapolis and offensive lineman Ralston Evans of Indianapolis.

Besides being three-star players, these commitments were being recruited by schools from major conferences. In others words, IU is bringing in talented guys, although exactly how talented won’t be determined until they’ve been on campus for a couple of years.

Remember, Lynch will redshirt all freshmen unless they can be major contributors right away.

Of course, Indiana will never be confused with, say, Texas or Florida when it comes to football talent, but there's talent you can win with. If the Hoosiers can consisently get many of the state's best each year, they'll be in good shape.

Also, don’t be surprised if Indiana winds up getting commitments from a couple more players before the year is out even though it looks like they’re out of scholarships. Coaches like to keep some in reserve in case an unheralded player emerges with a big senior year or a blue-chip guy becomes available.

Yes, as we’ve mentioned before, coaches are allowed to over-sign as long as the scholarship number is at 85 by the time practice starts. So while it looks like IU will be five over the limit for next year, it will work itself out.

Overall, Indiana’s defensive emphasis is hard to miss. Thirteen of the commitments come from that side of the ball, including four cornerbacks, two safeties and four linebackers. Defense, as the saying goes, wins championships and the best example is Ohio State, which has dominated the Big Ten in recent years with rib-rocking defense.

It’s no coincidence, by the way, that IU’s two four-star commitments are on defense. That would be Ohio linebacker Zach Shaw and Michigan defensive back Raymon Taylor. However, Taylor is officially listed as an “athlete,” so who knows where he’ll end up.

Class balance is also important. You don’t want to have a situation where you have 20 seniors one year and two the next. You need a good blend of youth and experience.

IU seems to have that done. Its next five classes, starting with this group of 20, includes 22 redshirt freshmen, 17 sophomores, 12 juniors and 19 seniors.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hoosier Football -- What Can Roberts Do For IU

What can D’Angelo Roberts do for IU?

We’ll find out in a year or so, when the Bloomington North tailback standout joins the Hoosier football program.

He will arrive with huge high school numbers, perhaps the most of any back to ever play for Indiana. You could look at that and say, wow, he’ll be the next Anthony Thompson or Vaughn Dunbar, two of the most dominant running backs in school history.

You could say that, but would that be true?

Let’s take a look.

First, Roberts is coach Bill Lynch’s 20th commitment for the Class of 2011. Based on the current roster, that would give IU 90 scholarship players, which would be five over the limit and which would cause all sorts of heck with the NCAA.

As we know, the Hoosiers don’t need any more issues with the NCAA.

However, those commitments don’t become official scholarships until they sign in February. And everything will be worked out so Indiana meets the 85-scholarship limit.

Second, Roberts is the only running back in the 2011 Class. He would give IU seven running backs with the No. 1 guy being Darius Willis. It’s safe to say that if Willis stays healthy (yes, we know that’s a big if), he’ll get most of the carries for the first two seasons Roberts is on campus.

IU also has a couple of solid running backs in this freshman class with Matt Perez and Antonio Banks. They will have the edge in college experience by the time Roberts hits campus. However, Roberts hopes to graduate from high school in December so he can participate in winter workouts and next spring’s practices.

Third, Roberts is listed at 5-11 and 185 pounds. This is not the size of an every down running back in the Big Ten. You can offset that by being fast, strong, tough and elusive. Look at Antwaan Randle El. Yes, he was a quarterback at IU, but he also ran a lot and was never really hurt because he was so hard for a defensive player to get big shot on him. They were lucky to even touch him.

Roberts reportedly runs a 4.36 40-yard dash, can bench press 275 pounds and can squat 450 pounds. The speed is good and he’ll get stronger.

Fourth, what are his gaudy high school numbers? Glad you asked. As a junior, Roberts ran for 2,604 yards and 32 touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for three TDs. He wasn’t bored. He had 388 carries in 12 games, which comes out to 32.3 carries a game.

His single-season rushing yard total ranks 17th in state history. What’s No. 1? That would be 3,366 yards set by New Haven’s Cory Jacquay in 2001.

For his high school career Roberts has rushed for 3,992 yards and 48 touchdowns.

All this was enough for Penn State to take a good look at him. He also got scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Western Kentucky, Ball State and Bowling Green.

Fifth, Roberts’ college tailback prospects depend on his ability to block. If he can’t block, the Hoosiers can’t use him as running back. He’ll have to be tough enough to deal with linebackers, safeties and whoever else breaks into the backfield.

More than likely, Roberts will be used as a slotback. Get him into open spaces -- via outside runs or passes -- and let him use his speed. The key is his receiving skills. He doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to showcase that at Bloomington North because few high school defenses can handle him as a runner. That won’t be the case in college.

So what can Roberts do for IU?

It’s up to him.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Colorado Spectacle ... Cody Zeller ... Hula Hoop Girl

In response to a couple of comments, my Colorado trip was great. I have a good friend who lives just outside of Denver. We hiked to Flattop Mountain and Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. Both of those are just over 12,000 feet.

We also went white-water rafting on the Arkansas River at the Royal Gorge. It was spectacular viewing. However, I was more focused on surviving the Category 3 and 4 rapids. People die on this river. In June they were at Category 5. For a while, the river was at Category 6, which means they close it down to commercial rafting.

My friend, Matt, kept asking why I wasn't smiling while going down the river. It was because I was too focused on rowing through the rapids and listening to instructions from the guide. Three people got tossed from the raft. Somebody besides the guide had to get this raft home.

Overall, though, it was a great experience. The view through the Royal Gorge canyon was breath-taking, although that also might have been from all the rowing I did was everyone else was smiling.

We also hiked to the top of Mt. Elbert, the tallest mountain in Colorado at 14,433 feet. Both of these photos are of Elbert.

Along the way we met a priest, a 66-year-old guy who made it to the top, a bunch of good guys from Evansville, several dogs, and a couple of IU basketball fans. We talked prospects, recruiting and Cody Zeller, the Washington standout who lists the Hoosiers as one of his favorites, but who won't decide until the fall.

Coach Tom Crean is recruiting Zeller hard, of course, but he also spent the last day of the 10-day evaluation period in Orlando checking out the 14-and-under nationals. That's the Class of 2014, which has some in-state studs with Indianapolis' Trevon Bluiett and Trey Lyles, and Fort Wayne's James Blackmon.

Amazing, isn't it, that the power of Indiana basketball can surface even on a mountain a thousand miles from Assembly Hall.

As far as Mt. Elbert, in a unique twist, there also was a 22-year-old girl who, once she got to the top, took off most of her clothes to reveal a lot of tattoos, among other things. I should note it was extremely windy and probably in the high 30s. Then she took out a hula hoop and began, well, performing. Apparently she performs the hula hoop at various events.


I was, of course, appalled and disgusted, and focused on the spectacular mountain scenery.

Oh, yes. I was smiling.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

IU's Chappell Looks To Beat The Odds

Could Ben Chappell do what Texas’s Colt McCoy did last year and win the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award?

The odds might not be in the Indiana senior quarterback’s favor, but at least he has a chance. He’s on the preseason watch list for the award, which goes annually to the nation’s top senior quarterback and includes on-field performance, character, citizenship, integrity.

In other words, being a good player, a good guy and a good representative of the university.

And if your team happens to contend for a national title, all the better.

Chappell fits most of that criteria, although that national title thing ain’t gonna happen for the Hoosiers. No matter. Chappell was a team captain last year and likely will be again this season. He was an academic All-Big Ten selection. That’s impressive considering he’s an accounting major, which means he takes challenging classes on top of the heavy study load he has to prepare for opposing defenses.

It takes a smart, disciplined, dedicated guy to pull that off.

Chappell also had a pretty good junior season. He completed 62.6 percent of his passes for 2,941 yards, 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His efficiency rating was at 126.44, although nobody really understands what that means except for physics majors, and they’re too busy trying to discover dark matter to explain it.

Anyway, Chappell is the first IU quarterback in history to complete better than 60 percent of his passes. His yardages ranks second in school history and his touchdowns rank third.

In Big Ten games Chappell led the conference in passing yards per game (261.2) and was second in touchdown passes (14) and third in total offense (261.5) and completion percentage (60.4).

All that enabled Chappell to earn honorable mention All-Big Ten honors.

Chappell should end up among the IU career leaders in multiple categories. He ranks first in completion percentage (59.9), eighth in passing yards (3,956), ninth in passing touchdowns (21) and 10th in total offense (4,022 yards).

The bottom line for any quarterback, of course, is victories and championships. That seems unfair given football is such a team sport and no quarterback plays defense or special teams. But that goes with the position and if you can’t take it, take up knitting.

Chappell can take it. He had no choice given the Hoosiers are 7-17 over the last two years. Come this fall, we’ll see how many wins that kind of experience produces.

Oh. One last thing. Golden Arm Award competition includes Alabama’s Greg McElroy, Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi, Wisconsin’s Scott Tolzien and Washington’s Jake Locker. In other words, it's wide open.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Word To the Big Ten Football Wise -- Put Title Game in Indy

So here we are, basking in the glow that comes from hiking Colorado’s highest mountain (Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet), and return to find Detroit’s Ford Field, Chicago’s Soldier Field, Minneapolis’ Metrodome and Cleveland’s Cleveland Brown Stadium will make a push to host the Big Ten football chamionship game.

There’s just one problem. Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium is, by far, the best choice.

How do we know this?

Let’s take a look.

First, the Big Ten hasn’t OFFICIALLY decided to have a football championship game, but it will happen. Commissioner Jim Delany said as much when Nebraska joined the Big Ten earlier in the summer, starting in the season of 2011. The league is set to make a gazillion dollars off of it, if it’s done right. That means, in part, selecting the best site.

The Big Ten wraps up its regular season the Saturday before Thanksgiving, so the championship game would either come right after Thanksgiving or the first Saturday in December.

Either way, it could be cold. That’s not a factor for Lucas Oil and the Metrodome, which are indoor stadiums. It will be factors for Cleveland and Chicago. Both are outdoor facilities.

Do you REALLY want to have games in December in Chicago and Cleveland? Yes, the Bears and Browns do it. Yes, those fans adapt to the conditions. Still, is it realistic to expect those stadiums to sell out in nasty weather? Do college football fans really want to put up with that. Maybe the first year or two given the novelty of the event, but after that, forget it.

So cut Chicago and Cleveland from the list.

Detroit and Minneapolis have big-time facilities, are are used to handling big-time events. Neither, however, are as accommodating as far as hotels, restaurants and bars as Indianapolis. Everything you could possibly want except St. Peter’s Pearly Gates are within easy walking distance. Plus, Indy is more centrally located than any other city. It is more fan friendly than any other place.

Lucas Oil Stadium was designed to hold major events, from Colts games to the NCAA Final Four to the Super Bowl. It is as fine a spots facility as there is in the world.

Finally, Indy officials know how to host major events. Every year they host the Big Ten Conference men’s and woman’s basketball conference tourneys in Indy, plus the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400. They have the resources, experience and system in place to handle the job.

Of course, Big Ten officials have not asked for our advice or input. They will do what they feel is best for the conference, and if that consists of rotating the site every year between the five interested cities, they’ll do it.

But if they want the most bang for their buck, make Lucas Oil Stadium the permanent host site.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

In Colorado

I am wrapping up a vacation in Colorado and will resume posting soon.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Conference Bonanza -- Big Money Keeps Getting Bigger

The capitalist system is alive and well in college sports. Notre Dame set the early bar with its exclusive TV deal with NBC that pays about $30 million a year. Then the Big Ten came out swinging with its own network and after a year or so battle with cable systems is paying teams $23 million each. To say this has been a lifesaver for Indiana is an understatement.

Now comes the deal between the ACC and ESPN. It is long term and big money and while the numbers aren’t official, that doesn’t mean they aren’t true.

Reports indicate an agreement worth $1.86 billion over 12 years. ESPN will, for the first time, have rights to all of a conference’s content. This makes it, in effect, the ACC Network.

If we have figured out the math right, that’s basically $2 billion divided by 12 teams. That equals around $166 million per team. Divide that by 12 and that means each team gets about $14 million a year.

ESPN will get the rights to both North Carolina-Duke basketball games, plus a bunch of other ACC basketball games, plus a bunch of ACC football games (including the conference title game), as well as women’s basketball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and softball.

The deal even has a clause to address if the ACC adds or loses a team. Remember, the ACC never got involved in expansion, although there were rumors that Georgia Tech, Florida State and Clemson might bolt for the SEC, and even one that Maryland was looking to join the Big Ten.

So what does all this mean for the Big Ten in general and Indiana in particular? It could mean more money for televised conference games not on the Big Ten Network when it comes time for the next contract negotiations. Even if it doesn’t, it shows how much potential money could be out there for a Big Ten football title game, which is expected to be held starting in 2011.

Capitalism is a wonderful thing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What's In A Name -- What Do You Call The New Big Ten?

By now you know the dilemma -- what do you call the new Big Ten? Can you really have a college athletic world in which conference names and numbers don’t match?

We do for now, of course, but is that the best way to go?

The Big Ten was really the Big Eleven for about 20 years after Penn State joined. Now, with Nebraska set to join in 2011, it’s the Big Twelve.

Except, of course, there already is a Big 12, but it now has 10 teams with the departures of Nebraska and Colorado. However, in a bit of foreshadowing, it has already claimed the name Big 14, which gives you an idea of where it’s headed.

Speaking of Colorado, it’s now in the Pac-10, which has 12 teams after it added Utah.

If you think this is just major conferences playing fast and loose with common sense, consider that the mid-major Atlantic 10 has 14 teams.

Some conferences, of course, have avoided this name-and-number problem. The SEC (Southeastern Conference) could have a hundred teams and not hurt its name. That’s also true of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East.

Speaking of leagues with “Big” in their names, there are six of them at the Division I level, but only the Big Ten and Big 12 have issues.

So this brings us back to our original question, which is what do you call the Big Ten. Yes, it has a recognizable brand name. Yes, it has been around in some form since the 19th Century.

Still, in this new college world order, maybe that brand is obsolete. Commissioner Jim Delany has said the name issue will be discussed, but that doesn’t mean anything will change.

Assume, for a moment, it will change. What would you call the new league? It would be better to do away with numbers because nobody knows how big the Big Ten will get.

You could try geography, maybe something like the Big Midwest, although Penn State stretches the limits of Midwestern borders and it will get shattered if, say, Rutgers someday joins the league.

You could try a concept such as Big Tradition or maybe just Big as in the Big Conference. For those with a whimsical nature, how about the Big Bad Conference.

OK, maybe these aren’t the best ideas. Maybe they stink. What do you think the Big Ten should do -- keep its name, change it and change it to what? We wish we could tell you the best name would win $100,000. And if we win the mega-lottery, we would make it happen. But until then, all we can do is offer you thanks and a forum.

How’s that for a dilemma?

Friday, July 9, 2010

IU Recruiting, Dan Gilbert and Indy Cool

EDITOR'S NOTE: As a couple of readers have mentioned (thanks for that), Naadir Tharpe IS ranked by Rivals. He's at No. 109. My mistake. I wish I could blame LeBron James since everybody is picking on him these days, but the blame is all mine.

So here we are, basking in the glow of the first wave of basketball recruiting possibilities (could point guard Naadir Tharpe and forward Kenny Kaminski become Hoosiers?), facing some angry comments in regard to Tom Crean’s ability to land the recruits necessary to turn around the indiana program, and pause to offer this thought:

What’s up with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert and his what-was-he-thinking-sports-letter-ever-written message?

Gilbert slammed LeBron James for bolting Cleveland for Miami. He called him a “former hero,” said James’ decision was a “cowardly betrayal” and guaranteed the Cavaliers would win a NBA championship before Miami.

Now THAT is entertainment.

Anyway, back to the basketball recruiting scene.

Look for Indianapolis to solidify its position as the July basketball recruiting capital of the world. That will be highlighted with the Adidas Invitational, which debuted in Indy this past week and looks to make the city an annual stop. Most of the action was at North Central High School and nearby Northview Middle School, but there also were games all over the city.

Indianapolis’ attractiveness for summer recruiting tournaments is the same as it is for NCAA tourneys, Super Bowls and Big Ten events -- it’s centrally located with great facilities and plenty of hotels, restaurants and things to do. Plus, the city knows how to put on major events.

Yes, places like Orlando, Las Vegas and L.A. have a certain sexy appeal, but if your focus is on evaluating big-time basketball talent, is there any place better than Indy?

Of course not.

Top prep prospects who played in the Adidas tourney included forward LeBryan Nash of Dallas, forward Chane Behanan of Kentucky and, yes, forward Cody Zeller. Nash is rated as the nation’s No. 4 player by Behanan is No. 24 by Rivals. Zeller is at No. 35, but figure he’ll be a lot higher by the end of the summer if he keeps playing like he did at the Adidas event.

Viewing all this was basically every coach from every significant team in every significant conference in the country. They included Roy Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Bob Huggins and, of course, Tom Crean.

And in case the Adidas event wasn’t enough, the Hoosier Shootout in Greenwood provided more opportunities to find the kind of special players needed for big-time success.

Crean has a ton of in-state prospects to consider (including guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who is out for the summer with a knee injury), but he took a long look at Tharpe, a 5-11 point guard from New Hampshire who helped his New England Playaz team reach the semifinals of the Adidas tourney. Tharpe is in the Class of 2011, but is not listed in Rivals’ top 150. He’s got offers from Boston College, Charlotte, Providence, Marquette, Seton Hall and Rutgers.

Is Tharpe a difference-making point guard? That’s up for debate, but uncertainty is true for every player, even the elite ones. You don’t know how a guy will perform until he gets to college. Not every one is a John Wall.

As far as Kaminski, he is weighing offers from IU, Wisconsin and Michigan State. He’s set to make a decision by the end of the month.

For now, though, there’s plenty to consider and talk about.

Just ask Dan Gilbert.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Is The Big Ten College Football's Best?

If you were a betting person, who would you pick as the nation’s No. 1 team? What about the Big Ten’s best? And what about soon-to-be-Big-Ten member Nebraska?

Oh, yes. Where does the Big Ten, which started all this expansion exuberance, rate among the nation’s elite conferences?

Let’s take a look.

A lot of the work has been done by the four major preseason college football magazines -- Phil Steele, The Sporting News, Lindy’s and Athlon -- plus They have come up with their annual preseason previews, which provides plenty of food for thought.

What they all show is Ohio State is once again picked to rule the Big Ten, as it has for the last five years. It helps to have a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Terrelle Pryor, but even without him, it has a ton of talent, as it does every year.

Combine all the preseason polls, shake and stir, and you see the Buckeyes are picked No. 2 nationally behind defending national champ Alabama. Does this mean they actually have a chance to win a national championship? Perhaps, and Pryor is the key. He has to become a more accurate passer. If he does, and if Ohio State continues the dominating defense it’s shown in recent years, look out.

Iowa looks to be the Big Ten’s second-best team and is looking at a No. 12 position nationally. Once again don’t expect the Hawkeyes to be a thing of offensive beauty, but they make the big plays when they need them, and are just really, really tough.

Then comes Wisconsin at No. 14 and Penn State at No. 23. Those teams are solid, but not great. Penn State has enough quarterback inexperience to make you wonder if Joe Paterno will reach 400 victories this season.

If not, he will get there in the 10 or so more seasons he’ll coach. The guy just won’t retire.

Nebraska, which will start Big Ten play in 2011, but is still a member of the Big 12, is a No. 7 choice.

When you look at everything, the nation’s best conference is the SEC. That’s no surprise given what Florida and Alabama and LSU have done in recent years in terms of winning national championships. The SEC has six top-25 teams with Alabama, Florida, Arkansas, Auburn, LSU and Georgia. You might think the Big Ten would be second. You would be wrong. The ACC has five top-25 squads with Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, North Carolina and Georgia Tech.

Could that mean the ACC has surpassed the higher-profile Big Ten, even for one season?

We’re just asking.

The Big 12 has three top-10 teams with Oklahoma (Phil Steele actually picked the Sooners No. 1 ahead of Alabama), Texas and Nebraska.

However, the Big Ten’s three top-15 teams (Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin) matches that of the ACC and Big 12. So don’t get confused and think that the Big Ten is not a national player.

So what does all this mean? Nothing. It’s just speculation, talk, something to think about amid basketball recruiting obsession and LeBron James drama.

And if somehow Indiana gets into Big Ten contending mix, well, isn’t that what summer is for, to dream about possibilities before reality rips them away?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Basketball Recruiting Truth -- IU Needs Zeller, Perea

Here’s the basketball recruiting truth -- IU needs to get, has to get Cody Zeller and Hanner Perea. Absolutely has to. Both are elite big men and if you’ve followed Indiana basketball, you know how much the Hoosiers need elite big men.

Their last dominating inside player was D.J. White, who developed into a double-double machine by his senior season. IU doesn’t have to have that from a player (although it sure would be nice), but it does need someone who can consistently score inside, rebound, play defense and, well, kick some rump.

Zeller and Perea showed signs of being able to do that at the Adidas Invitational in Indianapolis this week, although Perea’s sprained ankle limits him.

He’ll heal, of course. His future remains as bright as LeBron James’ contract prospects.

Zeller has a recruiting list longer than my son used to have at Christmas. Indiana is on it. So are Purdue, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Texas, Florida Michigan, Wake Forest and, yes, Butler. The list might grow after Zeller’s opening day performance in front of a bunch of big-time coaches.

Yes, it helps that he’s 6-10 and that he has a strong basketball pedigree with brothers Luke and Tyler. Luke went to Notre Dame. Tyler is at North Carolina. He has a lot of big-time moves and a work ethic that keeps him developing even more.

But maybe more than anything else what makes Zeller special is his attitude. He’s not swayed by style as much as substance. All the bells and whistles associated with major college program facilities, including IU’s Cook Hall practice facility, are nice, but aren’t his top priorities.

Zeller wants to make sure he makes the right decision. He plans on making all five of his official visits this fall. He’s set to make his final decision in time for the November signing period, which is different than Branden Dawson, who likely will wait till the spring before making his decision.

Yes, this leaves IU coach Tom Crean and all the rest of the contenders hoping that in the end, they’ll prevail.

Signs of where Zeller will go are all over the map. Some days IU seems to have the edge. Other days Indiana seems out of the picture. The bottom line, if IU wants to return to big-time status, and it does, it needs big-time players. Zeller and Perea are two of the biggest in their classes.

You can’t get much more truthful than that.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Does IU Football or IU Basketball Rule July?

Forget, for just a moment, about basketball recruiting, the fact recruits Branden Dawson and Gary Harris are at the super-rigid LeBron James Skills Academy; that Cody Zeller, Austin Etherington and a whole bunch of other guys looking at Indiana are playing in AAU events in Indianapolis this week; and that Je’Ney Jackson has ticked off the Southern Mississippi football coach by quitting after just a couple of months on the job as a secondary coach to become, apparently, the Hoosiers’ new basketball strength coach.

Instead, focus on what really matters in July:

IU football.

Okay, we know some of you will disagree. Check that. We know MOST of you will disagree. We’ve gotten used to that at home, where everybody disagrees with us except the dog, and even SHE has been giving us the eye lately.

Still, in fairness to what looms as the strongest part of the football Hoosiers, we offer an assessment of how Cream ‘n Crimson receivers stack up compared to the rest of the Big Ten.

Start with Tandon Doss. He caught 77 passes for 962 yards and five touchdowns last season. He is the second-leading returning receiver in the Big Ten behind Purdue’s Keith Smith (91 catches, 1,100 yards, six touchdowns).

Then there’s Damarlo Belcher, who caught 61 passes for 770 yards and five touchdowns. That ranks third among returning Big Ten receivers.

In fact, no other conference team returns that kind of receiving firepower.

Don’t forget Terrance Turner, who caught 46 passes for 443 yards and a touchdown. IU also is looking for big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson and junior Dre Muhammad.

Oh, tailback Darius Willis could be a big receiving factor. He caught 10 passes for 88 yards last year coming out of the backfield. Indiana also has a solid tight end in Max Dedmond, who did catch 18 passes (one for a touchdown) last season.

Is this enough to knock Wisconsin off its position of having the Big Ten’s best group of receivers (according to Phil Steele's College Football Preview Magazine)? Maybe not. The Badgers are led by Nick Toon, who caught 54 passes for 805 yards and four touchdowns.

If you’re looking for touchdown potential, pay attention to Ohio State’s DeVier Posey. He caught eight touchdown passes last year.

Iowa has the best of the returning big-play receivers in Marvin McNutt. He averaged 19.8 yards for his 34 catches, including eight touchdowns. The Hawkeyes also return Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who caught 45 passes for 750 yards, a 16.7-yard average.

Penn State has a couple of solid receivers in Derek Moye (48 catches, 786 yards and six touchdowns) and Graham Zug (46 catches, 600 yards, seven TDs).

The Nittany Lions, however, have no proven quarterback, so it might not matter if they had in-his-prime Jerry Rice running routes.

That is a discussion for another day. For now consider Hoosier receivers as a group are as good as any in the conference. They have an accurate quarterback in Ben Chappell throwing to them. If the line protects him, the passing game should thrive.

Oh, one last thing about the basketball strength coach hire. Jackson was the strength coach at Wyoming while new IU basketball assistant coach Steve McClain was the Cowboys’ head coach. Jackson went to Kansas and became an assistant strength coach there for two years, then switched to cornerback coach for his last three years before briefly moving to Southern Mississippi.

Now he’s a Hoosier. McClain is a Hoosier. Tom Crean is a Hoosier. And if, say, Cody Zeller becomes a Hoosier, well, maybe IU basketball matters in July after all.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Top-Notch Talent -- IU Begins Quest for Basketball Best

Talk about good timing. has just come out with its top 150 for the Class of 2012 and there’s a bunch of really good big men at the top. This is great news for Indiana, which could use a bunch of really good big men.

Nine of Rivals’ first 10 are inside players. That leads us to some not so great news for the Hoosiers -- only one is apparently interested in them, No. 6 Ricardo Ledo of Rhode Island, and he’s a 6-5 small forward.

However, the No. 13 player, Hanner Perea, an extremely athletic 6-7 forward from North Carolina who just happens to play on the Indiana Elite AAU team, is VERY interested in the Cream ‘n Crimson ways.

As you would expect, IU has plenty of competition for Perea, including North Carolina, Tennessee, Wake Forest, Baylor, Alabama and Mississippi. That’s fine. Coach Tom Crean and his staff can handle it.

The Hoosiers also are in the running for No. 16 Gary Harris, a guard from Hamilton Southeastern; No. 21 D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a guard from Indianapolis North Central; No. 22 Yogi Ferrell, a guard from Indianapolis Park Tudor; No. 35 Jeremy Hollowell, a guard from Indianapolis Lawrence Central, and a whole bunch more.

Nothing is guaranteed, of course, but if IU can land one of these elite guys early, it just might set the stage for a big-time class.

Starting today Crean and his staff, as well as every coach from every college in the land, begin their annual July odyssey that takes them all over America to evaluate and be seen.

Who knows? Maybe that will be enough for the best of the 2012 class to consider the Hoosiers. The top three are No. 1 Andre Drummond, a 6-9, 251-pound center from Connecticut; No. 2 Isaiah Austin, a 6-11, 200-pound center from Texas; and No. 3 DaJuan Coleman, a 6-8, 280-pound center from New York.

Duke, North Carolina, Connecticut, Louisville and Georgetown top Drummond’s list. Austin’s favorites include Texas, Kansas and Baylor. Kentucky, Kansas, North Caroline, Ohio State and Louisville are after Coleman.

Getting those players isn’t a necessity, of course, but getting difference-making players is.

That’s what this month is all about.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

What's Up With NCAA's New 68-Team Tourney Format?

Get ready. The NCAA is set to announce how it’s going to handle its newly expanded 68-team basketball tourney field this week.

What does that mean?

First, a little background.

The NCAA tourney went from 48 to 64 teams in 1985. A 65th team was added in 2001.

This wasn’t enough for some coaches (can you say Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim?), who insisted that life as we know it would end unless the field was expanded to 96 teams. Justification came in the form of the increased number of Division I teams in recent years and the increased pressure on coaches to make the NCAA tourney regardless of regular season success.

Power matters, of course. If New Mexico State won 20 games and didn’t make the field, the powers in college basketball didn’t care. But if, say, Syracuse won 18 games and didn’t make it, then something had to be done.

Last spring NCAA officials suggested the tourney might be expanded to 80 or even 96 teams. This would likely have killed the 32-team NIT. Critics said the larger field would ruin the NCAA tourney’s charm and early drama.

Officials from CBS and Turner Broadcasting, who combined had agreed to pay out $10.8 billion over 14 years for the tourney televising rights, said they didn’t need more tourney games to make a profit. Nobody seemed to want that large a field except for on-the-bubble coaches.

And, of course, Jim Boeheim.

Finally, in April, the NCAA switched gears and said they’d add just three teams, for a 68-team field, starting next March. What they didn’t say, because they hadn’t figured it out, was how they would tweak the format to accommodate the extra teams.

They considered three options:

1) Put the eight lowest seeded teams into the first round and let them play each other. The four winners would then enter the 64-team second round.

2) Put the last eight teams to make the field into play-in games, much like they did with the one play-in game contested in recent years.

3) Combine both at-large teams and automatic qualifiers into an eight-team first round.

Officials from small conferences said they would be picked on. It’s much more likely that a small conference school, say from the Southwestern Athletic Conference, would face extra early round games rather than schools from the Big Ten or ACC.

Consider the SWAC consists of schools such as Jackson State, Arkansas-Pine Bluff, Alabama State and Prairie View. Consider further that Jackson State won its league with a 17-1 record, but was just 19-12 overall. That means it was 2-11 outside its conference.

It deserved to be in the play-in game.

Finally, when and where would those extra early games be played? The answer is likely Dayton, Ohio, which has hosted play-in games in recent years.

All this remains speculation. By the end of the week, we should know the facts.

And then, perhaps, Jim Boeheim will find peace.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Here's The Absolutely Best Way To Divide The Big Ten

Do you realize we’re less than a month away from the annual Big Ten football media gathering in Chicago, which means thoughts can turn to Big Ten expansion faster than you can ask, what’s up with Notre Dame?

Nothing, of course, is up with the Irish because expansion fever has cooled. For now, they don’t have to do anything but keep their independent status, and let Big Ten officials dream about what might never be.

Those Big Ten officials, however, are doing more than dreaming. They’re busy figuring out how to fit Nebraska into next year’s schedule, and beyond. The big ticket item is football and dividing the new 12-team league into two six-team divisions.

As far as Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is concerned the keys are as follows:

1) Competitive fairness

2) Rivalries

3) Geography

Competitive fairness, by the way, would not be a division of Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Indiana and Purdue.

So how do you divide it? Conference athletic directors will gather to hash it out. They will get input from coaches and presidents. They will consider all the options.

Tradition indicates the four major teams are Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska. It would make zero sense to put all four in the same division.

Michigan and Ohio State deserve each other. Competitive logic would indicate putting Penn State and Nebraska together in the other division.

Over the last decade or so the best teams after that would be Wisconsin and Iowa. So split them up, maybe Wisconsin with Michigan and Ohio State, and Iowa with Nebraska and Penn State.

That leaves Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern, Minnesota, Michigan State and Illinois.

A 10-year snapshot of Big Ten action puts Purdue and Northwestern with the next best records, the Boilers at 41-39, the Wildcats at 38-42. So split them up. After that the two best records are Michigan State (32-48) and Minnesota (30-50). Split them up. Last is Illinois (26-54) and IU (18-62).

Key rivalries to consider include Michigan State-Michigan, Ohio State-Michigan and Indiana-Purdue.

Because the divisions wouldn’t be based on geography it would be hard to call them Big Ten East or Big Ten North, but given the 12-team league is still called the Big Ten, does it really matter?

How about a Big Ten East of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State Purdue and Indiana. That would leave a Big Ten West of Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Northwestern, Minnesota and Illinois.

Or, if you wanted to potentially go a little easier on the Hoosiers, you could put Minnesota and Illinois in the Big Ten East and Indiana and Purdue in the Big Ten West.

Each team would play five division games and three non-division games. Each team could schedule non-conference games based on the needs and fit of its program.

So there you have it. We have done all the work, so Big Ten athletic directors can implement it and focus on what’s really important in major-college football:

A playoff.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Acclaim Continues For Indiana’s Basketball Recruiting Targets

Are you one of those people who love basketball recruiting? Do you scour the Internet, newspapers and everything else you can get your hands on to find out about America’s best talent and how many of those guys are interested in Indiana?

Then take a look at what and have in store for you.

The two rival national Internet recruiting services have just come out with their latest national rankings. Rivals has updated its top 150 list for 2011. Scout has released its top 75 for the Class of 2012.

Indiana is targeting eight members of Rivals’ 2011 list and seven on Scout’s 2012 list.

That’s the good news. The bad news is IU doesn’t have any commitments from any of these guys.

Hold on, you say. What about Austin Etherington of Hamilton Heights, who has committed to the Hoosiers and who has been rated for a while?

Well, he’s been out with a back injury. Apparently out of sight is out of mind. Figure once the 6-6 guard gets back in action, he’ll return to the ratings. If he’s healthy, he’ll have plenty of opportunities this month to show what he can do. Elite players will be in tournaments all across the country, including Indianapolis, Las Vegas and Orlando.

In the meantime, here’s where IU’s recruiting targets are rated.

For the Class of 2011 Branden Dawson is at No. 25, B.J. Young is at No. 33, Cody Zeller is at No. 35, Aaron Thomas is at No. 95, Marshall Plumlee is at No. 99, Naadir Tharpe is at No. 109, Jeremiah Davis is at No. 118 and Mitch McGary is at no. 119.

In the Class of 2012 Gary Harris is at No. 10, Hanner Perea is at No. 11, A.J. Hammons is at No. 30, Yogi Ferrell is at No. 34, D’Vantes Smith-Rivera is at No. 35, Jeremy Hollowell is at No. 37 and Ron Patterson is at No. 57.

For the record, the No. 1 player in the Class of 2011 is 6-6 forward Mike Gilchrist of New Jersey. He’s committed to Kentucky. The highest rated player in the state of Indiana is Marquis Teague of Indianapolis Pike. He’s at No. 5. He, too, is committed to Kentucky.

In the Class of 2012 the No. 1 player is 6-11 power forward Andre Drummond. He remains uncommitted. His list includes Connecticut, Duke, Georgetown, North Carolina, Syracuse, Texas and West Virginia. The highest rated in-state player is Harris of Hamilton Southeastern. He’s looking at Indiana, Purdue, Illinois, Vanderbilt, Iowa, Washington and Xavier.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

'Edgy' Crean Needs A Big Month

It’s time for Tom Crean to kick some recruiting … well … rump, and land some in-state studs.

Does that sound too harsh?

Of course not.

Recruiting is not for the meek, who might inherit the earth, but won’t get a sniff at, say, Cody Zeller or Branden Dawson.

So with a big month of evaluating coming up -– coaches get to watch, but not talk to, players competing in events from Indianapolis to Orlando to Las Vegas to Los Angeles –- it’s time for Crean to get his recruiting edge.

It seems he already has. We know this based on a couple of tweets that were not so sweet. Opposing coaches apparently are not playing nice in the recruiting game -- imagine that!! -- and Crean has had it.

“Frankly, some of the assistants we go against I wouldn’t let valet my car. They either would lose the keys or drive away with it,” Crean wrote.

And then:

“In all honesty there are some head coaches that would be the same way. The ones that wake up on third base and think they hit a triple kill me.”

This last one is a little cryptic, but it makes the point that Crean is mad as heck and he’s not gonna take it.

If this were reality TV, Crean and some of those unnamed coaches would get in front of a camera and go all MMA on each other. Because this is college sports and decorum has to be followed, we miss that in-the-gutter entertainment for this bottom-line truth:

Crean’s anger needs to translate into big-time recruits, say a dynamic point guard and a rock-the-rim big man.

Crean’s reputation –- based on an impressive recruiting display as a Michigan State assistant combined with his Final Four run at Marquette -– suggests good times are coming.

The sooner the better given the total of 16 wins over the last two seasons.

Last year’s class of Maurice Creek, Christian Watford, Jordan Hulls, Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco was very good. Bawa Muniru didn’t work out, but that happens.

This year’s newcomers -– guards Will Sheehey and Victor Oladipo, and center Guy Marc-Michel -- aren’t as heralded. It’s uncertain how much impact they’ll make, but it needs to be extensive, especially from the 7-1 Michel.

That brings us to the upcoming Classes of 2011 and 2012. As the world knows, the in-state high school talent is win-a-national-championship good.

There’s still-available guys like Dawson, Zeller, Michael Chandler, Jeremiah Davis and Mitch McGary for the Class of 2011. The Class of 2012 has Gary Harris, D’Vauntes Smith Rivera, Jeremy Hollowell, A.J. Hammons, Ron Patterson, Yogi Ferrell, DeJuan Marrero and Glenn Robinson.

They’ll all be in action this month.

What will Crean and the rest of his coaching brethren be doing?

Sitting, watching and being seen. Showing that they care. Proving that they’re willing to put in the time and miles it takes to land special players.

NCAA rules prohibits basically everything else.

Along the way maybe Crean can find a diamond in the rough, somebody who isn’t on every major team’s radar, but who has what it takes to make a college difference. Those guys are out there, and if Crean can land some of them, as well as the superstars, all that talk about restoring Indiana’s glory will have substance.

It will, in fact, become reality.

In the end, that’s what it’s all about.