Remember when IU used to schedule basketball exhibitions against Marathon Oil, Athletes in Action and the former Soviet Union?
That can’t happen anymore because of NCAA rules. I once knew the reason for the change, but the answer has disappeared along with my knowledge of Latin and algebra.
Anyway, now teams have exhibitions against Division II and III schools, which explains why Indiana will play Division III-program Franklin College on Nov. 3. The game will be shown on Bigtennetwork.com, which should not be confused with the Big Ten Network.
IU and Franklin used to play on a semi-regular basis in the first half of the 20th Century. Specially, they met seven times between 1916 and 1935. The Hoosiers won every time. They haven’t played since.
Since joining the NCAA in 1992, Franklin has appeared in five national tournaments, reaching the Division III Sweet 16 in 1999. Before that it was a NAIA power.
The Grizzlies are coached by Kerry Prather, who is starting his 28th season. They are known for their good shooting and led the nation in field goal percentage during the 1999-2000 and 2008-2009 seasons. They also led the nation in three-point percentage (1997-98 and 1999-2000) and free throw percentage (2000-2001).
Yes, that’s a lot of leading.
“I think the more you can involve institutions from the area during the exhibition season, the stronger it makes both programs,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a statement. “We appreciate the efforts of Coach Prather and assistant coach Adam Martin, and are excited to have them on the schedule.”
Franklin struggled to an 8-17 record last season. However, it’s expected to challenge for a Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference title this year.
“We are very appreciative of Coach Crean’s generous invitation, and I applaud the fact that he has gone out of his way since coming to Indiana to engage the local small colleges to this extent,” Prather said in a university release. “He is a class act building a solid program, and I am confident he is the right man to return IU basketball to a level of perennial national success.”
As for his own players Prather said they see the game at Assembly Hall as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“Most of these kids grew up dreaming of playing in Assembly Hall,” Prather said. “They are extremely excited to live that dream for one night.”
Excitement likely won’t produce victory for Franklin, but that’s not the point. It’s about building toward a big season, both for the Grizzlies and for Indiana.
The Hoosiers, by the way, are poised for a dramatic turnaround.