Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Guy – Indiana Will Have To Find New Inside Answer

Remember all that talk about 7-foot junior college center Guy-Marc Michel being the answer to Indiana’s inside inconsistency.

Forget it. It looks like he’ll never play for the Hoosiers.


It’s complicated, but basically the NCAA ruled Michel signed a professional contract and will run out of college eligibility before completing the penalty. He can work out individually with IU coaches, but he can’t practice or play with the team. He will be on scholarship for this season.

So what does this mean? Tom Pritchard, Derek Elston and Bobby Capobianco have to pick up the inside pace because they are now frontcourt.

Yes, 6-9 Christian Watford can handle some of the inside duties, and coach Tom Crean expects him to be close to getting a double-double in every game, but Watford is not the inside anchor in this system. Crean wants him to use Watford’s athleticism and versatility to do damage from behind the three-point line as well as inside the paint.

Michel, a native of the Caribbean Island of Martinique, has a 7-7 wingspan that would have made him an imposing inside presence. His forte was blocking shots, rebounding and defense. He was a work in progress when it came to offense, and he had to improve his fitness, but the potential was there.

It just never will become reality for the Hoosiers.

The NCAA ruled Michel is ineligible because of amateurism violations for his participation on a French sports club team that the NCAA considers professional. He played five games with professionals during the 2007-2008 season.

Also, because Michel originally enrolled at a French university in 2006, his five-year clock for NCAA Division I participation would expire before he could regain eligibility for the amateurism violations.

The amateur violation occurred when Michel signed an agreement with the French club team that he could be called up to a higher level team that included pro players. The NCAA considered that a professional contract.

The penalty in this situation is one year for signing a pro contract, plus two games suspended for every game played. That means Michel would sit out this season, plus the first 10 games of next season.

However, Michel’s five-year NCAA eligibility ends in the spring.

Julie Cromer, IU Associate Athletic Director for Compliance and Administration, called the situation “unique” and “complicated.” She said Michel was not paid to play.

Michel hadn’t played all season as Indiana and the NCAA tried to resolve the matter. He had originally been recruited by assistant coach Steve McClain while McClain was at Colorado. When he came to Indiana, the interest continued.

Michel played on the U-20 French National Team. He also spent two years at Northern Idaho College. He averaged 7.1 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last season.

“We are disappointed by this decision because everyone involved in this process agrees that Guy did not intentionally do anything that would have jeopardized his ability to play here or at any institution that recruited him,” IU coach Tom Crean said in a university release. “We will regroup, assess all our options and do whatever we can for Guy, who has demonstrated that he deserves to be part of the IU program.”

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top-11 Criteria For New Indiana Football Coach

So what should IU do with its football coaching search?

Media members weren’t on athletic director Fred Glass’ gotta-talk-to list, but when you consider the facts, the media are the best people to talk to. Why? Because we’ve been through so many of these things. We’re FAR more experienced than anybody on Glass’s list.

This will be the fifth football coaching search. Toss in three basketball searches, three athletic director searches, one NCAA investigation and an assortment of basketball controversies and you’ve just about got the wisdom for the ages in what to do, what not to do, and who to hire.

HELPFUL HINT NO. 1: DO NOT hire a guy who has NCAA violations on his resume.

Granted, the media might have a little problem with this let’s-be-discrete stuff, but let’s not quibble over small details.

Glass is a smart guy. He’ll see the light soon enough, but until he does we, as a public service, will offer, free of charge, the kind of top-11, can’t-miss-criteria that will guarantee him getting the right guy for the job.

HELPFUL HINT NO. 2: DO NOT hire a coach who might choke, punch or toss into a garbage can a player, a security guard or an overzealous fan.

First, the next coach has to follow NCAA rules and not seek short-cuts, gray areas and hundred-thousand-dollar handshakes.

Second, he has to recruit good players who are students and care about an education.

Third, he should be a great recruiter. This means he has to be a great evaluator of talent and be able to project where a player will fit in. He has to get some four- and five-star guys, especially those in the state of Indiana.

Fourth, he should have a unique approach to offense and defense that will work well in the Big Ten. For instance, Joe Tiller’s spread offense has left a long-lasting impact in the conference.

Fifth, he should have a connection to the Midwest as far as recruiting goes. In-state connections are nice, but not mandatory.

Sixth, he should have a system for developing players, which means strength building as well as skill development. He has to be able to take a three-star guy and turn him into a four- and five-star guy. He has to be able to get guys to play to their ability, and sometimes just a little bit more.

Seventh, he should be a proven winner, whether as a head coach or an assistant coach or, preferably, both.

Eighth, he should be good at selling his program to fans and students as well as recruits.

Ninth, he should be able to identify and hire outstanding assistant coaches who also are outstanding recruiters.

Tenth, he should view Indiana as a destination and not a steppingstone, so that if he is successful, he won’t bolt for a higher-profile program. Ideally, he would be young enough to have the job for 15 to 20 years, just about the time Joe Paterno retires to run the eight-team Victoria’s Secret College Football Playoff.

Finally, and this is most important, he should be a guy who tells the media everything we want to know when we want to know it.

Anyway, there are two ways to conduct a search. We’ll call it the Michigan Way and the Ohio State Way.

In the Michigan Way, you go for style and pizazz and charisma. Yeah, the WOW, big-name hire. You go for Rich Rodriguez and his state-of-the-art spread attack that generates points faster than you can ask, Whatever happened to Denard Robinson’s Heisman hopes? You hire a guy who is the offensive and defensive opposite of what you’ve had so much success with for the last half a century. And then you lose like you’ve never lost before, with a NCAA glitch added just for fun.

In the Ohio State Way, you hire a guy who has never been a head coach at the NCAA Division I-A level before, a guy so seemingly bland he should be teaching accounting at some obscure school. Ohio State officials were big-time ripped for choosing the little-known Jim Tressell over big names. But they liked the fact he had won four NCAA Division I-AA national titles at Youngstown State, had spent a couple of years as an Ohio State assistant, had a ton of state of Ohio contacts, and had a fundamentally solid coaching background thanks to a father who was a small college coach. And then you win a national championship and a bunch of Big Ten titles, and dominate Michigan, just for fun.

Twenty-seven men have coached the Hoosiers. Six have had winning records, none since Bo McMillin retired in 1947. Yeah, you bet this job is a challenge, but then, so is every job worth having.

In the end, it's about getting the right fit for Indiana. Can Glass find it? That's the biggest question of all, and one that won't be answered for a couple of years.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Search Is On – Glass Seeks Right Indiana Fit

Athletic director Fred Glass is not an impulsive guy. He sees the big picture. He has a vision of where he wants Indiana football to be and it is not a 5-26 Big Ten record.

So Bill Lynch is gone, a new coach is coming and no matter what happens, understand who’s accountable.

“At the end of the day, the buck stops with me,” Glass said.

Glass will be a one-man search committee, which doesn’t mean he won’t have help. The university will spend significant bucks on Neinas Sports Services, a national consulting firm run by Chuck Neinas based out of Boulder, Colorado.

That leads to the obvious question -- who’s Chuck Neinas?

Neinas runs the company. He’s the former commissioner of the Big Eight Conference (it’s now the Big 12), and former executive director of the College Football Association and assistant executive director for the NCAA. He’s negotiated TV contracts and promoted NCAA legislation.

His company evaluates athletic and football programs, assists in future planning and hiring, and helps with TV negotiations. He pushes his ability to conduct confidential personnel searches and provide information others might not have the resources to acquire.

In other words, if there’s dirt, he’ll know about it. If a candidate is a saint, he’ll know that, too. He just won't talk about it publically.


Glass also will consult a variety of people, including former Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy and Colts President Bill Polian. He'll talk with former Hoosier players, current players, the IU Varsity Club, the NCAA, the Big Ten, the American Football Coaches Association and the Black Coaches Association.

How long will the search take? Figure a couple of weeks. Glass will certainly want to have someone in place by Christmas to minimize the uncertainty over the program and to try to retain and perhaps add recruits.

Still, as he said, “It is more important that we do it right instead of doing it fast.”

Glass said he began contingency plans a couple of weeks ago as IU’s Big Ten defeats mounted. The 83-20 loss to Wisconsin was an accelerator. He said IU will pay what is necessary to get the coach it wants.

“We are prepared to pay the coaches a competitive amount. I don’t think salary will be a challenge for getting the people we want to get.”

Next season will be about perception. The new coach will likely have the same struggling record as Lynch would have had. Why? Because IU will still have an inexperienced quarterback and probably a limited rushing attack unless oft-injured tailback Darius Willis can stay healthy for a full season, and even that might not be enough. Unless the defense confuses itself with Ohio State, that’s not a recipe for success.

However, fans will give the new coach a break. They would have roasted Lynch and, by extension, Glass. He admitted as much while saying he couldn’t see giving Lynch an extension after three straight 1-7 Big Ten records.

“I concluded that wouldn’t serve Bill or the university very well. It would create a scenario of heightened tenseness. Every game, every play, would over analyzed. It’s not an environment that would be positive for Bill or the program.”

Glass said he has a list of candidates and the qualities he wants to see in the next coach. He declined to reveal the list or the qualities, saying, “Anything I would say publicly would be option limiting. People might feel they are out because they don’t perceive they have this or that (trait). I don’t want to say anything that could limit our search.”

Lynch and his staff had 21 commitments for next year’s recruiting class. Glass said the university will honor those scholarship offers. He said the fact he made the decision to fire Lynch (it's offically called not retaining his services) the day after the season ended reflected his understanding of how important getting the search underway was.

Glass said he’s already gotten interest in the job. One name mentioned as a candidate is Brady Hoke, the former Ball State coach and current San Diego State coach. An intriguing option is the fact that basketball coach Tom Crean is the brother-in-law to Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a Michigan graduate with strong Midwestern ties. Given the fact he's built Stanford into a top-5 team, a move to Bloomington would appear EXTREMELY unlikely, but it's okay for Hoosier fans to dream.

Glass said he’s not going to comment on names or speculations. What he is going to do is try to hire the best coach for the job.

“I think it is a fantastic job. Properly understood, it will be highly sought after.”

Let the intrigue begin.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Bucket Win -- A Few (And More) Good Men

Bill Lynch could celebrate after a Big Ten game, an “I” link from the Old Oaken Bucket hanging around his neck, Hoosier hysteria rolling across the Ross-Ade Stadium turf in a wave of emotion.

Imagine that.

Richard Council could run from Hoosier to Hoosier, hugging a trail of joy, eyes red and filling.

This is what beating Purdue can do.

Fred Glass surveyed it all, enjoying the moment, declining to steal from it, keeping whatever decision he will make to himself. Indiana’s athletic director was all about praising the coaches and players for beating a rival that has dominated the last 13 years.

A decision on Lynch’s coaching future?

That’s for another day.

Yes, this Oaken Bucket battle went to overtime for the first time in series history. IU’s 34-31 victory came when redshirt freshman kicker Mitch Ewald capped an unexpected season of opportunity by drilling the game winner from 31 yards.

It seemed a chip shot, but ask Boise State’s field goal kicker about that when the pressure is on.

Ewald never flinched.

“I’ve done it a million times before,” he said. “So much credit goes to the snapper and holder.”

That would be Jeff Sanders and Teddy Schell, unsung heroes in a brisk day full of them.

There was battered quarterback Ben Chappell, his body a walking bruise, throwing for 330 yards and three touchdowns to clinch the Big Ten passing title. His 3,295 passing yards set an IU single-season record.

“Chappell is unbelievable,” Lynch said. “No one will ever know how bad he’s been hurt over the last five or six weeks, and how bad he was hurting today. You couldn’t get him out of there. He made play after play.”

There was linebacker Jeff Thomas, a junior college transfer whose overtime interception gave IU a chance to win it in the first overtime period.

There were receivers Terrance Turner (10 catches, 100 yards), DaMarlo Belcher (eight catches 83 yards) and Tandon Doss (eight catches, three touchdowns) coming up big.

There was linebacker Tyler Replogle who had 11 tackles, including one for a loss.

There was an offensive line that gave Chappell enough protection to drive the Hoosiers into overtime.

Finally, there was Lynch, whose team earned its biggest come-from-behind victory under his watch (at one time it trailed 21-7). It was IU’s first win at Ross-Ade Stadium since 1996 and snapped a 12-game Big Ten losing streak. It was Lynch’s 100th career victory and gave the Hoosiers a 5-7 record, one more win that last year.

He didn’t want to talk about it. It was about the players, you see. It was for the seniors, most of whom will never again play an organized football game.

“It’s all about listening to those guys jumping up and down,” he said. “We’ve had a few weeks where it’s been pretty quiet in there. You need rewards for all the hard work and they’re getting their rewards.”

For Lynch the reward would be getting the opportunity to coach the final year of his four-year contract. That is what Glass will decide and don’t expect it to take long. There’s no reason to drag this out. If Lynch is staying, announce it to end the speculation. If he’s gone, the sooner the search for a new coach begins, the better.

As we’ve said before in earlier blogs, the fair thing would be to let Lynch coach the final year of his contract because, in so many ways, he is the ideal man to coach the program. The players were in full support.

“He’s been fighting for us all season,” senior safety Mitchell Evans said. “He stood up there when a lot of times it was our fault and he took the blame for it. I loved playing for the guy. It was great to get this win for him.”

But in this bottom-line world and profession, being fair doesn’t always mesh with reality. Glass’s priority has to do what’s best for the program. One way or the other, we’ll soon know that.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Oaken Bucket Drama: Key Matchup; Lynch Saga

Here comes the annual Oaken Bucket battle with its job-saving potential, bragging-right possibilities and disappointment-softening prospects, and for those thinking that football’s Grim Reaper hovers over Bill Lynch like an invisible shadow, hold that thought and consider this key:

The game at Ross-Ade Stadium rests with two players -- Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan.

Chappell is the most accurate quarterback in school history and, especially now with an assortment of bumps and bruises, one of its most immobile.

Kerrigan is a one-man wrecking crew whose NFL stock rises with every game. He leads the Big Ten in sacks (12.5) and tackles for loss (25.0). Game planning to stop him is an exercise in futility, but the Hoosiers can’t afford futility. Not with pride and, perhaps, a job at stake.

An IU victory depends on the offensive line’s ability to protect Chappell and his ability to adjust the blocking and get rid of the ball quickly and accurately. If he can get the Big Ten’s best passing attack clicking, the Hoosiers could roll against an injury ravaged Purdue squad.

Important note: The injuries have mostly come on offense; the Boiler defense has been fairly healthy all season and is probably at its healthiest.

Just saying.

As if stopping Kerrigan wasn’t tough enough, the Hoosiers also have to deal with a Boiler defense that leads the Big Ten in sacks. Defensive tackle Kawaan Short has benefited from the attention directed to Kerrigan by totaling 6.0 sacks. That ranks third in the conference.

A victory would give IU a 1-7 Big Ten record for the third straight year and snap a 12-game conference losing streak. It also might, MIGHT, be enough to get Lynch the fourth and final year of his contract.

There seems no way IU gets out of this season without some kind of coaching change. The easiest and most painful would be to let Lynch and his staff go and start all over again. This would certainly satisfy the growing number of unhappy fans (some of whom are major financial contributors) and take the heat off of athletic director Fred Glass.

We say painful because Lynch is, in almost every way, what you want in a coach -– a caring, classy guy who does things the right way, recruits the right kind of kids who are good athletes who understand the importance of academics, and who represents the university well. Also, it likely will take a new coach several years to get his program up and running. We’ve seen that too many times before. IU’s program really, really needs stability. Firing Lynch would mean six coaches in a 14-year span. That’s about as far away from stable as you can get.

Still, that’s probably the way this will end. Winning remains the bottom-line, No. 1 priority.

Glass could retain Lynch with the stipulation that he makes significant changes to his staff. That’s a problem because no decent assistant coach would come to what could very well be a one-and-done situation. It could work if Glass gives Lynch a one-year extension so he could tell potential assistants they’d have at least two seasons. That also would mean Glass would have to stick with Lynch for at least that extension year no matter what happens next season.

And if that produces a losing record, a strong possibility considering IU will have an inexperienced quarterback and tougher non-conference schedule next season, Glass would be vilified by some. He would face a lot of heat and if, after two more years, Lynch was still losing, well, it would not be pleasant for anybody.

But then, when it comes to Hoosier football, what’s new.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Hoosier Drama – Yogi Ferrell, Yogi’s Mom, Indy Star and Coming to IU, Baby

So now we know, despite drama involving an Indy Star sports writer and Yogi Ferrell’s mom, that Yogi will be an Indiana Hoosier.

We also know that coach Tom Crean, who does not take his on-fire recruiting lightly or for granted, is back on the prospect hunt.

So much for a Thanksgiving break.

Crean was at Indianapolis Park Tudor Wednesday night when Ferrell announced, during a pre-game ceremony that also included honoring Park Tudor’s state runner-up finish from last spring, that he was committing to IU.

While landing Ferrell might not be quite the earth shaker that getting Cody Zeller was, it’s huge from a future team standpoint.

Ferrell is a very good point guard and as we know from our Final Four history, teams don’t reach the Final Four or win national championships without great guard play in general, outstanding point guard play in particular.

The point guard runs the offense, gets the ball where it needs to be, gets it to the guys who need to get it and who can score when the opportunity presents itself.

Ferrell is rated as the nation’s No. 2 point guard in the Class of 2012 by Rivals.com, the No. 17 player overall. He is a 5-10 blur who can drive and dish and do all those things Crean wants in an offense. He’s also a winner from strong teams in high school and the AAU circuit.

That matters – a lot.

He’s far from a finished product, and Crean and his staff will help develop Ferrell to his full potential.

Ferrell waited a couple of weeks after Zeller’s announcement before making his choice. He had said Butler, Virginia, Florida and Wake Forest were also in the running, but let’s be honest, once Zeller picked the Hoosiers, it was just a matter of time before Ferrell followed him. They play summer AAU ball together, wanted to be college teammates and play on a powerhouse team.

Ferrell wanted his announcement to have high impact, but things got complicated when veteran Indy Star sports writer Jeff Rabjohns wrote a story that ran a day earlier saying that, according to numerous sources, Ferrell was coming to Indiana.

This negated some of the suspense and it bothered Ferrell even though it was 100 percent correct. It also brought out the mother bear anger in Ferrell’s mother, who felt her son had been hurt and wronged by a premature story.


So she fired off some tweets. The first told Jeff not to come to the press conference because he already had his story. The second told him to stay away from her son, to not talk to him or shake his hand or anything.

A couple of things. First, if you want to keep something secret, tell no one, not even the family pet. The Zellers did this perfectly. Nobody knew where he was going. Cody’s high school coach, Gene Miiller, didn’t even know until just before the announcement.

Second, journalists are always under pressure to get things first. That’s become even more prevalent in this instant-information digital age we live in. Jeff got it first and got it right. That's a good thing.

I know Jeff. He’s a good guy. I don’t know all the particulars about who was or wasn’t right, or what was or wasn’t agreed to, but I do know he wouldn’t intentional screw over anybody.

Finally, Jeff was at the press conference and wrote a story that included comments from Yogi and his father, so no big deal. Jeff has known the family for years. He had even written a story in 2005 when Yogi was rated as the nation’s No. 1 player.

Yogi was 10 years old.

What does this mean for Indiana? Consider it also has Class of 2012 commitments from Indianapolis Broad Ripple shooting guard Ron Patterson (rated No. 78 by Rivals), La Porte forward Hanner Perea (No. 10) and 7-foot center Peter Jurkin (No. 137), and you likely have the nation’s best class for 2012.

This is huge for a program still recovering from NCAA sanctions under ex-coach Kelvin Sampson.

Zeller, in case you’ve forgotten, is No. 20 for the Class of 2011. Hamilton Heights guard Austin Etherington, a strong shooter who fell under the radar after a summer back injury, joins him in a class rated No. 17 nationally.

IU fans are still buzzing from the Sunday commitments of a pair of four-star swingmen from Indianapolis in the Class of 2013 -- Cathedral’s Collin Hartman and Warren Central’s Devin Davis.

Then there are the two studs from the Class of 2014 -- Fort Wayne Bishop Luers guard James Blackmon and Indianapolis Tech forward Trey Lyles. The 6-9 Lyles is ranked No. 1 in his class by ESPN. Blackmon is No. 10.

That’s nine big-time commitments in a four-month span. Plus, Crean has an undefeated team. The guy is so hot you want to ask him what his favorite lottery numbers are.

REALITY CHECK: Right now these recruits are perceived as flawless. They all can score at will and leap tall buildings with a single bound. Multiple championships are guaranteed.

Except they’re not.

The reality is once these guys arrive on campus they’ll have a few things to work on, starting with defense, intensity, fitness and strength.

Did we mention defense?

But that’s nitpicking. The foundation is there for a championship run. A lot still has to happen. But there is excitement and hope, and after two years of misery, that’s a welcome change.

That leads to one final question:

What’s taking Crean so long to nail down Class of 2015 commitments?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Lynch On The State of IU Football

IU athletic director Fred Glass will evaluate the football program at the end of the season, which will begin sometime late Saturday afternoon in the aftermath of the Oaken Bucket Game. But let’s say Bill Lynch was doing a self-evaluation. How would he do it? For that we bring you his response to a Big Ten teleconference question.

“That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I’m certainly going to slant the answer in my favor,” Lynch said. “That’s what makes it difficult. I certainly have a great respect for everyone here and the evaluation process they’ll go through, but I think in running a football program in the Big Ten there’s a lot of factors that go into it. We’re all judged on won-loss record.

“Those of us in the profession know there are so many things that are involved with it. It all shows up on Saturdays. I’m certainly proud of what we’ve done here and what we have built. We’ve been very, very competitive. I think in the last two years, we’ve had 15 Big Ten games and 10 of them we’ve had the lead or were within a score in the fourth quarter. We’ve only won one of them. So, that’s the reflection of us not finishing and not getting it done, but it’s also certainly a reflection on us being competitive.”

When a team fails to finish, who is responsible?

“Every situation and every game is different,” Lynch said. “It’s about making plays. Our guys have prepared very, very well and have worked very hard and have really battled. We’ve been coming up a play or two short. Each one’s a little bit different situation. To try to characterize it, it’s because of this, you can’t do it that way. That’s why you play, but the effort our guys have given and the way they’ve battled and certainly the staff, I think there isn’t one single thing you could say would make the difference, but that’s true in every football game you watch no matter what it is.”

Consider this. Against Michigan cornerback Richard Council was coached well enough to be in position to make an interception in the closing seconds of regulation. His job was to make the play. He didn’t, and injured a knee in the process.

Against Iowa, receiver Damarlo Belcher was coached well enough to get open for a game-winning touchdown pass. Quarterback Ben Chappell hit him perfectly. All he had to do was catch it. He could not.

IU is 0-7 in the Big Ten. It is the only winless team. Why?

“I think we played against really good football teams,” Lynch said. “Every team that beat us is a bowl eligible team out of the Big Ten. The Big Ten is very, very good this year.

“We certainly had a great opportunity against Michigan, got beat in the last minute. We had a great opportunity against Northwestern, it came down to a made field goal and a missed field goal. We had a great opportunity against Iowa and dropped a ball in the end zone. We were tied with Penn State going into the fourth quarter.

“At some point, you’ve got to realize we came up a play or two short against some really good teams. We had some injuries, I think losing Darius Willlis has affected our running game, but everybody has injuries. I’m not going to say that’s the difference because everybody has injuries. That’s part of it. We were very competitive in some big games that would’ve turned our season around and everybody would’ve looked at it a little differently.”

Instead, there is no turnaround, only growing speculation that Lynch won’t get the chance to coach his contract’s fourth and final season. He isn’t alone on the hot seat. Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez might not survive if his Wolverines get pounded by arch-rival Ohio State Saturday.

What’s going to happen?

Maybe the best compromise would be to let Lynch stay if he replaces some members of his staff. But finding a good assistant coach, say an offensive or defensive coordinator, would be difficult given the tenuous nature of IU's coaching situation. A guy would risk coming for one year and then getting released with the rest of the staff if the Hoosiers don't win next season.

No wonder there's a lot of grim faces around Memorial Stadium these days.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Indiana Football – Glass Has Big Decision To Make

So what should Fred Glass do?

That question hovers over the Indiana football program like a dark cloud and the answer is not clear cut, although some think it is.

We live in a world of color and shades of gray, not the black-and-white simplicity of fire the bum and hire the savior, because there is no bum and there might not be a savior.

As athletic director, Glass’s job is to do what’s best for the program. Certainly that means winning. As the Kelvin Sampson basketball fiasco showed, it also means following the rules, doing things the right way and bringing in players interested in academics as well as athletics. It means representing the program with class and dignity.

As Lynch wraps up his third season in a four-year deal, he’s thrived at all of that except the winning part.

Yes, that's the No. 1 part.

Lynch has an overall record of 18-30. His Big Ten record is 5-26, 2-21 in the last three years. Indiana has lost 12 straight conference games, including all seven this season. For the most part, they’ve been competitive. They got hammered at Ohio State and Wisconsin this season, but they could have (perhaps should have) beaten Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa. They had a chance against Penn State.

Beating arch-rival Purdue in Saturday’s season finale might get Lynch his final year. The players know this. Linebacker Tyler Replogle said he's loved playing for Coach Lynch. Quarterback Ben Chappell said players feel responsible because, “We’re the guys who are playing.”

“He’s done a great job getting us prepared every week,” Chappell said. “It’s come down to a few plays where if one of us steps up and makes a play, we have different outcomes. That’s tough. I have the ultimate respect for (Lynch).”

Replogle skipped on the win-one-for-the-Gipper approach because, he said, it's been a season-long quest.

“We’ve been trying to win for Coach Lynch all year. We talk as players all the time. We love Coach Lynch. We want to go undefeated for him because he means the world to us. You try to win for him every week, and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do. If there’s anything left that we can give more, we’re going to try to.”

Typically coaches get five years to turn around a program. Lynch got four, but because he was part of Terry Hoeppner’s staff, because he retained all of the assistant coaches, it’s basically been six years.

Even if Lynch gets his final year, if it ends with a losing record, he’s done. Then a new coach will be hired and the Hoosiers will go through the seemingly never-ending rebuilding process.

The program doesn’t need that. It needs stability. That disappeared with the firing of Bill Mallory in 1996. The Hoosiers have had four coaches since -- Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Hoeppner and Lynch -- and managed just one winning record. That 7-6 mark and Insight Bowl appearance came when Lynch was the interim coach in the aftermath of Hoeppner’s death.

That’s why the best, fastest and least expensive way for IU to turn its program around is for Lynch to do it.

If he can.

Consider that next year IU will have an inexperienced quarterback. Redshirt freshmen Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker have yet to show they can run a Big Ten offense against Big Ten defenses. There will be a large learning curve. An even bigger one would be in store for talented newcomer Tre Roberson, perhaps the state’s top prospect out of Lawrence Central, if he were to win the job. Not many true freshmen are ready for the complexity of the position.

An inexperienced quarterback can make it if he has a good running game and a strong defense.

Does that sound like Indiana?

Don’t expect much of a running game. Why? Because the Hoosiers’ rushing attack hasn’t overwhelmed anyone in recent years, and there’s no indication that will change next season. They’ve averaged 3.8 yards a carry or worse in five of the last seven years. They are last in the Big Ten this year, averaging just 102.8 yards a game.

Injury prone tailback Darius Willis is coming off knee surgery, as are three freshman running backs. The offensive line reminds no one of Wisconsin, although it does have size, athleticism and potential.

As for the defense, IU hasn’t excelled in that area since the early 1990s under Mallory. Hoosier coaches emphasized defense for the upcoming recruiting class, and the group seems to have a lot of talent, but it likely will take a year or two to develop.

Lynch doesn’t have that much time.

So we’re back to where we started. What should Glass do?

He has three options -- let Lynch and his staff finish out the last year of the contract, fire him, or retain Lynch as long as there are major staff changes. Glass has said he’ll wait until after the season before evaluating the program. He’s also said he wants to honor Lynch’s contract, that contracts should mean something again at Indiana.

The evaluation should take maybe 10 minutes. Glass is around the program enough to know what needs to be done and whether Lynch can do it. The decision needs to be made by early next week at the latest.

Glass is under a lot of pressure from angry fans and well-financed boosters to fire Lynch, although it is not unanimous. Bringing in a new coach would be expensive. There would be Lynch’s settlement, the coaching search expense and then the price of a new coach and staff.

Lynch is the lowest paid head football coach in the Big Ten. So is his staff. A new coach would want more money for himself and his staff. He’d want to increase a budget that ranks at the bottom of the conference.

Who would you get? Probably a mid-major head coach or a BCS conference assistant coach. One name that has popped up is Brady Hoke, the former Ball State coach now at San Diego State. He’s had success at both places and knows the Midwest very well. Whether or not he’d be interested is unknown.

Lynch said he’s not focused on his employment status. He said all his energy is directed at beating Purdue this Saturday. He also said Glass has been great to work with and has been true to his word.

“His support has been unbelievable,” Lynch said. “We’ve had a great relationship. Everything that he’s said has been exactly what it’s been throughout the year. He’s been as supportive as can be.”

Glass is getting a lot of advice on what to do. In the end, he needs to do what is right for Indiana University. The right thing would be to honor the contract, but the right thing and the necessary thing aren’t always the same thing.

Glass has said being the athletic director at Indiana, his alma mater, is his dream job. Figure it’s not much of a dream right now.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Basketball Scoop – Will Ferrell Be A Hoosier?

Hoosier Deep Throat made the call just as I was ready for bed.

“I’ve got news,” he said in a whisper. “Meet me at the parking garage.”

“Can’t we do this over the phone?” I asked. “It’s past midnight.”

“Sure, right after I buy you a dress,” he said.

I met him at the garage.

He stood in the shadows, the strong smell of a burning cigar pinpointing his location.

“I thought you smoked cigarettes.”

“Consider this a victory cigar,” he said.

“So what was won?”

“A national championship. Or, it will be in a few years.”

A cigar flew out of the shadows. Then came a box of matches.

“Light up,” Hoosier Deep Throat said. “Moments like this don’t come very often.”

“I don’t smoke. Maybe it’s better if you explain yourself.”

“Yogi Ferrell. Maybe you’ve heard of him.”

“Of course. He’s the Indianapolis Park Tudor guard considered the nation’s No. 2 point guard and No. 17 player in the Class of 2012.”

Another cigar flew out of the darkness and bounced off my head.

“Very good. He’ll commit to Indiana this week. Bet the house.”

“I don’t bet.”

“You don’t bet and you don’t smoke. What do you do?”

“I talk to mysterious men in dark parking garages after midnight.”

Hoosier Deep Throat shifted and for just a second what seemed to be part of a shaved head emerged from the shadows, then quickly disappeared.

“Yogi is coming to Indiana,” Hoosier Deep Throat said again. “It’s a done deal.”

“I thought Yogi was deciding between IU, Butler, Virginia, Wake Forest and Florida.”

“Done deal,” Hoosier Deep Throat said again.

Suddenly IU coach Tom Crean can do no recruiting wrong. He has just gotten commitments from Indianapolis Cathedral’s Collin Hartman and Indianapolis Warren Central’s Devin Davis. Hartman is a 6-6 shooting forward. Davis is a 6-5 power forward. Both are rated as four-star players by Rivals.com.

Both were at IU’s 67-54 victory over Evansville. So was Washington senior forward Cody Zeller, who has already signed with the Hoosiers. So was Hamilton Southeastern guard Gary Harris, a highly sought after member of the Class of 2012 who has yet to commit. Hoosier students chanted his name during the game.

Crean already has Class of 2012 commitments from forward Hanner Perea, guard Ron Patterson and center Peter Jurkin. He also has commitments from the Class of 2014 with Bishop Luers guard James Blackmon and Indianapolis Tech forward Trey Lyles.

In case you’re counting, that's eight high-profile guys committing since summer.

“Crean is building a heck of a team,” Hoosier Deep Throat said. “All that was missing was the point guard. Yogi is a true point guard. He’s the real deal.

“IU will have size, speed, athleticism and skill. They will kick rump.”

I picked up the cigars. “You seem awfully sure of yourself for someone who hides in the shadows.”

Suddenly I was pelted with hard objects. I had to cover my face. When the barrage was finished, I realized Hoosier Deep Throat was gone. The parking garage floor was covered with silver dollars. In the middle of them was a note. It said two things:

“It’s a done deal.”

“Buy yourself a dress.”

Basketball Hoosiers Aren’t Perfect – Then Again, They Are

Indiana is two games away from a perfect basketball November, which is as it should be. The non-conference schedule was designed for a fast start and build confidence.

Mission accomplished.

The Hoosiers are 4-0 and looking like a team that will finish with a winning record. They have held all four opponents to under 40 percent shooting and have won the rebounding battle in every game. This is good.

Not so good is the assist-to-turnover ratio, which remains in the negative. In the 67-54 win over Evansville IU had 10 assists against 15 turnovers. The good news is that’s the fewest turnovers in a game this season. The bad news is it’s also the fewest assists.

The Hoosiers have had more turnovers than assists in every game. This can’t continue.

Yes, they’re working on it.

Point guard Jordan Hulls had three assists and zero turnovers against Evansville. That gives him 13 assists against five turnovers for the season, which is nearly a 3-to-1 ratio. That is very good.

Jeremiah Rivers has six assists and five turnovers on the season. Daniel Moore has seven assists and five turnovers.

Everybody else needs to work on ball security.

It would be better if 7-foot center Guy-Marc Michel gains his eligibility. Still no word on that. It could be hours, days, weeks or never depending on exactly what happened when he played with pro players while on a club team in France. Michel would provide a true inside presence, especially on defense, that would really make things click.

In the mean time forward Tom Pritchard, even with a messed up left hand that remains heavily wrapped up, is showing signs of finding an offense. During the 67-54 victory over Evansville he went 4-for-5 from the field and scored eight points. This is major stuff from a guy who has never been considered an outstanding shooter or scorer.

However, keep in mind that Pritchard is a career 51.2 percent shooter. Granted, most of these shots are from two feet, but let’s not quibble over small details.

Free throw shooting, however, remains a challenge. He was 0-for-3 against Evansville, which makes him 0-for-3 for the season. He shoots just over 50 percent from the line.

But we just nit-picking here. Indiana is looking more and more like the team coach Tom Crean wants it to become. When the Hoosiers had to dominate with defense and rebounding against Evansville, they did. Their 22-0 run in the second half showed the kind of killer instinct they’ll need against better opponents.

“It was very important for us to keep establishing that we can play excellent defense and we can rebound and take care of the ball even when things aren’t going great for us,” Crean said. “In the second half we made it easier on for ourselves with the next pass.

“We had to make many adjustments, but fortunately this team is maturing. They did it and they never got their heads down when it wasn’t easy. What they’re learning is that to win at this level against anybody is very hard to do.

“When you earn it like our guys did, it’s a great feeling. Now we’ll get to turn right back around and do it again.”

They’ll do it Tuesday night against North Carolina Central.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Football Hoosiers Get Last Chance To Prove Themselves

Indiana can’t finish a football game. In the end, it comes down to that. It always comes down to that. When the Hoosiers absolutely have to make a play, even when they’re perfectly positioned to make a play, they can’t do it.

It’s the legacy that won’t quit. Coach Bill Lynch spent the last 11 months driving the thought of finishing games and look what it got him:

Another losing season and a bunch of angry fans ready for a coaching change.

Take Indiana’s upset shot against Penn State. The score was tied at 24-24 deep into the second half. The Hoosiers had the ball and the chance to take the lead. All they needed was someone, anyone, to make a play.

Instead, an offense that had been clicking so well fizzled. A poor snap led to a blocked punt that the Nittany Lions scooped up for a touchdown.

Quarterback Ben Chappell threw an interception and Penn State capitalized with a field goal. The offense did nothing again and the Nittany Lions drove for the clinching touchdown in a 41-24 victory.

Once again, when it mattered most, all three phases (offense, defense, special teams) failed.

The Hoosiers are now officially out of bowl contention and will have yet another losing record. The bigger issue involves Lynch. Will athletic director Fred Glass honor the final year of Lynch’s contract (as he has said he would do) or fire him (as a growing number of fans would prefer that)?

Under Lynch IU has lost 12 straight Big Ten games. He is 5-26 in conference games, 18-30 overall. The Hoosiers’ four victories this season come against some of the worst teams in America.

Indiana (4-7) ends its season at Purdue (4-7) in the Oaken Bucket Game that might decide whether or not Lynch gets to coach the final year of his contract. A victory would give Glass something to work with. A loss would make it the first time IU hasn’t won at least one Big Ten game since 1995.

Purdue, by the way, nearly upset Michigan State in East Lansing. If it’s good enough to do that with an injury ravaged offense and the Big Ten’s best defensive player (defensive end Ryan Kerrigan), what will it do against a rival its owned for the last decade plus?

Don’t answer that. The Hoosiers will do their own answering on Saturday.

Friday, November 19, 2010

‘Maturing’ Hoosiers Set Sights on Evansville

This is an Indiana basketball schedule a player has to love. It has a bunch of games in a short period of time, which means fewer and shorter practices.

For a while, at least.

Sure, coaches always talk about how much they’re looking forward to practice and getting better and working hard and being consistent, which is fine, but players want to play. If you could have a season of 40 games and three practices, they’d love it.

Indiana opened its season by playing three games in five days, and decisively wining all three. Now it will play three games in six days, starting with Sunday’s home game against Evansville.

You can talk about the wear and tear of playing so many games in such a short span, but if the Hoosiers weren’t playing, it’s not like they’d be lounging on a couch eating Cheetos. They’d be practicing for long hours with full-throttle intensity to continue building the competitiveness and tenacity necessary to thrive in what looms as a brutal Big Ten schedule.

Instead, they have games, and if the opponents don’t always resemble Duke, that’s okay. IU doesn’t need to play Duke right now. It does need to understand purpose, concentration and attention to detail.

The 3-0 start, a first in the Tom Crean era, and solid victories suggests that’s coming along nicely.

“They have a good mindset,” Crean said. “They have a very good focus. They are locking in to the game plan. They are locking into what we have to do to get better.

“We have to do it every day, and that’s a sign of maturity. Can you do it every day and not just when you’re winning or not just in a stand (of games) like this. To play the way they did and prepare the way they did in three games in five days says a lot about them in the first week of the season. Now it’s a whole other week. We’ve got to make sure we keep taking it further.”

IU faces a 2-0 Evansville team that has four double figure scorers, led by Kenny Harris’ 15.5-point average. Granted, the Aces also haven’t played the equivalent of a Duke, but that doesn’t mean Crean doesn’t understand the challenges.

“They’re averaging 80-points a game and shooting 57 percent from the field,” Crean said. “They make plays and work well together. We are going to see more screens and more curls and more slips in one game that we’ve seen in three games all together. We are going to have to be prepared to deal with it.”

Figure the Hoosiers will be prepared.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Looking Good -- IU Recruiting Class Draws Attention

For the moment the college basketball signings are over and the analysis has begun.

Who has the nation’s best incoming recruiting class? Where does Indiana fit in? And what’s up with the Big Ten?

For this we turn to Rivals.com, which has just come out with its top 30 classes. Is it etched in stone? Not quite. Reasonable people and experts can disagree, and will.

Still, Indiana’s class of Cody Zeller and Austin Etherington is impressive enough to earn a No. 27 nationally rating.

Zeller is the big gun here, a 6-10 forward rated in everybody’s top 20. Beyond his skills is a strong likelihood that he will be a four-year player. That’s a rarity these days, and if it happens, the championship prospects skyrocket. He’ll need plenty of help, and coach Tom Crean is assembly impressive talent. Some is already on the team, more is coming.

Don’t count out Etherington. He was banged up at the start of last summer, so his ranking dropped, but he’s likely to provide instant impact next year. Why? Because he is 6-6 and can shoot. You can never have enough good shooters.

Anyway, the Hoosiers’ class ranks as the fourth best in the Big Ten.

Ohio State comes in at No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 10 nationally, which is enough to make a Hoosier fan start to hate coach Thad Matta. Yeah, he has Butler roots, and he’s used them to land such Indiana talent as Greg Odgen, Mike Conley and Deshaun Thomas. Beyond that, he keeps bringing in NBA caliber players who keep leaving early. This would be a problem except that he brings them in EVERY year.

This year Matta has signed five players and four are ranked in the top-75 -- small forwards Sam Thompson (No. 46) and LaQuinton Ross (53), point guard Shannon Scott (65), center Amir Williams (73) and unranked power forward Trey McDonald.

Ohio State beat out Purdue and Florida to land Williams.

Illinois is right behind the Buckeyes at No. 11 nationally. It has four top-100 players in small forward Mycheal Henry (36), point guard Tracy Abrams (50), power forward Mike Shaw (58) and center Nnanna Egwu (93).

It seems like just the other day critics were saying coach Bruce Weber couldn’t recruit. Well, he’s starting to get something right. This year’s team will challenge Michigan State, Purdue, Ohio State and Wisconsin for the Big Ten championship.

Michigan State is No. 3 in the Big Ten and No. 16 nationally. It has a pair of top-90 guys with small forward Branden Dawson (13) and shooting guard Dwaun Anderson (89), plus shooting guard Brandan Kearney and point guard Travis Trice.

The 6-6 Dawson, who is from Gary, once appeared a lock for Purdue, but somehow Michigan State swooped in and got him.

If you believe these rankings, the Big Ten is tied with the ACC for the third best conference behind No. 1 SEC and No. 2 Big East.

The SEC has nine top-30 teams, including No. 1 Kentucky. It’s coach John Calipari’s third straight No. 1 recruiting class. It includes Indianapolis Pike point guard Marquis Teague, rating as the nation’s No. 2 overall player. It also has the No. 3 player in small forward Mike Gilchrist, the No. 6 player in power forward Anthony Davis and the No. 25 player in power forward Kyle Wiltier.

Remember Steve Lavin, the ESPN commentator and former UCLA coach. Well, he’s back into coaching -- this time at St. John’s -- and kicking some recruiting rump. He has the No. 2 recruiting class and it includes six top-82 players, plus two other highly regarded guys.

Remember, this is based on the early signing period. It could change in April with the next signing period.

But for now, Indiana’s rising prospects continue to look really, really good.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Extra Work Paying Off For IU’s Sheehey

You bet it seemed like the Indiana coaches were picking on freshman Will Sheehey. Coach Tom Crean ended Monday’s practice after about 65 minutes because he wanted his players fresh for up-tempo Mississippi Valley State, the Hoosiers’ third game in five days.

But afterward Sheehey was among the players ordered to stay for some three-on-three and four-on-four work.

As it turned out, the extra work was done to accelerate the improvement process. Crean wanted to play Sheehey more, but the 6-6 freshman swingman had to be ready.

In IU’s first two games, Sheehey wasn’t ready, which was why he’d played just 10 total minutes and scored only six points.

The only way to change that was extra work.

“The first reaction, and this goes back to Dwyane Wade and guys at Marquette,” Creans said, “is they think they are being punished. But it’s a chance to get their confidence up and a chance for it to be about them.”

Sheehey made the most of it against Mississippi Valley State. He had nine points (on 4-for-7 shooting) and five rebounds in 11 minutes.

“I was feeling more comfortable,” he said. “With every game and every practice, Coach has helped me get a better feel for the game.”

That feel peaked, so to speak, with his alley oop basket at the end of the Mississippi Valley State game. Guard Daniel Moore appeared to toss the ball too high, but the high-jumping Sheehey controlled it enough to score.

“I was happy that Will was able to come in and get confidence inside of the game because he was ready for that,” Crean said. “He’s going to be very good. He needed that type of breakout game and that shot of confidence.”

Some players, like Ohio State freshman superstar Jared Sullinger, are ready as soon as they hit campus. The vast majority are like Sheehey, who need time to develop.

“Coach has been gradually giving me more minutes to see if I can either take them or not do anything with them,” he said.

Doing something means adjusting his high school jump-shooting ways for a more attack-the-basket approach. In other words, instead of taking a contested three-pointer, drive and either score to kick it out.

“Now when I see the lanes, I have to take them,” Sheehey said.

Sheehey figures to see a lot more lanes in the months ahead. Why? Because he’s ready for them.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

IU Out -- Football Commitments Not What They Used To Be

The bad news keeps coming for Indiana football.

One of its better recruiting commitments, Ohio linebacker Max Pirman, has reportedly dropped the Hoosiers for Nebraska.


For all the obvious reasons.

First, Pirman had a good official visit to Nebraska. Sure, you might wonder why a recruit would take a visit when he’s already committed to another program, but that’s the ruthlessly competitive nature of recruiting these days. Commitments don’t mean what they used to. Players sometimes give their word without honoring it. Some coaches are more aggressive than others in going after committed players. They will continue to pitch their programs unless the kid tells them to back off.

Obviously, Pirman didn’t.

Pirman was considered a three-star prospect. Losing him hurts, but doesn’t devastate the program. Figure other Indiana commitments, especially the higher rated ones, also will listen to other offers, partly because that’s the norm in college football these days, mostly because IU is vulnerable.

Recruiting, much like dating, can be a tough business unless you’re George Clooney or, say, Ohio State.

The fact Nebraska is 9-1 and ranked ninth is huge. So is the fact it will officially enter the Big Ten next season. It has a tradition to rival Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan.

The Hoosiers do not.

The record-breaking collapse at Wisconsin further accelerated a decline that has reached six straight Big Ten losses this season, 11 straight conference defeats overall. The fact that fans are calling for coach Bill Lynch’s firing despite a year left on his contract doesn’t help. Pirman, in fact, told Scout.com that when he saw the IU-Wisconsin score (83-20), he figured a coaching change was coming and didn’t want any part of it.

Still, this isn’t the end of the world. The Hoosiers still have 21 commitments, mostly three- and four-star players who make up one of IU’s best recruiting classes in memory.

Even better for the Cream ‘n Crimson cause is that Indiana’s best recruits, linebacker Zach Shaw out of Ohio and athlete Rayman Taylor out of Detroit, are still committed. So is super talented dual-threat quarterback Tre Roberson out of Indianapolis Lawrence Central. The 6-1, 170-pound Roberson might be the No. 1 football prospect in the state and likely will win Indiana Mr. Football honors. He’s led Lawrence Central to a 12-1 record by throwing for 2,366 yards and 21 touchdowns, against two interceptions. He’s also rushed for 1,717 yards and 19 TDs.

Meanwhile, it’s looking more likely that Indiana quarterback Ben Chappell will play against Penn State Saturday. He basically played just one quarter in last Saturday’s disaster at Wisconsin because of a hip injury. With him the Hoosiers have a chance at a victory. Without him, well, it’s grim.

What’s not grim is Indiana’s 3-0 basketball start. Forward Christian Watford continued his season-opening offensive surge with 18 points as Indiana beat Mississippi Valley State 71-54. He’s averaging 19.7 points.

Watford, you see, is committed.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big Anger -- What’s Next For Indiana Football?

Indiana football fans are mad as heck and heads have got to roll. They want to fire coach Bill Lynch, his staff, the athletic director and anyone who disagrees with them.

An 83-20 loss to Wisconsin to cap a 0-6 Big Ten start, four straight losses, 11 consecutive conference defeats and a 2-20 conference record over the last three years is really bad for job security. This isn’t progress. Regression might be too kind a term.

The numbers from Wisconsin were staggering. It was the most points IU has ever allowed, surpassing the 69 Nebraska scored in 1979. It’s the most points Wisconsin has scored since 1915, the most points any Big Ten team has scored since 1950.

Forget the debate on whether Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema ran up the score. He did. He just might be the most ruthless coach in America when it comes to piling on points (remember the unnecessary 2-point conversion he did against Minnesota). Still, football is a tough game and if a coach wants to develop his younger players, which means running the offense and plays the Badgers will need against formidable competition, so be it.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, with the opportunity to put up similar numbers against IU and Purdue, chose a kinder approach.

We’re just saying.

Anyway, if IU didn’t like getting embarrassed, it should have done something about it, like manning up stopping the Badgers. That’s the attitude Lynch took in the post-game aftermath when he didn’t complain about Wisconsin scoring a couple of late TDs.

Yes, linebacker Tyler Replogle was out with an injury, and quarterback Ben Chappell was sidelined for basically the final three quarters with a battered hip. IU should still have enough talent and experience to be competitive.

That it’s not pushes the idea that Lynch must go.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass pushes patience, which in this instant-anger, instant-gratification world is as welcome as a bout of cholera.

IU has two more games to salvage the season. It travels to Washington D.C. on Saturday to play a vulnerable Penn State team that just got waxed by Ohio State. By giving up a home game, it will get $3 million, which is much needed to keep the entire athletic department in good financial shape. Yes, some of that money could be used for a new coach, and we’ll get to that in a moment. Indiana, thanks to the Big Ten Network, is not in the economic mess so many athletic programs are these days, but neither is it mega rich. Few programs are.

An NCAA report said that of the 120 Division I-A football programs, 106 lost money in 2009. That’s why schools continue to cut sports (California cut five in September) or charge athletic fees or both.

IU has avoided cuts, and Glass wants to keep it that way. That $3 million is a big help.

Anyway, the Hoosiers can beat Penn State. They can win at Purdue in the Nov. 27 season finale. The Boilers are decimated at the quarterback position. They couldn’t score an offensive touchdown against Michigan, which has the worst defense on the planet. Even a banged-up Indiana defense would have a chance.

Sweep both games and the pressure to fire Lynch fades. It doesn’t disappear, but it fades –- a little. At least beat Purdue, the arch-rival that has won 11 of the last 13 meetings, and it gives Glass something to work with.

Glass has said he’ll wait until after the season to evaluate the program. That’s likely to take five seconds. He knows what’s going on, what the problems are and what the options will be.

Still, he wants to make a rational decision and not an emotional one. And he’s on record as saying he wants to honor Lynch’s contract, which has one more year.

That was well before the 83-20 debacle, however.

Lynch signed a four-year contract when at least five is the norm. Given IU’s history of football mediocrity, fairness would indicate giving Lynch at least the length of his contract to produce a winner.

Fairness, however, often gets overshadowed by the bottom-line realities of the profession. Glass has to factor that in, as well.

Firing Lynch would be expensive. Glass would have to pay Lynch a settlement for his final year. The search process wouldn’t be free. A new coach would get more money –- for himself and his new staff. That’s true whoever the coach is.

As far as the big-name idea, well, as we’ve said before, that won’t happen. The search shouldn’t be about getting a big name, but the right guy. That's likely to be a mid-major head coach or a BCS conference assistant.

Forget wealthy boosters agreeing to pay mega-millions to lure a high-profile coach to Bloomington. Salary is only part of the deal. A big name won’t give up a stadium that seats 80,000 to 100,000 for one that seats 52,000. A big name won’t sacrifice an annual football budget of $25 to $30 million for IU’s budget of $5 to $6 million. A big name won’t want to get anywhere near a program with such a long history of mediocrity. Big names are big because they win big.

Finally, a big name will never come to Indiana unless it’s somebody like ex-Texas Tech Mike Leach, who was fired for, well, bizarre behavior, and wants to return to coaching. And he’d only stay for as long as it took for him to get a higher paying job.

Or, given IU’s success with football coaches, to get fired.

Purdue tried the big-name rout once with ex-Texas coach Fred Akers. He went 12-31-1 in four year and got fired.

Indiana tried it with Gerry DiNardo, the ex-LSU coach. He went 8-27 in three years and, yes, got fired.

Then there’s the time it would take for a new coach with a new system to get things rolling.

Look at what’s happened at Notre Dame. A new coach doesn’t guarantee instant success, even with a roster full of top-15 recruiting classes. IU doesn’t have anything close to that.

Still, Lynch is set to bring in IU’s best recruiting class in a couple of decades. If he’s fired, who knows how many would stay. Yes, some could back out of their oral commitments (with signing day not until February, there’s plenty of time for guys to change their minds), but for now they’re still on the Cream ‘n Crimson list.

The fastest, best, least expensive way to get Indiana’s program turned around is for Lynch to do it. Can he? The odds aren’t good. They are, in fact, miserable -- especially if Chappell is done for the season.

Figure the losing will continue, the anger will grow and somebody’s head will roll.

Whose? We’ll find out soon enough.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Forget IU Football Debacle For Basketball Opportunity

Pretend Indiana’s football debacle at Wisconsin never happened. Instead, concentrate on what’s really important as we turn toward the end of November:

The IU basketball team landed Cody Zeller.

Say it three times, stay away from the Big Ten Network and ESPN’s Sportscenter for the next 24 hours or so, then replay the video of Zeller saying, “I choose Indiana” you probably have recorded on your computer.

Keep that in mind, then focus on what it could mean.

Yeah, the hope is a bunch of championships, and that’s not just fan wishful thinking. Zeller has it, too.

“The goal is to win a national championship,” he said. “I think we can make strides toward that.”

A lot of development is needed before that happens, starting with the current Hoosiers. But the 6-10 Washington forward will have a huge role in any kind of future championship run.

How huge? Here is what Zeller said coach Tom Crean told him in the recruiting process.

“He said the offense could be run through me. I don’t know if that’s my freshman year or sophomore year or whenever. He said I could make a big difference. I’m looking forward to working with him.”

“Work” is the key word here. Zeller will have to earn his spot (Crean is really big on competition), and all indications are he’s highly motivated to put in the necessary work to reach his full potential.

“I have to get stronger,” he said. “I have to make all the moves faster and better. It’s a big step going from high school to college.”

A lot of coaches could develop him, but Zeller said Crean is the best fit for him.

“He seems to be one of the best at Xs and Os. He has great energy. I’ll enjoy playing for him.”

Zeller captured the state’s imagination while he debated the merits of Indiana, Butler and North Carolina. His every word and action was scrutinized.

“There was a lot of pressure, but I tried not to pay attention to it. I stayed focused on making the right decision. I’m glad it’s over. The high school season will start soon. Now I can focus on winning another state championship.”

Zeller was a freshman reserve on Washington’s 2008 Class 3A state title team. He was a key contributor on last spring’s championship squad. He’s set to lead the Hatchets to another title this season.

Sure, there’s pressure in that, but that’s part of athletics and life. And the expectations could go off the chart next season when Zeller arrives at Indiana. The key is for him to find the right perspective. In fact, he already has it.

“I try not to pay much attention. We’ll see what happens when I get there.”

Crean is rebuilding Indiana from the wreckage of the Kelvin Sampson disaster. The Hoosiers won six games his first season, 10 his second. They are poised for a winning record and a postseason tourney this season before really taking off next year.

That, at least, is the plan.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Zeller said. “Growing up in Indiana, I always wanted to see them do well. Now I’ll have a chance to have a part in helping make them good. I can have a big part even my freshman year.”
Keep that in mind. Leave the football mess for another time.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Zeller Is In; Is Ferrell Next?, Part II

Let’s introduce Cody Zeller, Indiana basketball recruiter. He’s the guy who can help the Hoosiers land more premier in-state players. How? With a word, a suggestion, even a smile.

Ah, yes, the power of teenage basketball celebrity.

Zeller now ranks as one of the most recognizable people in the state, certainly in basketball circles. He shows that IU can land top in-state players; the message is that the school really is the premier destination program for elite players.

So will he recruit?


“I want to play with the best players I can,” he says.

The primary target is Indianapolis Park Tudor’s Yogi Ferrell. The one thing the Hoosiers will need is a true point guard and Ferrell fits the role perfectly. Rivals.com ranks him as the nation’s No. 17 player in the Class of 2012, the No. 2 point guard. He’s fast, handles the ball well, and makes good passes and decisions. He’ll have to be able to guard at the major college level, an adjustment for every freshman. The sooner he does that, the sooner he would make a real impact.

The first step is getting Ferrell to commit to the Hoosiers. Coach Tom Crean is working on that. So are IU students, who chanted Ferrell’s name several times to acknowledge his appearance at Friday night’s season-opening win over Florida Gulf Coast (he sat right behind the IU bench). So is Zeller. He mentioned Ferrell by name during his Thursday press conference.

“Hopefully Yogi and a couple of those other guys will follow in my footsteps.”

Those other guys include committed players Hanner Perea, Ron Patterson and Peter Jurkin from the Class of 2012.

Zeller’s decision to become a Hoosier has Ferrell and all the recruits pumped. He might not be a Messiah, but he offers championship hope, and given IU’s 23-year title drought, that’s a very big thing.

In recent years IU had lost its stature among the best in-state recruits. Ohio State, Duke and North Carolina were among the elite programs raiding the state. Meanwhile, Purdue’s Matt Painter has built a Big Ten power using primarily in-state players. Butler’s Final Four run last spring was fueled by in-state talent such as Gordon Hayward.

Landing Zeller was the kind of statement-making get that could lock down the state in Cream ‘n Crimson and impact the program for years, and Crean knows it.

“Cody validated the level of where Indiana is with everybody else out there,” Crean said. “I can’t thank him enough.”

Nothing lasts forever, especially in recruiting. In time Zeller’s name will lose impact. Somebody else will come up with mega-star potential and Crean will have to sign him or risk losing clout. It’s the nature of the business. That’s why Crean continues to have close contact with Indiana Elite, a Bloomington-based AAU travel team that has become a major player on the national tournament scene.

Zeller, Perea, Patterson, Jurkin, Ferrell and fellow IU 2011 signee Austin Etherington play for Indiana Elite. Current Hoosiers Jordan Hulls and Matt Roth played for Indiana Elite. IU video coordinator Drew Adams is a former Indiana Elite coach and is the son of Indiana Elite coach Mark Adams.

That’s eight players and one staff member from one travel program.

That’s a topic for another day.

For this day, perhaps for the foreseeable future, Indiana has become the big gun in Indiana high school recruiting.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Counting The Ways to Zeller’s Decision

By now we know two things:

1) Cody Zeller is coming to Indiana

2) Tom Crean loves tough guys.

3) The Zeller family is VERY organized.

Okay, so math isn’t our strong point.

Anyway, here’s an idea of how thorough the Zellers were to ensure Cody made the best decision possible in his college choice.

After Cody had made his official visits to Indiana, Butler and North Carolina, after he had investigated the business schools of all three universities, it was time to really analyze things. So Cody’s father, Steve, went into debate mode. For three straight nights, he pretended he was a representative of one of those schools and pushed his son hard.

“I picked out a different college each night, and I did it in alphabetical order, and tried to convince him which college to go to. One night it was Butler and I rode him all night long on how he should go to Butler. The next night it was Indiana. North Carolina was next. I had him think about everything he had to do. It was almost like a debate.”

The idea was to solidify in Cody’s mind the wisdom of his choice so there would be no second thoughts or regrets. Let’s face it. He couldn’t have made a bad choice. All three are great schools with great programs. It was a matter of picking the right fit for him.

It helped that Cody had already been through similar recruiting processes with older brothers Luke (went to Notre Dame) and Tyler (a senior at North Carolina).

“I went on a lot of their visits with them. I knew the coaches before they started recruiting me.”

Cody’s official visit to IU was crucial in his decision.

“You get to spend time with the guys on the team and see what college is like there. I built some relationships. The players at IU are fun to be around.”

Now the idea is for the Hoosiers to have fun by winning a ton of games. Indiana coach Tom Crean has no doubt that Zeller can help them do that.

“When I look at Cody Zeller,” Crean said in a university release, I see a great teammate. I see a young man who had a mental toughness that is not normal. I see a young man who has endurance and a will about him that is going to pay dividends at Indiana, and for many years after that.

“Obviously he is a year-round winner from the program that he is in. He plays for one of the finest coaches in all of high school basketball in Gene Miiller, and the proof is there in his record.”

Proof, by the way, includes Cody’s academic transcript. He has a 3.99 grade point average on a 4.0 scale.

Still, it’s Cody’s basketball prowess that sets him apart. Last year he averaged 20.5 points and 11.1 rebounds and led Washington to the Class 3A state championship.

Cody continued to play well after the season and into the summer AAU circuit. Crean saw him a ton and was impressed.

“When you use the phrase, ‘The sky is the limit,’ you can put Cody’s name next to it,” Crean said. “I see no ceiling right now for that young man athletically, ability wise, stature...

“When you look at the entire package … He is as good of a defensive rebounder as I have ever recruited, not just because of his size, but his tenaciousness. He has improved his range. He has improved his skill set. He is outstanding at the elbow area (of the basketball court) and is very good around the post. But what he is getting now more than ever is the ability to shoot the ball from range.”

There’s more, of course, and will address that in a future blog.

Zeller Is In; Is Ferrell Next? -- Short Version

Yes, Cody Zeller has officially joined the Cream 'n Crimson cause and thoughts can turn to the big picture -- what's next?

That, of course, is completing the final recruiting piece to what looms as a national championship run -- a point guard. That leads to Indianapolis Park Tudor's Yogi Ferrell. It's no coincidence that Zeller mentioned he would soon be talking with Ferrell, who is one of the elite members of the Class of 2012.

Zeller now becomes a Hoosier recruiter. In fact, he might be the most important recruiter IU has, supplanting Tom Crean, Cook Hall and the Hoosiers' championship tradition.

So what does this all mean? We'll take a deeper look in the next blog.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Zeller Decision – Follow The Basketball Clues

Here’s a clue as to how important academics are to Cody Zeller and his family.

He recently had breakfast with Don Kuratko, the chairman of the Entrepreneurship program for Indiana’s Kelley School of Business, to discuss available programs.

It’s not the first trip Zeller has made to IU’s business school as he analyzes all factors before picking a college. It’s a safe bet that Zeller made similar academic trips to Butler and North Carolina, his other finalists.

How many elite athletes do that?

Maybe 1 in 10.


Zeller is an outstanding student as well as the nation’s 20th best basketball player in the Class of 2011. He could get an academic scholarship if he wasn’t playing basketball.

That’s among the reasons why Zeller is such a prime target. He’ll boost a program’s academic standing as well as basketball performance, and that’s important in these days when graduation rates and progress toward graduation matter.

Speculation is rampant as to what school Zeller will choose and here’s what we can say with 100 percent certainty -- we’ll all know early Thursday afternoon.

Fans look for signs in the smallest of things to figure out where he’s going. One minute it’s a done deal for Indiana. The next, Butler is back in the picture in the big way. The next, well, North Carolina is such a stud magnet it’s hard to imagine anybody turning it down.

Okay, here’s a sign for you. IU decided not to release anything about Austin Etherington signing his letter Wednesday morning. Usually schools do. Purdue did with forwards Donnie Hale and Jacob Lawson even though it’s waiting on Detroit Center Amir Williams, who isn’t expected to announce for another week.

That could mean that coach Tom Crean knows Zeller is coming to IU and wants to announce Etherington and Zeller together in one release. Or it could mean Crean wants to announce something Thursday to offset the loss of Zeller.

Or it could mean …

Amazing, isn’t it, how a teenager boy can have a state enthralled like this. Or, perhaps, it’s a sad commentary on our sports obsessed culture when there are so many truly crucial issues in the world like the economy, terrorism, global warming, Afghanistan and, say, why the NFL commissioner keeps fining Steelers linebacker James Harrison.

Okay, enough of the sermon. Of course it’s bleeping important! This is basketball in Indiana, for goodness sakes! The fate of college basketball dominance for the next several years could be determined by Zeller’s decision.

Zeller isn’t Lebron James, but he can be a huge piece in somebody’s national championship run.

He can run and has skill and, at 6-10, he has NBA-caliber height. He has to get bigger and stronger, and he will. He has to get fitter and tougher, and he will.

The media joke was that when Zeller makes his announcement at Washington High School, smoke will be released in papal announcement fashion. If it’s red smoke, it’s IU. Dark blue would be Butler. Light blue would be North Carolina.

In the meantime, stay up all night and pace if you must, buy some candy stripped pants if it makes you feel better.

Then remember what Hoosier Deep Throat said –- Zeller is a lock for IU. He still says it while chain smoking a major cloud in the shadows of an IU parking lot.

Is he smoking from worry or from confidence?

Guess it’s another sign to read.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Zeller Suspense, Roth Good News, Hoeppner Legacy

Brace yourself. Cody Zeller is ready to announce his college choice, only he’s going to make everybody wait just a little longer.

If this basketball thing doesn’t work out, maybe Zeller should try suspense writing. He has a knack for keeping people on their edge of their seats -– or message boards.

Anyway, Zeller is set to name his college at 1:05 p.m. on Thursday at Washington High School. It is only open to the media, not the public. However the announcement will be broadcast on Washington radio station WAMW-107.9 FM. According to Indy Star reporter Jeff Rabjohns, the station also will stream the conference live on the Internet on www.wamwamfm.com.

In the event you’re suffering from amnesia caused by anguish over the deeper meaning of Indiana’s overtime victory over Ferris State, Zeller is choosing between IU, Butler and North Carolina. The 6-10 forward is rated as the nation’s No. 20 overall player and No. 4 power forward.

Wednesday starts the official November signing period. IU has one commitment in Hamilton Heights guard Austin Etherington.

Why is Zeller waiting until the next day? What school will he pick?

For now, at least, that remains a mystery, much like the unknown missile that was launched over California Monday night. The exhaust trail from that mystery object, by the way, glowed red.


Oliver Stone would say no.

In fact, a Cream 'n Crimson optimist would suggest that Zeller is waiting a day so as not to steal the signing day thunder from Etherington when he officially becomes a Hoosier.

Anyway, is Zeller worth all the wait and drama? The experts say yes, especially because he doesn’t project as just a one-and-done guy.

“He’s a highly skilled big man,” veteran recruiting analyst Bob Gibbons said. “He’s one of the most fundamentally skilled big men in the nation. He has a high basketball IQ. He’d be a major get.”


Just when it looked like guard Matt Roth was about to lose a second season to an injury, the word came that he should return, although exactly when remains in doubt.

IU officials indicated the injury was not as serious as initially believed after Roth hurt his right knee during Monday night’s overtime exhibition victory over Ferris State.

Roth only played two games last season after breaking his ankle while practicing for a tournament in Puerto Rico last November. He is one of the Hoosiers’ top three-point shooters and is expected to play a major role this season.


Former IU coach Terry Hoeppner was honored by the renaming of the limestone rock in Memorial Stadium as “Hep’s Rock.” It was Hoeppner’s idea to take a large piece of limestone located near the IU Tennis Center, install it in Memorial Stadium and give the facility the nickname, “The Rock.”

Hoeppner, a former Woodlan standout, died from brain cancer in 2007. He only coached the Hoosiers for two years, but was a huge motivator in the Hoosiers’ Insight Bowl appearance.


In a class act by a class group of guys, Hoosier football players voted receiver Damarlo Belcher as one of the game captains for Saturday’s contest at Wisconsin. It was Belcher who dropped what would have been the game-winning touchdown pass at the end of the Iowa game. Teammates have rallied around him. Coach Bill Lynch said Belcher would not let the drop affect the rest of his season.

“He’ll be fine,” Lynch said.

Monday, November 8, 2010

IU Lesson Learned? -- Now It's Time To Play For Keeps

In an ideal world, Indiana got all of its mistakes out of the way against Ferris State. Starting with Friday’s season opener against Florida Gulf Coast (is that a school or a spring break resort?), the Hoosiers would be a smooth running machine ready to roll into a year to remember.

But idealism takes a bashing these days. IU’s 78-65 exhibition overtime victory showed resiliency and heart and toughness, all attributes coach Tom Crean continues to push hard. Still, if Ferris State doesn’t choke on the free throw line, it wins easily. It missed eight free throws and two layups in the last seven minutes.

The Hoosiers made enough mistakes to provide a month worth of teaching points for Crean.

What were the problems?

The Hoosiers lost the rebounding battle.

They shot 35.7 percent in the first half, 28.1 percent in the second, and struggled to solve Ferris State’s zone, mostly because they hadn’t spent much time on zone offense in practice.

“That’s on me,” Crean said.

The assist-to-turnover ratio was lousy. They had 12 assists and 20 turnovers.

Poor first-half defense. They let Ferris State shoot 59.1 percent.

The good news was it didn’t count. IU has plenty of time to learn from this.

“The momentum shifted because of our defensive energy,” Crean said. “We did not deal with physicality of the game at the start. We’ve got to be way better than that. We’ll get better.”

It’s important to understand that Ferris State, a NCAA Division II program, is a good team. It’s at least the equivalent of a solid mid-major team.

“We played good basketball for a long period of time,” Ferris State coach Bill Sall said. “But we shot 20-for-38 from the free throw line and we turned it over 25 times. Last time I checked, that makes it difficult to win.”

For IU, this win didn’t count. But how the Hoosiers earned it just the same could have major impact down the road.

Maybe the Cream ‘n Crimson world could end up ideal after all.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

On IU Basketball, Ferris State and Hoosier Football Coaching

Okay, so Ferris State does not thrill the heart like, say, Michigan State. It’s still November and sports thrills are supposed to center on football.

Then again, a 4-5 record, five losses in the last six games and a 0-5 Big Ten record has drained much of football’s thrill.

Before we get back to that, understand that Ferris State presents an interesting basketball challenge when it shows up at Assembly Hall Monday night. It has center Justin Keenan, the preseason NCAA Division II player of the year who has scored 1,569 points. Keenan and guard Darien Gray are returning all-Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference players. They helped Ferris State go 16-13 last year.

This is IU’s final exhibition before opening its season Friday night against Florida Gulf Coast and the focus, coach Tom Crean said, is mostly on the Hoosiers.

“Our goal is to be relentless moving forward on defense,” Crean said in a university release. “On offense, we need to continue to emphasize taking care of the basketball. I was very pleased with our decision making against Franklin. We shared the basketball and moved it around, and our defensive energy made our offensive effort better.”

Crean experimented with different player combinations in last week’s exhibition win over Franklin. He started freshman guard Victor Oladipo at small forward because of Oladipo’s energy. He put Oladipo and sophomore forward Christian Watford on the defensive perimeter and had point guard Jordan Hulls inside because he wanted to see how difficult that would make it for teams to get the ball inside.

Figure Crean will continue trying things against Ferris State while demanding all-out effort. No starting position is secure in theory, although it’s hard to imagine Watford not making it.

“I think our guys have a clear understanding that competition is going to make us a better program,” Crean said. “Whether it’s in a game, in practice or in the weight room, our expectation is that maximum effort and focus on the task at hand is not optional.”


One last thought about the IU coaching situation -– Bill Lynch is still the guy and very well could be the guy next season, the final year of his contract. Athletic director Fred Glass wants contracts to mean something again at Indiana and has no desire to fire Lynch. His preference is to sign Lynch to an extension, but that will only happen if the Hoosiers start winning.

If the time comes where Glass wants to make a change, he will conduct a national search. In the past that has produced candidates such as Mid-American conference head coaches (Terry Hoeppner was from Miami of Ohio, Lynch was at Ball State, among other places), Big Ten assistant coaches, NFL assistant coaches and former BCS conference coaches who had lost some luster.

For instance, Bill Mallory was fired at Colorado and moved on to Northern Illinois before coming to IU. Gerry DiNardo was fired at LSU before joining the Hoosiers.

Cam Cameron was the quarterback coach for the Washington Redskins before coming to Indiana. Sam Wyche was an assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers before IU hired him.

Mallory, DiNardo and Cameron were fired. Wyche left after one year to take over the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals.

How tough is it to win at Indiana? Mallory is the winningest coach in school history (69 wins) and still finished with a losing record. In the last 90 years only one coach has finished with a winning record –- Bo McMillin (63-48-11) –- and he retired in 1947.

It’s easier to win at Northwestern than it is at Indiana. Why? That’s a topic for another day.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Signs Of The IU Football Times

So what do we make of Indiana’s gut-wrenching 18-13 football loss to No. 15 Iowa? Is it just a continuation of a century plus of program misery or a sign that maybe, just maybe, things are about to get better?

Let’s take a look.

With four minutes left, IU led 13-12. It could have won with defense or offense. In a unique twist, it lost with both.

Yeah, maybe it’s time to start watching chess.

First, the defense, which played so solidly for 56 minutes you’d have sworn somebody slipped in a bunch of Ohio State Buckeyes in disguise, fell totally apart.

In three plays and like 50 seconds it gave up 87 yards and the go-ahead touchdown. Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi had all the time he needed to find wide open receivers. This isn’t a surprise. The defense is known for melting down under pressure against the Hawkeyes. See last year’s 28-0 Iowa fourth quarter as a prime example.

The silver lining in such a fast drive was that it gave IU plenty of time to mount its own game-winning drive. Quarterback Ben Chappell took his usual beating and still kept finding and hitting open receivers. It was a clutch display and it took the Hoosiers to the cusp of victory.

It was fourth-and-10 with basically 30 seconds left and IU 18 yards away from the end zone. During a timeout offensive coordinator Matt Canada called a play in which receiver Damarlo Belcher would end up in the middle of the end zone. The route would take a while to run, which meant the offensive line would have to hold up and Chappell would have to stand firm and, more than likely, take more punishment.

Chappell waited as long as he could and threw to a wide-open Belcher in the end zone. He had to throw it high enough to clear Iowa linebackers who had tortured him all game. He did.

In the end, all Belcher had to do was what he’s done a gazillion times before. He’s 6-5 and perfectly built to make leaping catches in the end zone.

So, in typical here-we-go-again IU fashion, he dropped the pass and Indiana once again found heartbreak.

If he made that catch, or if the defense had gotten one last stop, all the talk about Bill Lynch not getting the final year of his contract would have become irrelevant.


Who knows?

Has there ever been a program in the history of any sport, any where, any time that so consistently cannot make the one play needed for victory?

The answer is no.

So fans scream for a new coach, pushing the concept that Indiana needs to hire a BIG NAME, as if that is all it would take, or even happen. IU doesn’t have the money to land a BIG NAME even if a BIG NAME wanted to come, so forget about it.

A BIG NAME wants to be at a school that can consistently contend for a national championship. That's not Indiana. They'll also want a salary four to six times what Lynch gets. IU doesn't have it. Its annual football budget is around $6 million. Schools such as Ohio State, Alabama, Michigan have football budgets around $30 million or more. They make in one home game almost as much as IU budgets for its entire season. It's no contest.

Big Ten Network money is crucial to funding the other 21 sports, so unless athletic director Fred Glass wants to gut the other programs or cut some, which he doesn't, it's not available. Yes, a bunch of wealthy donors could commit to a $2 million-a-year-plus salary, but again, a BIG NAME would demand a big commitment the Hoosiers, with a 52,000-seat stadium, could never meet.

Lynch is still the coach and Glass absolutely doesn’t want to fire him. He has said Lynch will get the final year of his contract to turn things around. Lynch is poised to get one of the program’s best recruiting classes in a generation and Glass doesn’t want to screw that up. But he needs something more than heartbreaking near-misses and wins over bad teams to show the program is making progress and heading in the right direction.

Figure that “more” won’t happen next Saturday when the Hoosiers travel to Wisconsin. But Penn State and Purdue are vulnerable. IU can win both, and should win at least one. Close won't cut it.

Through it all consider that the Hoosiers' much-maligned defense has improved a lot, which is the sign of good coaching. The offense did well against one of the nation’s best defenses. That, too, is a sign of good coaching.

As we’ve said before, in every off-field criteria, Lynch and his staff have excelled. But winning matters most, and when you’re 0-5 in the Big Ten, when you’ve won just two of your last 19 conference games, that’s not good enough.

You don’t need a sign to tell you that.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Will Hulls Win The IU Point Guard Challenge?

Okay, for those of you who think the suggestion that Daniel Moore might be IU’s best point guard is absurd, let’s take a look at Jordan Hulls.

First, coach Tom Crean has gone out of his way to insist that he has no returning starters from last year, that every position is wide open and must be won through fierce competition every day. Crean has no desire to return to the days when guys played because basically there was no one else. The best programs are built when every second has to be earned.

Second, Hulls is an ultra-competitive guy who embraces challenges, which is a good thing because he will have his hands full with such super-quick Big Ten guards as Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas, Purdue’s Lewis Jackson and Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor.

If he can’t handle competition from the smaller Moore, he’ll have no chance in Big Ten play.

Hulls CAN handle the competition and will have a chance. He knows Moore wants to play and is going after the point guard job with gusto. Hulls is doing the same thing.

“We’re teammates,” he said. “We’re always going to be competing.”

Hulls was by far the more acclaimed player coming out of high school. He earned Mr. Basketball honors while leading Bloomington South to an undefeated Indiana state championship. His numbers weren’t gaudy (15.8 points, 4.0 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.6 steals) because of all the talent around him.

Last year as an IU freshman he started 17 of 31 games, including the last nine contests. He led the team in three-point baskets (47) and three-point shooting (40.2 percent). He had more assists (45) than turnovers (37), and given the Hoosiers’ throw-it-away tendencies, that was a major accomplishment.

Moore, by the way, was an all-state basketball and soccer player at Carmel. He averaged 13.5 points and 7.8 assists as a senior.

In his first two years in Bloomington Moore has averaged 1.9 points and totaled 35 steals, 88 assists and 79 turnovers while averaging 12.4 minutes.

Hulls seemingly has more upside because of his superior shooting and scoring ability. The point guard role has evolved from just a passer to a passer-scorer and teams can’t afford to play guys who can’t hit open jumpers.

Yes, we know Verdell Jones also will get some point guard minutes when his sprained ankle heals, but he’s more of a shooting guard. He won’t be the main ballhandler.

The bottom line is Crean needs a point guard who can run the show, get guys where they need to be, get the ball where it needs to go, hit big shots and make good decisions.

“I try to get everybody in place, run the floor and play defense,” Hulls said. “All the little things. Try to be an extension of the coach out on the floor.”

The odds favor Hulls. He was recruited to be the point guard while Moore walked on. He's worked to improve his strength, and while he's not there yet, he is improving.

In the end, it’s all about producing. Whoever does that the best will play. That, at least, is not absurd.