Sunday, May 22, 2011

On Mascots, A Football Commitment, And Capobianco Part II

You’ve probably seen the buzz about whether it’s time for Indiana to have a mascot.

Indianapolis businessman Jim Gearries told the Indy Star’s Terry Hutchens that he’s pushing for a contest to determine one. He envisions a mascot wearing blue jeans and suspenders, carrying a peach basket with a basketball and a corncob pipe who would be called Hurryin’ Hoosier Harry.

IU has tried a mascot before, with a bison in the late 1960s (a bison is part of the state seal) and with a country dude called Hoosier Pride in the late 1970s. Neither lasted.

IU did have an unofficial mascot in the 1990s thanks to businessman and Hoosier fan Tom Spiece. He came up with “Hoosier Man.” He spent thousands of his own dollars on an inflatable, motorized mascot costume. He spent more money on lessons in how to use it and perform in it.

Why? Because of his strong affection for the university and his belief that IU needed a mascot. Sometimes he performed in it. Sometimes he got Hoosier students to do it.

IU officials were not amused or appreciative, although for a while they did tolerate it. Football coaches Bill Mallory and Cam Cameron liked it. Spiece even went the diversity route by buying an African American Hoosier Man. He bought two motorized scooters so the Hoosier Men could zip around the Memorial Stadium parking lots during home football games.

Athletic director Clarence Doninger wasn’t a huge Hoosier Man fan, but he didn’t object to it. His successor, Michael McNeely, couldn’t stand it. He was clear and to the point -– Hoosier Man had to go. Spiece gave up the Hoosier Men in exchange for Varsity Club points. IU officials took them and put them in storage, sort of like what happened to the Arc of the Covenant at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie.

Eventually Spiece got the Hoosier Men back.

Spiece, by the way, was the same guy who once brought a life-sized dummy of Bob Knight to IU basketball games. Later, he bought a talking Bob Knight dummy (it featured G-rated sound bites). He bought two seats near the court –- one for him and one for the dummy. It was a hit. Referees talked to the dummy during timeouts. During a nationally televised game, an announcer came over and did a mock interview.

Those were the days that the Hoosiers were winning championships. You’d like to think those days will soon return.


It looks like football coach Kevin Wilson has his first commitment for the Class of 2012. Matt Weaver of has reported that cornerback Dion Witty from Florida wants to be a Hoosier. He picked IU over Florida, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Central Florida, Michigan, Nebrask and Iowa State. That’s some pretty solid competition.

Witty, who is listed at 5-11 and 175 pounds, has played mainly safety in high school but has the speed and athleticism to handle cornerback.


The blog on Bobby Capobianco leaving IU generated plenty of comments. Not everybody agreed with me, which is as it should be.

Still, here’s the bottom line –- if the Hoosiers are to become a perennial championship program, the talent level has to improve and coach Tom Crean has to maximize it.

Was Capobianco the kind of player to help get IU where it wants to go? No. Could he thrive at a mid-major school? Absolutely, but he has a lot of work to do. He’ll have a redshirt year. He has to make the most of it and it starts, but certainly doesn’t end, by not fouling.

The Hoosiers, meanwhile, need difference-making big men. Cody Zeller appears to be one, but as a freshman, he’ll have growing pains. In a year or two, look out. Senior Tom Pritchard, in particular, needs to step up.

In the meantime, IU is still recruiting power forward Mitch McGary, one of the nation's best big men in the Class of 2012.

We’re about to start Crean’s fourth year and there’s no reason why, barring some major injuries, the Hoosiers can’t make a postseason tourney next season. There’s enough talent and experience to have a winning record.

1 comment:

  1. I remember Spiece coming out on stilts during games and throwing t-shirts...and as a former Fort Waynian, his amazing IU/Spiece Jeans commericals.