The Indiana Hoosiers are the scourge of the Big 10 football conference. No two ways around it. Their performance in the last 20 years sits the Cream and Crimson with the bottomfeeders of BCS football, Duke (14 straight losing seasons) and Vanderbilt (broke their 25 year streak of losing seasons in 2008). The last 12 months have been a microcosm of the constant letdowns and horrendous play that Bloomington residents have become accustomed to. After the 2007 team turned out a 7-6 record complete with bowl appearance and a couple All-Big 10 performers, the 2008 team was a disoriented, injury riddled mess that suffered seven double-digit losses.
Your 2009 Indiana Hoosiers
As one reader suggested, the best way to help Indiana football is to reassign them to the MAC. But since the Hoosiers bring so much tradition and money on the basketball side of things, I assume they have to keep playing in the Big Eleven. Something can be done to remedy this mediocrity, no? Or should teams rejoice in having a comfortable doormat to register a yearly win against?
Indiana isn't exactly a bastion of football tradition. Their last Big 10 title was in 1967 (shared) and the program has suffered through a couple 10 year streaks of losing seasons ('69-'78, '95-'06). The somewhat forgettable Memorial Stadium was upgraded to 50,000+ capacity in 1995, but filling it is another story. Can you name the most successful or memorable Hoosier player of the last 20 years? Anthony Thompson, Heisman runner-up, and Antwaan Randle El, 2001 Big 10 POY, are about the best I can do...And Randle El never even quarterbacked a winning team.
Bad Fortune Sucks
The recent departure of athlete Kellen Lewis is part of a long line momentum killing events that impacted this football program. This from John at Crimson Quarry, the SBN Indiana University blog:
Just two years after leading IU to its only undefeated seasons and only outright Big Ten championship (1945), Bo McMillin went to the Detroit Lions, and IU football returned to obscurity. A couple of years after John Pont led IU to an improbable Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth (1967), the team fell apart because of racial strife. After two promising years at the helm, Terry Hoeppner, who seemed born to coach at IU and had revived the program on and off the field and in the stands, died of cancer.
Hoeppner's death and the subsequent 2008 implosion were truly backbreaking events for a team that had moved itself into the local and national eye during Hoeppner's cancer saga. This IU team, boasting two well known playmakers in Lewis and DE Greg Middleton, suffered through some big losses and with nary a big time recruiting class on the horizon, the future looks dim...and it doesn't help that...
The Fans Suck
Bloomington is a great college town, full of rolling hills and partying college students. The walk down to Memorial on a Saturday is beautiful and the tailgating is tremendous. But as John from Crimson Quarry expounded in his "sometimes I hate my school" rant, when 25,000 people sit in Memorial Stadium and 10,000 tailgate outside the stadium but do not attend the game, the sticker of apathy and mediocrity is instantly attached to this Hoosier program. As Oops Pow Surprise commented so gracefully:
Wow. That shit should never fly at a Big Ten school.
And he's right. Whether you are criticizing Big 10 football for being too traditional or lauding it for its tradition, obvious credit is being given to this conference for being steeped in years of football play and passion. IU fans have failed, on numerous levels, to buy into this enthusiasm.
Talent isn't going to gravitate towards Bloomington because of the numerous other high level choices nearby (Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Purdue, Ohio State), plus Indiana high school football does not generate nearly the amount of talent that comes from Pennsylvania and Ohio. So what will key a resurgence for this moribound program? Two things can't hurt:
1) An excellent coach. The Bill Mallory led teams of the late 1980's and early 1990's were known for exceeding expectations, while the popular Randle El teams played with passion and obvious enthusiasm. A firebrand coach can trigger that kind of play and so far Bill Lynch hasn't shown to be that kind of inspiring figure.
2) Setting goals. Sure it sounds like a bullshit motivational ploy from Office Space, but the Indiana teams need a realistic objective. Instead of posting WERE BACK MOFOS LOOK OUT FOR IU 09 as their facebook status or getting in Twitter fights, IU coaches and players need to take stock of what they have (pistol formation, poor to mediocre talent) and manage it accordingly. Last year, the constant quarterback changes and injuries scrapped any sence of cohesion. A goal like "eight Big Ten wins in three years" sounds somewhat attainable.
John gave IU only 1 cigar (the lowest rating) when judging its 2009 prospects, citing a lack of playmakers on both sides of the ball. And that was before Lewis was dismissed. Hopefully this year will show a healthier, cohesive team with a sense of purpose, or Jim Delany might take a page from the English Premier League and relegate the Hoosiers.
(huge thanks to Crimson Quarry and FSUncensored of Tomahawk Nation)