Thursday, April 30, 2009

Elite football AND basketball?

The reaction to Kellen Lewis' dismissal from the Hoosier football team was not surprising. Most of my friends said they weren't expecting a good season with Lewis on the team. And to be honest I wasn't at all optimistic either.

But it led me to ask something:

Why can't Indiana University field top-tier football AND basketball teams?

It has happened. Florida held the Division I football and men's basketball titles in 2007. Ohio State of the Big Ten has built a contender in men's basketball to go along with the resurrected football program.

The IU football program doesn't have a stellar reputation. But it can be improved with a staff that is enthusiastic and good at recruiting. It also will require a little luck, like a win over a Top 10 team, as well as consistent improvement. I'm not talking about a Rose Bowl berth every year, but I am talking about hovering around .500 record or better every year.

A team that can win seven games every year at some point is going to get that big win (Ole Miss over Florida last year, or Illinois over Ohio State in 2007) and vaults them to national prominence.

Indiana University is capable of fielding that kind of team. It has the resources to do it, and I'm not talking about a new stadium. Michigan produced a quality football team for decades playing in the same bowl. I'm talking about know-how in the athletic department.

IU doesn't even have to give up its academic standards to produce a winner. Northwestern and USC proved that. That road has already been paved. The real question is why hasn't IU taken it over the last 10 years?

Do I expect IU to consistently produce a BCS and Final Four contender? No. But we can have winning teams. We can sell out Memorial Stadium. We can play in more than one bowl game a decade.

Am I making an unreasonable request?


T.J. said...

At what cost? Right now, I'd say the university's priorities are (in this order):

1) Re-establishing prominence in business, music, science and fine arts;
2) Upgrade of academic facilities;
3) Retention of first-year students (attrition rate is not good);
4) Provide a meaningful journalism curriculum for students going into industry in upheaval.
5) Rebuild culture of integrity of athletic departments;
6) Re-establish national prominence of men's basketball program (this is IU's athletics' brand)
7) Build attendance at IU home football games (put a competitive team on the field, make game days more enticing);
8) Build Top 25 football program.

I would rather see IU accomplish the first 6 than the last two.

Derrick said...

The first five don't influence the last three. Athletics operates on a separate plane. And besides, the two can flourish together, not necessarily one over the other.

T.J. said...

Wrong! When the athletics department runs a deficit, who picks up the tab?

Ask the students from 2000-2004.

Derrick said...

So are you saying IU should be promoting athletics in addition to academics? I thought that's what I said.