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?

No Kellen Lewis TD catches this year

IU announced yesterday that former QB Kellen Lewis has been kicked off the football team.

Lewis had switched to wide receiver for the upcoming season, allowing Ben Chappell to take over at QB.

This obviously diminishes the Hoosiers' talent level, but another dismal season appeared imminent anyway.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hoosiers did not fair well on draft day

After a year where two Hoosiers were drafted in the second round of the NFL draft, IU had no players drafted this year.

Five players were on the board, including wide receiver Andrew Means, running back Marcus Thigpen and kicker Austin Starr.

This doesn't mean none of them will end up in the NFL, but it certainly is a lot tougher to make a team as an undrafted free agent.

By comparison, Ohio State had seven players drafted, Penn State had five. Northwestern and Minnesota also were shut out, but West Texas A&M had one player drafted: quarterback Keith Null, who was taken by the Rams in the sixth round. Null threw for nearly 5,100 yards and 48 touchdowns last season, averaging 392 yards per game.

What does this mean for the IU program? Probably not much. As was noted, some much better Big Ten programs had no players drafted. I have to think it doesn't help much for recruiting. Seeing that IU logo appear during the pre-draft process and during the ESPN draft telecast was exciting. I remember how excited I was because IU had a Pro Day in last year.

College football teams can win a lot of games without NFL-calibre talent. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the year IU goes 7-5 -- its first winning season in recent memory -- is the year a defensive back and wide receiver are taken high in the draft.

Are we going to continue seeing no cream and crimson draft picks?