After a day of trying to put together thoughts more complex than, "ZOMG! THIS IS AWESOME!" it is time to put into perspective what the commitment of the top rated QB in the nation to lowly Indiana means in the grand scheme of things. Many would like to proclaim that this is the dawning of a new era where we go to BCS championship games and Rose Bowls. Even with the chance of Ohio State toiling in NCAA exile for the next few years that is a huge jump to make from one very good recruit coming to campus. What does this commitment mean for Indiana though?
First and foremost the recruitment of Gunner Kiel immediately validates Fred Glass as an Athletic Director. Since his appearance on campus as the head honcho of the athletic department, nothing but great things have been happening at Indiana. He did not have a direct tie into hiring Tom Crean, but he has been instrumental in acquiring the infrastructure (Cook Hall) around him to help in the recruiting boom Crean has seen in the last year. Glass has seen 94% of his athletes under his tenure graduate with a degree. Most importantly for the football program, Glass was able to pry Kevin Wilson away from Oklahoma and give the dreadful football program a shot in the arm. Glass along with Wilson have taken great strides in just a few short months of giving this program it has always been lacking, potential.
Secondly, Kiel’s choice validates Coach Kevin Wilson before he even coaches his first game at Indiana. In 45 days Wilson went from zero 2012 recruits to 15, with Kiel being the cherry on top. His ability to inject excitement into the fan base that hasn’t been seen in nearly a decade will be instrumental in bring this program to any sort of national respectability. Coach Wilson merely has to do OK this season to bring the state of Indiana’s attention to a program that has rarely claimed excitement from its built in fan base. With any success Wilson will be harassed on every street corner of Indiana (be careful what you wished for Coach).
Gunner Kiel was trending globally yesterday. That says a lot about the Indiana University fan base that stays in the parking lot and drinks instead of going into the stadium for games, they want a reason to get excited. Kiel is that reason. I lost count of how many tweets from the IU faithful I saw yesterday claiming they were buying season tickets for 2011. 2011! A year before "the savior" sets foot on campus. All you have to do to reacquire the faith of the IU base is to show you are trending in a positive direction. There has been no reason to believe that was the case in the last several years, so the fans became apathetic. The Kiel storm yesterday showed that this fan base isn’t the Tampa Bay Rays on college football. If the team is competent the fans will be there. Just show that there is a chance of victory and more butts will be in the seats.
From a team standpoint, Gunner Kiel, showed that it is OK for a talented high school football player to come to Indiana. Much like Cody Zeller has done for the basketball program with his commitment, they both have done tons for a program before they even play their first game. Athletes from all over Indiana validated this via Twitter yesterday. I even saw a running back from Indianapolis tweet that he wants an offer from Indiana now. That momentum alone is huge. Indiana has become, overnight, a program that is going to receive attention in the media and blogosphere. Many will follow Indiana so they can point and laugh if Kiel comes to IU and they are still terrible. Others will be tracking IU to be the first to proclaim them a capable football team. Either way, because of Kiel, the world took notice and so did talented football players.
So how does this all pan out? We can’t tell. The commitment of Kiel to the Hoosiers means nothing for the success of the football team immediately. They will likely struggle in 2011 to make a bowl game, but what you should take notice in is the chance that Indiana football has a positive future. There is a great chance Gunner makes zero difference at Indiana. Temper your expectations, Coach Wilson still needs time. BUT take heart in the fact that Indiana football is relevant and is in a very good position to be more than relevant in the future. Which is more than they could have claimed before yesterday.