EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally alleged that Eli Holman threw a potted plant at Dan Dakich (who went 3-4 as a coach at IU) when, in fact, Eli Holman threw a potted plant at Tom Crean. This article has been corrected. Crimson Quarry regrets nothing. -ks
As August draws to a close and Fall is within reach, the time has come again to find hope for what the next nine months of watching some form of the Indiana Hoosiers will bring. A bowl game, a ninth star, a sixth banner - every year around this time, the sky becomes the limit for what we believe the cream and crimson can achieve.
This year in particular, there are plenty of things to excite Indiana fans. Tom Allen brings back his starting quarterback and a much-improved offense to face a schedule that conceivably features as many as eight or nine winnable games. The hirings of volleyball coach Steve Aird and baseball coach Jeff Mercer have people around the athletic department convinced that the former will build a top-notch program from the ground up and that the latter will be a mainstay for years who will use a lot of home-grown talent to take the club back to Omaha and regularly make waves nationally.
There’s the second-ranked men’s soccer team. There’s Lily King. And, of course, there’s Romeo Langford.
But the beginning of this athletic year marks more than just the typical optimism that comes with squinting at the football schedule and convincing yourself they can win seven or eight games, and even more than the not-so-typical excitement that comes with one of the one-and-done freshmen phenoms just a couple months from blowing the roof off of Assembly Hall. Why? Because Fred Glass’s vision has become a reality.
When Glass stepped onto campus on January 1, 2009, to become Indiana University’s Vice President and Director of Athletics, the athletics programs were reeling. The men’s basketball team was in the midst of Tom Crean’s inaugural season, a 6-25 campaign that saw the fewest wins since the 1915-16 season when the Hoosiers won six games, though they played just 13. The football program had returned back to earth from the 2007 “Play 13” season to go just 3-9 under Bill Lynch in 2008. Even the fabled men’s soccer program struggled to meet its extraordinary standards, going just 14-7-3 and finishing 4th in the Big Ten.
The other programs? Women’s swimming and diving claimed a Big Ten title and placed 10th in the NCAA Championships, but there was nothing else to write home about. Aside from the successes of that program - the only team on campus to win a Big Ten title in their final season before Glass arrived - the men’s basketball program’s 2007-2008 season was probably the most successful run any team had immediately prior to Glass accepting the position, and that particular season was why he found himself in Bloomington.
By now, it is beyond well-documented. Kelvin Sampson cheated and got himself run out of town. Blake Hoffarber at the buzzer and laying an egg against Arkansas. Crean and Crimson. However you wish to remember it, it was a disaster.
Glass certainly had his work cut out for him. Beyond the problems on the fields and courts, Indiana athletics had an image problem, that dated back to Bobby Knight - it wasn’t a good place to play. It had a support problem - stadiums sat half-empty or worse, including Assembly Hall at the time. And it had a facilities problem - remember the final years Sembower Field? Yikes.
Step by step, Glass fixed almost all of it. Renovations to Assembly Hall, additions to Memorial Stadium, a $17 million volleyball arena to replace U gym, a new baseball and softball complex, and millions of dollars in renovations coming to the golf course to fix the facilities problems. The Student-Athlete Bill of Rights to fix the perception of whether people should send their kids to play sports in Bloomington, including the guarantee that any scholarship athlete can finish their degree. New technologies, more spending, the Excellence Academy, the WNIT, capital campaigns, etc. - the list goes on and on.
And from that list, Fred Glass has built quite the legacy. He has dragged Indiana University’s athletic department into the 21st century, giving the programs what they need to recruit and complete in facilities, demonstrating a commitment to the well-being of student-athletes (firing Kevin Wilson and implementing the policy disqualifying prospective student-athletes with records of sexual violence comes to mind), and improving the fan experience with new suits, seats, and tailgates.
Glass knows it, too. Speaking on the completion of the Excellence Academy, he told the Indianapolis Star that “this is the culmination of what [Indiana has] really been trying to do to catch up, if you will, from an athletics facilities perspective.” Really, it’s among the final steps in the total transformation that Glass needed to make happen starting in 2009.
But there is still one thing that Fred Glass’s athletic department needs to do:
The shiny recruits, like Mr.’s Basketball and Football, are nice to land. The shiny buildings are even better as they’ll stand the test of time far better than the players who come and go (unless they can hang a banner). But what will it all matter if the results don’t also glisten?
This is not an indictment of Glass. As previously mentioned, he inherited an absolute mess. And the results have certainly improved in the last decade. The football team has qualified for two bowl games. The baseball team made an unprecedented trip to Omaha and regularly competes to host NCAA regionals. The men’s soccer program added an eighth star and a national runner-up. Even the men’s basketball program’s paltry 177-143 record since Glass arrived is better than what could have been imagined in January 2009.
But has it really been enough? That’s up for each to decide on his own. But if the results don’t soon improve across the board, save men’s soccer, and particularly in the big two - football and men’s basketball - Glass’s lasting legacy will only be about the buildings erected, the cameras capturing thousands of images each second, and the student-athlete experience.
That’s not to belittle any of those things. Again, Glass has singlehandedly dragged Indiana athletics into the 21st century, and when it comes to the health, safety, and futures of student-athletes, what he’s accomplished should not, and hopefully cannot, ever be diminished.
But this is still sports. Winning matters. And winning is the only thing Glass has left to do.