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Roundtable: Which IU figure is deserving of a statue?

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IU has recently gotten into the statue game, with Isiah Thomas and George Taliaferro among those immortalized on the athletics campus. Who could be next?

A statue of Isiah Thomas stands in the South lobby of Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. It was one of five sculptures installed in the area back in 2017.
Auston Matricardi

Auston Matricardi: Earlier this week, legendary Notre Dame women’s basketball coach Muffet McGraw announced she’s retiring after a 33-year career. While riding the wave of tweets that followed, I saw some discussion as to not if, but when McGraw will be given a statue in South Bend and that got me thinking about that statues, and more specifically the potential statues, IU has erected and could erect moving forward. The latter is what we’ll discuss here, serving up some options that we feel to be worthy. Before that, however, I’ll run through. the figures who have been honored with statues by IU already, so to give us a reference point as far as what could make somebody worthy: George Taliaferro, Isiah Thomas, Bill Garrett and Branch McCracken, Steve Alford and Keith Smart, Everett Dean and, of course, the NCAA’s #1 All-Time March Madness Team — the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. With those figures in mind, who do you guys think could potentially be worth a similar honor?

Mike Miller: I’ve been thinking about this for two years and my answer is simple: Bill Mallory. He’s the greatest coach in IU football history — low bar, but still — and, maybe most importantly, he was just a complete person. I mean, the guy loved IU so much he stayed in Bloomington after he was fired, investing in the school and the community across the 22 years following his removal. He watched damn near every game from the press box until his death in 2018, and he’s basically the standard for what IU wants its coaches to be. And he won more games than any other IU coach. 69 of them, in fact. I mean, IU actually had the first coach to win the Big Ten Coach of the Year award in back to back seasons!

AM: Hang a banner in Memorial Stadium, in my opinion.

Andy Wittry: This is a great question. I feel like, generally, if you have to ask if someone deserves a statue then they probably don’t. It’s kind of a Jacobellis v. Ohio, you-know-it-when-you-see-it situation. In a perfect world, you probably want a statue to be for more than just [caveman voice] sportsman did good thing with the sports ball. That’s how your childhood hero ends up getting Milkshake Duck’d after they weigh in on some political matter that they shouldn’t after they knock back a couple of rum and cokes, and log onto twitter dot com. That’s why George Taliaferro and Bill Garrett are two great precedents – they represent so much more than just on-field or on-court success. Taliaferro was the first African-American drafted in the NFL and Garrett was the first African-American to play in the Big Ten. The ones that come to mind are Jerry Yeagley, arguably the greatest college soccer coach ever, Mark Spitz, an Olympic legend, and Lilly King’s finger wag in the 2016 Olympics was internationally celebrated. Finger-wagging a Russian who was caught cheating after kicking her ass in the pool? That’s something out of Rocky or Miracle. Also shoutout to the Eye on College Basketball podcast, those guys always said IU should build a statue of Crean cutting down the nets after a home loss on senior night.

MM: My other choice is Eli Holman throwing a potted plant at Crean in 2008. It basically set the tone for what was an absolutely wild coaching run.

AW: If we’re going into meme territory, Zander doing the Conor McGregor walk against Utah has to be included.

AM: I was thinking similarly to Mike and had a coach as my top, no-doubt choice, but I actually had Jerry Yeagley in mind. Like Andy mentioned he’s arguably the greatest coach in the history of college soccer. He took IU men’s soccer from a club to a varsity program, then shaped the Hoosiers into a national power year in and year out, winning national championship after national championship. He retired after the 2003 season after bringing a sixth national title to Bloomington, but he’s been around the program in the years since. He’s still got a seat in the press box and you’ll see him out at practice sometimes hanging out in a golf cart or a lawn chair, watching his son’s squad get some work in.

AW: Cement this into Assembly Hall forever.

AM: Andy mentioned a couple of other names that I had on my list as well — Mark Spitz and Lilly King. Of course they both not only represented IU in the pool, but the United States as well. It’s pretty well-documented that Spitz is one of the greatest Olympians of all-time and may have been THE greatest for years before Michael Phelps did his thing in London and Rio. King’s moment in Rio went viral and, frankly, it ruled. Immortalizing the finger wag wouldn’t bother me in the slightest.

MM:The finger wag would make for an incredible statue. It might even be the best answer to this question.

AW: When the Roy’s gameday “deal” is a 16 oz bud light aluminum bottle for $10

AM: My shortlist had one more name on it. He might not have won a national championship, but he did put IU baseball on the map which is why I think Kyle Schwarber may be worthy of a trophy. He’s the most iconic figure related to a program that’s slowly becoming more and more visible at the national level. Also, maybe you add in Sam Travis and do a Bash Bros. statue.

MM: YES! but only if longtime Bloomington Herald-Times photog Chris Howell is paid handsomely for originally snapping that photo of Schwarber and Travis

AM:#paychrishowell

AW: Throw in noted online Call of Duty player Tracy Smith. A statue for the Gamers, the real athletes of the Spring of 2020.

MM: A mural of IU baseball coaches would be perfect: Tracy playing COD, Lemonis wearing his bucket hat, Mercer chopping down a tree.

AM: Add in Bob Morgan riding his bike around campus and we may have something here.

AW: Wouldn’t be opposed to this moment being memorialized forever. Lee Corso stunting on a 7-6 lead, only to get obliterated

AW: Just thought of another — when the recruiting class after The Movement spent welcome week dunking on random kids with a mini hoop on Fee Lane and filming it, giving D*n D*kich an hourlong segment about their maturity

AM: (galaxy brain) what if...they built a statue of D*n D*kich guarding Michael Jordan. Y’all remember when he did that? It happened.

AW: Maybe Jordan is going to attempt a Nike/LeBron coverup like when (former Hoosier Hysteria dunk contest winner) Jordan Crawford dunked on LeBron at that mini camp and they tried to delete the footage. The Last Dance just says that MJ left UNC after his sophomore year and D*kich is incredulous.

MM:--- extremely d*kich voice --- “it happened, jason! c’mon! and by the way, kids today are so soft and fred glass does all he can to make them softer”

Jason Benetti: “Iowa leads Illinois here, 23-14, with 9:23 to go in the half”

AM: Not that we need ~another~ IU basketball statue when they just threw up a million of them, but obviously the Wat Shot is a moment that is in that stratosphere, at least in more recent history. I’m sure that @BBNBoy42069 would tweet angrily asking why IU is so obsessed with “the cayuts,” which really would be the only downside.

MM:Only if we somehow get CREANFACE alongside Watford

AW: No one is still reading this so I’d like to submit myself. I sent my team to the 2015 intramural dodgeball playoffs at the SRSC by wall-jumping over a belt-high fastball, picking up a ball to hit the kid who threw at me, hiding behind his body after he fell then hitting his teammate for the win. We did it while wearing Hawaiian shirts then got like seventh place, otherwise known as the IU experience in the Maui Invitational

AM: Woof. On that note...do you guys have any other entrants for consideration?

MM: Yes. This absolute unit right here.

MM: Put this bad boy on a perch overtop the south end zone patio so he can sit there and watch IU football with this expression in perpetuity. Consider it a pensive, self-loathing IUFB gargoyle.

AM: Do we want to try to find some sort of consensus?

MM: We can do a consensus. I think Lilly King would get all of our votes, perhaps.

AM: Lilly King Finger Wag is easily the best potential statue we’ve come up with just in terms of what it would actually look like. My gut says Jerry Yeagley though.

MM: Wow

AM: Andy what do you think?

AW: This is the wrong question to ask as we’re trying to wrap up but it’s a question of what the statue represents or the physical appearance. Lilly King’s finger wag is probably the most symbolic moment frozen in time, but IU is arguably more of a soccer school than a basketball school (ducks, sprints to tornado shelter) and that’s only possible because of Yeagley.

MM: Alright, fine. Because my Mallory nomination was more about what the statue represents, then I suppose I have to be consistent here. Yeagley is more than deserving.

AM: There it is.

AM: The Godfather of IU Soccer, immortalized in bronze or whatever. A lot of good options are out there, but I think we came to a pretty solid conclusion which means, of course, folks will be mad at us.

MM: That’s what we’re here for!