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Sunday, May 16, 2021

IU athletic administration needs an overhaul

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Basketball at Indiana University has always been more important than academics to many of the so-called people in charge in Bloomington, but it’s that way at most colleges where the program is viewed as a revenue center as opposed to being part of the athletic department.

While that’s a column for another day, if you don’t see it that way, then evidently you’ve been asleep at the wheel for the last 25 years or so.

If that statement in itself is enough to trigger more hate emails to yours truly, then stop and take a good look at the alleged philanthropic money that jettisoned Archie Miller from his job as men’s basketball coach.

While his winning percentage was more than enough reason in today’s cutthroat business of major college basketball for his dismissal, the real question is why he was ever hired to begin with.

If IU is such a hoops Shangri-La, how did a good man who was basically unproven by today’s ridiculous coaching standards get the keys handed to him, told to ignore the ghost of Bob Knight swirling in the rafters and to get out there and win a championship for old IU?

It’s really quite simple if you look at the history of it all.

The athletic administration at IU hasn’t had the type of pedigree it takes to recognize and secure big time coaching for over three decades now. Sound harsh?

Not really, especially when you look at the revolving door the athletic director’s office has been. There’s been so many at the helm l had to stop and think about it to remember them all.

From Bill Orwig (who hired Bob Knight) and Ralph Floyd (who babysat him), there once was some competency in the department. Clarence Donniger (who now looks like the best of the bunch in retrospect) served faithfully and with dignity, but we must not forget the ill-fated terms of Michael McNeely, Terry Clapacs, Rick Greenspan and Fred Glass. All of these individuals were adequate administrators (less McNeely), but none of them could select a coach to save themselves.

Glass did pluck Kevin Wilson away from Oklahoma to coach football but then wilted when the same gruff guy he interviewed allegedly went off the rails. Wilson landed at Ohio State as its offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer, so just maybe Glass was wrong on that one too. Let the guy coach like he has historically or don’t hire him. Sounds logical to me, but apparently not to the Bloomington brass.

Greenspan backpedaled on Kelvin Sampson then used a search firm to lasso Tom Crean, who was fired by university President Michael McRobbie after big donors got in his ear.

Sure, Glass wanted to give Crean one more year, but when it came down to his job or Crean’s, he toed the company line and executed McRobbie’s decision as if it were his own.

Enter the current sheriff in town, Scott Dolson. After serving as Glass’ deputy, he has now been on the job long enough to overpay head football coach Tom Allen and clean up the mess that Glass created with the Archie Miller hiring. If l sound critical of it all, you’re right. However, it’s not the coaches they’ve overpaid and then fired who are at fault.

It’s the athletic directors who hired them. With a profound lack of core competency in the building, their beloved basketball program has been relegated to simply another second-tier program trying to climb out of mediocrity and find some sense of relevance.

Now they’re banking on an inexperienced Dolson to recruit the next big name in college hoops. He’s a good person by all accounts and like those before him has been instrumental in fundraising and developing new facilities.

Can he lure the talented basketball coach his boosters covet? No, and he too will be designated to follow his predecessors out the door.

One thing is for certain: IU will overpay its new basketball coach, and l suggest he rents a home instead of buying one. They’ll run another bad hire right out of town with a handsome buyout, and maybe then they’ll realize it’s time to invest in a great athletic director instead.

Danny Bridges, who thinks the ADs he’s skewered in this piece are all good men but lousy at recruiting coaches, can be reached at 317-370-8447 or at bridgeshd@aol.com.

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