The Plane Has Crashed Into The Mountain

 

Holy Crap! Where do you even begin to parse the gigantic tire fire that is the Indiana Basketball program right now? (Parsing a Tire Fire might be the most non-sensical thing I’ve ever written. I fear this is a harbinger of things to come in this column)

I guess I’ll start with what I’m not going to do right now.

What I’m Not Doing

I’m not going to call for Tom Crean to be fired.

And let’s be clear, it’s not because I don’t think that might be what needs to, or will eventually happen. I just don’t think it’s an original position to take, and people in the media, on twitter, and on their own award-deserving websites, can, have, and will claim that corner. I’m also not certain at this point that it’s a likely scenario, at least not prior to Thursdays game.

I should point out right now that any number of press releases, police reports, breaking news articles, or drunken basketball players could happen in the 30-45 seconds after I write and post this, so anything could happen at this point. And that could fundamentally change what I think is realistic, reasonable, necessary or justified. Case in point, Gregg Doyel wrote a piece and went on Dakich’s show yesterday to support the notion that if one more thing happens then Crean has to go. And then one more thing happened, so Doyel wrote a piece saying that Crean has got to go. Reasonable and consistent positions to take in light of new information.

But, as of last night Athletic Director, Fred Glass, said “I’m confident Tom is part of the solution not even part of the problem.”

More on Fred Glass later.

But, for now,  let’s start by talking about responsibility.

Resonsibility

Who is responsible for all that has happened since last February?

I think there’s a ton of responsibility to be had here. First and foremost, these kids made these choices. They got fake ideas and tried to get into a bar. They were asses to cops. They drove drunk. They walked out in front of a moving vehicle. They failed multiple drug tests. They ran over a teammate. Each of the people who did those things bears the responsibility for those actions. Tom Crean can do whatever he wants and in the end, these kids have to make better choices.

And let’s dispense, right now, with any notion that this is normal college behavior. I’m done with that. No one is saying that drinking isn’t happening or going to happen on a college campus, or that basketball players aren’t allowed to have fun. But do me a favor, think back on your college experience and all the drinking and partying and trying to get booze before you turned 21 (and after) and then ask yourself how many times you were arrested or drove drunk or ran over someone, or looked at a cop and said, “oooh, jaiiiiil.” (I’ve not heard that Yogi or Stan said that, but a drunk date of a friend of mine did right before she was arrested for underage drinking.) Those things are not normal and should not be tolerated. Not by you, by me, by the coach, the administration, or the players.

Add to that simple, basic, fact that getting arrested or running over someone is abnormal for you, average college student this: THESE ARE NOT AVERAGE COLLEGE STUDENTS!

The Batman Gotham Deserves

These guys are symbols.

And a symbol has to be better than the average person. To kids, these guys are legends and heroes. To an 8 year old, an IU basketball player holds a meaning that no one else can hold. And sometimes, as adults, we forget that.

And to adults, these guys are the current embodiment of the joys of our childhood, and for some, a way to find a level of athletic success that was never possible for them. To anyone who pays to go to IU games or watches them on TV religiously, these guys are not just 18-22 year old young men. They are a symbol of what we have been, what we can become, and what we aspire to be.

And our symbols cannot drink and get into trouble.

There’s a reason Batman doesn’t prank call Commissioner Gordon when he’s had a few too many.

More Responsibility

You know who else is responsible?

Tom Crean is absolutely responsible for creating a culture in which this kind of behavior is allowed to happen. Because one of two things is true. Either, these kids were idiots when he recruited them and he didn’t see it, or they’re decent human beings and he has failed to teach them the power, responsibility, and required behavior of their position within the Indiana Basketball program.

Either of those things is a failing on his part.

I don’t know any of these kids personally, so I can’t say whether they are good or bad people. But I can say that too many of them have made terrible decisions and nothing that has been done to any of them has dissuaded the others from making similar terrible decisions.

Here I will stipulate that I know nothing about the behind the scenes discipline that Hanner, Yogi, Stan, Troy, and Stan again received for the things they did in the winter, spring, and summer of 2014. But it didn’t work.

Hanner got two games for drunk driving. Yogi and Stan won’t miss a game because of their Little 500 escapades, and Troy and Stan are only getting two real games. Is it just me, or does it seem nuts that Stan, a repeat offender or stupid substance decisions gets the same penalty as Troy. Shouldn’t Stan’s go up with his recidivism? Should Stan still be a Hoosier?

I’m not into prescribing punishment, as there is so much about the inner workings of these situations that I don’t know, but heretofore these measures have not been enough. Maybe it’s time to step it up a bit? Just a thought.

Look, kids, and adults for that matter, will do exactly as much as you will let them get away with. On your first day as a sales associate at Nordstrom you told a customer to cram it with walnuts, and your supervisor doesn’t take you aside and rip you a new one, you will do that again. And if your colleagues see you getting away with that, they’ll do it too. And pretty soon, Nordstrom isn’t known for stellar customer service. They’re known for being asses. That’s how cultures change for the negative.

And last year, apparently, Jeremy Hollowell failed drug tests and was arrested twice. I’m just hearing about this now as a rumor that people in Bloomington knew. Hanner got two games for a OWI. Yogi and Stan got no games. Is it any wonder that Stan and Troy failed multiple drug tests. The message had been sent that it’s ok to do that.

That’s how the culture changed.

That is on Crean. %100,000.

But It’s Worse Than That for Tom Crean

Crean now has before him an impossible task. He not only has to clean this mess up but he has to simultaneously convince the public that he’s cleaning this mess up.

Fixing a problem this large and systemic is hard. Convincing people that you are fixing it is even harder.

We could go the next nine months with no more off-the-court issues and there will be a large group of people who will not believe that this a sign that things are better. The lack of trust is so great at this point that some will think that more things are just being swept under the rug.

The sad truth is the the absence of something does not prove the presence of its opposite.

Add to that the fact that Crean cannot win his way out of this.

1. Because it’s doubtful that this team will be good enough to win to the level that will make people forget. This team does not have the $200 Gilbert Gottfried had that helped Axel Foley forget he was holding a handful of fake parking tickets.

2. But even if this team was good enough to win like that, it may not be possible. Sampson’s ’08 team was 17-1 to start the season and got two huge wins and one loss on a banked in 3-pointer in the week he was being negotiated out of the state. Let’s not forget that.

3. The hurt is too deep and too fresh for fans. After Kelvin Sampson, the one thing that was non-negotiable was to run a program we could all be proud of. Who’s feeling proud right now? Crean dug us out of the darkest possible place, and we were feeling pretty great about ourselves there for a minute. But in the seven years Crean has been here fixing things, UK has gone to three final fours, won a title, and had far fewer off-the-court issues than we have had. Oh, and Crean and Calipari let the IU v. UK series die. That’s not related, but it’s not forgivable either.

Crean knows what it took to fix the mess he was handed. The fact that he could allow IU basketball to become an embarrassment again is the most damning thing that can be said. You know, aside from complaining about substitution patterns.

Credit Where It’s Due

It could be argued that Crean has earned the benefit of the doubt here.

No one is suggesting that he’s made beer runs for the guys or held a team meeting to demonstrate the finer points of shotgunning a Natty Light. He knows this is a problem and he’s certainly standing taller in the face of it than did his predecessor. And he’s done a lot of good.

The APR scores have been perfect for years. He’s developed some players into legitimate pros who represent IU basketball very well, and he returned IU to #1 status for much of 2012-2013.

Plus, You Can Tell He’s Pissed

Did you see his reaction to Sage Steele’s question during Hoosier Hysteria about what great young men these players are? He shut her down and changed the subject in a shockingly abrupt way. No other way to read that than that he rejected the premise of her question and didn’t want to talk about it at center court of Assembly Hall. It was odd, and awkward and confusing without context.

It makes a ton of sense now.

But I’m pissed about lots of things (it’s part of my charm) and I have no idea how to fix them.

Crean says all of the right things, but it’s time for some action that produces results. Because he can’t just fix it. He has to prove to us that he’s fixing it.

Even More Responsibility

I’ve largely been pretty pro-Fred Glass. Hell, anyone who eats at the Irish Lion on game day can’t be all bad. And while Adam is still holding some resentment over a promised-yet-never-delivered glass of lemonade, I’ve had no such problems with his tenure. And he’s tried to do some things to boost the entire athletic department.

But right now, his basketball team is a public embarrassment off the court and an under-performing group on the court, and his football team is so bad even Indiana Football fans think it’s bad.

At what point do we look at Glass and say, “Explain yourself. This place has gone to shit in the last couple of years and your name is on the door.”

While I think it’s a distinct possibility that Tom Crean won’t coach IU beyond this year, Fred Glass finding himself on the job market prior to Thanksgiving seems extremely likely to me. Things can’t be this big of a mess under your watch.

The Value of Peer Pressure

Remember in Father of the Bride when George first meets Annie’s fiancee? Brian and Annie are leaving to go to the movie and George suggests she take a jacket?

George: Annie, it’s a little nippy out, you might want to put on a sweater.

Annie: Dad, it’s okay, I’m kinda warm.

George: Still, there’s a chill in the air and you’ve been on a plane.

Annie: Dad, I’m fine.

Bryan: Annie, it is kinda cold out.

Annie: It is?

Bryan: Yeah.

Annie: All right, thanks, I’ll get my jacket.

If anything has a chance to break through to this group of kids who seem hell-bent on getting kicked out of school and getting their coach run out of town, it might just be Brian telling them it’s kind of cold out.

They’re not listening to Crean, or the other coaches, or their parents. Maybe getting publicly and privately called out by Cody Zeller, Derek Elston, Jordan Hulls, Bobby Capobianco, Peter Jurkin, and Will Sheehy might do something. This is not the same as Dan Dakich telling them what it was like in his day, or Quinn Buckner talking about Coach Knight and the ’76 team. These are their peers, guys they played with, telling them that they’re acting like ass-baskets and to quit embarrassing themselves and us.

There is quite obviously no positive leadership on the team. The two eldest statesmen, Yogi and Hanner have led this group by their actions. When both of your upperclassmen have been arrested this calendar year, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot to look up to. Yogi needs to learn how to be a positive example, and it seems he needs to learn it the hard way.

I’m all for the public shaming from our recent alumni. And the fact that it’s already started gives me a small sliver of hope that all is not yet lost.

Our Dilemma

So, what now for us, Hoosier fans and season ticket holders?

This is tricky. In ’08, not knowing what was going on behind the scenes and laying all the blame on Sampson, I found a way to still cheer for the team. But right now, the players are most of the problem. It’s going to be hard to get into supporting this team when half of them have been on the wrong side of illegal substances since February.

I followed the news as it broke last night while standing in line at FedEx to pick up my season tickets. I have real doubts whether I’ll open them.

You wanna send a statement? How about all season ticket holders no show for Thursday’s game?

People will do what you tolerate, and if we all continue to support this team financially, we’re sending the message that on some level, we’re ok with this.

I have faith that IU Basketball can once again be what it should be. I don’t know if it will be with Tom Crean as the coach, but I’m not going to return my season tickets and demand a refund, because that hurts me long term in my quest for decent seats int he future, but I don’t know how interested I am in actually using them this year.

If we can pull off a White Out, we could certainly pull off a no show.

This one’s easy for me. I’m already not going on Thursday. It’s far too long a drive for a Thursday exhibition game. So, let’s just say I’m not going because of deeply held moral principals and I want to send a message. You can do the same.

Jeff Taylor