VOL. 25 NO. 36, NOV. 15-21, 2004
BENNER: Boilermakers putting sorry Hoosiers to shame
By Bill Benner
Even in the (very) off chance that Indiana University beats Purdue University and carts the Old Oaken Bucket back to Bloomington, the euphoria should be short-lived and muted. Because the fact is, my dear fellow IU alumni, Purdue is flat kicking our sorry Hoosier tails. In athletics. In academic reputation. In spirit. In image. In fund-raising. In tangibles. In intangibles. It is no contest. IU still has the prettier campus. But that's about it. Academics? Purdue's Krannert School recently received national honors. At Indiana, it's the Party School that gets national acclaim. At Purdue, students prepare to visit outer space. At Indiana,students prepare to get spaced out. Purdue's president, Martin Jischke, against IU's--um,uh, oh yeah--Adam Herbert? Not even close. Hardly a week goes by without Jischke's making news, appearing in the media, trumpeting the latest Boilermaker cause, being presidential. Herbert? Sure, he's still relatively new to the job, but has anyone actually seen him? Athletic directors? Again, not even close. Purdue has Morgan Burke, an alumnus in faithful service to his alma mater, a former athlete, and one smart son of a gun. IU's A.D. is a revolving door, and
the latest to step through is--uh, um, oh yeah--Rick Greenspan, whose connection to the university family comes from a contract, not from the heart. I would have preferred someone who knows the words to the fight song ... or can at least hum it. In sports, it is true IU has claimed the most recent national champion. Thank goodness for (now retired) Jerry Yeagley's soccer program. But overall, in what was known as the "Titan Series" and is now the Crimson and Gold Cup, Purdue has won the last two seasons of all-sports head-to-head competition with the Hoosiers.
When it came to getting rid of legendary coaches, look how that worked out? At IU, the long-overdue firing of Bob Knight was a messy bloodletting that left a house bitterly divided; indeed, some of those divisions remain. And somehow, Steve Alford ended up at the University of Iowa. At Purdue, meanwhile, Gene Keady gets to do a victory lap while Matt Painter, one of his former players, serendipitously waits in the wings. Women's basketball? Again, a huge difference. Purdue dominates, both on its home floor and when the Big Ten women's tournament comes to Indianapolis every March, when hundreds of Boilermaker faithful show up. They believe in and support the women's game. By comparison, you can't get more than a few dozen IU fans to drive downtown and spend 5 bucks to watch Kathi Bennett's Hoosiers. But it is football where the greatest, most obvious and--from the IU perspective--shameful disparity exists. Sure, as of this writing, Purdue has lost four games in a row and a once-promising season is circling the drain. But to lose big games, you first have to play in them, and Joe Tiller has elevated the program to where games of consequence are the rule, not the exception. More than that, however, Purdue is big-time, Big Ten college football as it is supposed to be. A great tailgating atmosphere. Capacity or near-capacity crowds in a newly remodeled stadium with all the state-of-the-art amenities. And Purdue crowds don't just spectate; they participate. There is ritual and unity. At Ross-Ade Stadium, football games are a Boilermaker Family Reunion. Contrast that with the pathetic situation at Memorial Stadium. On a recent sunny, 70-degree afternoon--and it was homecoming,no less--there were 22,000 and change in the house. Twenty-two thousand! The smallest home crowd in 40 years! That's pitiful. That's a Crimson-faced embarrassment, made even more so by the home team's victory over (then) nationally ranked Minnesota. Indiana students don't go. Indiana alumni no longer go. They have abandoned a program when it needs them most. Not a fan of Gerry DiNardo? Me, either. But at least by showing up, you've purchased the right to express your dissatisfaction. By staying away, you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem. IU fans (an oxymoron, by the way) are by far the lamest in the Big Ten and, per capita, probably the poorest in the country. They've totally bailed on the football program, and if Mike Davis' team struggles this year, they'll quit on the basketball program. IU fans can't stomach the bad times. I don't want to hear excuses. A tough commute to Bloomington? Have you ever been to State College, Pa.? You can't get there from here, yet the Nittany Lion faithful continue to show up and fill those 100,000-plus seats, even as the Pennsylvania State University program suffers. I just don't get it, and having a sad-sack football program is no excuse for a crowd of 22,000. Even in the salad days of Bill Mallory, a sellout in the Big Ten's smallest stadium was the exception. And why the students stay away confounds me. As I've written before, I know they're not in the library on Saturday afternoons.
Anyway, Boilermakers everywhere are enjoying a hearty last laugh. I never thought I'd say it, but the bumper sticker I long ago detested is true.
Purdue is THE Indiana university.--