The 2017-18 season was a transition year for Indiana athletics. Both football and men’s basketball adjusted to new head coaches. There was some success in those marquee sports, though likely not as much as fans might have wanted, with the football finishing 5-7 and the men’s basketball team going 16-15.
Fred Glass has been the Hoosiers’ athletic director since 2009 and he strives to make his athletic department about more than just those two sports. He has jerseys from all 24 teams in the lobby outside his office and embraces the “24 Sports, One Team” motto Indiana has adopted. Still, he admits he’s excited about the trajectory of those two programs under new coaches.
“I was very, very pleased,” he said of the coaches’ first seasons. “The ball bounces one way instead of another, you might have a couple more wins here or there. (Football coach) Tom Allen is really everything I hoped he would be in terms of being a leader of men. Really it’s him as a leader that’s his secret weapon more than scheme, although he’s great with that.
“(In basketball), the future is very bright there, even before Romeo (Langford), we had a really outstanding class. … Archie (Miller)’s doing what I hoped he would do, he may be a little ahead of schedule.”
Langford, who Glass called “a quintessential Hoosier” signed with Indiana in April, adding a five-star recruit and Indiana Mr. Basketball to a class that already had a solid quartet of players. The athletic director said he watched at the airport as the New Albany guard made his decision.
“(My wife and I) agreed that if he chose Vanderbilt or Kansas (the other two schools Langford was considering) that we would drink PBRs before our trip to Arizona,” the athletic director said. “And if it was IU, we were going to have bourbon. Fortunately it was bourbon and we may or may not have had more than one to celebrate.
“I had come to grips with either way. I thought, ‘If we don’t get it, we have a great class and I’m good.’ But obviously it was a thrill to get him.”
The following is a question-and-answer session with the athletic director about the 2017-18 Indiana season. Answers have been edited for length.
Question: You’ve gotten big donations recently from Dave and Susan Roberts (for renovating the men’s basketball team area) and Terry Tallen (for renovating the football team area in Memorial Stadium). Why are those gifts important?
Answer: We’ve been very aggressive around here in trying to develop the facilities by the (IU) bicentennial in 2020. We’ve had a lot of terrific gifts. The Roberts’ are big basketball people. We really needed a new basketball center to be competitive in recruiting and competitive in the place where players spend a lot of their time. That work’s underway and that’ll be in place this fall. Terry Tallen, one of the special things about that gift is that he’s a former student-athlete here. That gift is going to enable us to redo the football complex in a way that needs to be done.”
Q. The baseball team has made the NCAA Tournament three times in four years under coach Chris Lemonis. What do you think of his performance?
A. It’s just the consistency. I don’t think anybody could deny that over the last five-plus years, we’ve been the pre-eminent program in Big Ten baseball. Tracy (Smith) really got us off to a good start and Chris has maintained that. I love the resiliency of this team. I watch games and I’m hanging on the edge of my seat. We’re down big in late innings and we find a way to win. I think resiliency more than anything has been a hallmark of this team. Earning a No. 2 seed as an at-large bid (which IU did this season), is really reflective of the respect both our program has and the Big Ten has.
Glass also – unprompted – gave his appraisal of the softball program, which went 17-6 in the Big Ten in coach Shonda Stanton’s first season at the helm:
A. I do want to mention the great job Shonda Stanton did with our softball team. Transitional year, frankly, pretty low expectations in terms of win-loss, which is fine. Those low expectations were met in the nonconference schedule (when the Hoosiers went 7-21), but they caught fire in the Big Ten season and made the semifinals of the (Big Ten) tourney. I’m really excited about that and the investments we’ve made in Bart Kaufman Field and Andy Mohr Field.
Q. What is the trajectory of the women’s basketball team? Can they continue having success without Tyra Buss and Amanda Cahill next season?
A. I’m really excited about the future of women’s basketball. The Buss/Cahill Era was awesome. Winning’s contagious and I think they’ve built a program that’s getting used to winning. We have some great young players. Tyra and Amanda are almost a once-in-a-generation duo, but especially with the WNIT experience that our young kids got, I’m really bullish on women’s basketball.
Q. Recently the Supreme Court ruled that states can legalize sports gambling. If Indiana did so, how does that change your job and is that something you’re preparing for?
A. We are aggressive participants in the “Don’t Bet On It” campaign (an NCAA educational initiative) just to educate our kids because it’s not only a kid that might get turned by gamblers, but it could be an innocent interaction by a trainer with a not-so-innocent interaction by someone on their dorm floor about ‘Hey, is so-and-so gonna be able to play tonight?’ So we’ve been extraordinarily vigilant about that. If Indiana passes that I hope they have a carve-out that is similar to what I understand is the Nevada carve-out for UNLV, that you couldn’t bet on the local team. I think that would be really important.
Q. What are your thoughts on the Big Ten’s relationship with the Big Ten Network?
A. I think the Big Ten Network is the best thing that’s happened since canned soup. It was very visionary by (Big Ten commissioner) Jim Delaney. Part of the beauty of it is, (the revenue from the network) is shared equally among all the schools, which I think is really important because for schools that are on the not-so-good end of the economic spectrum, that money is very important to enable us to compete. I think it’s good for the overall conference if everybody’s able to competitive. (The extra revenue) enables us to be able to be more competitive in building better facilities, making nutrition available, hiring coaches and so forth. It’s not a windfall; our expenses are going up like a hockey stick. The extra revenue is helping us meet those obligations. If we didn’t have that, I think you’d be looking at Draconian results like cutting sports.
Q. What are those expenses that are rising so quickly?
A. There’s a lot of expenses connected to some of the reforms in intercollegiate athletics, which I think are good. I think it’s great we’re spending more money on tutors and nutrition and leadership and life skills and enhancing the personal development of the athletes, I think that’s awesome. In some ways it’s less awesome that we’re spending it on coaches salaries, but to be able to competitive in the national market, which transcends the Big Ten, it’s good for us to be able to compete because coaches are probably the single biggest predictor of whether you’re going to be successful or not. Some of that money has also enabled to catch up on facilities, build some of the facilities that we’re building, which is another big component of having a credible program.
Q. What is the biggest challenge at this point in your tenure at Indiana?
A. I think the biggest challenge is trying to be successful in a “have” league as a have-not. We’re Power Five and we’re in the Big Ten and we’ve got the TV revenue, so I’m not singing the blues, we can be competitive. But in terms of the people that we compete against and are expected to beat, we are financially outgunned. The challenge for us and part of the reason we’ve tried to differentiate ourselves with our Student-Athlete Bill of Rights and our credo and practice of “24 Sports, One Team” and being forward-thinking, in my view, on Title IX issues and sexual assault prevention is to try to distinguish ourselves from people that are better-resourced than we are. And I think by-and-large that’s been effective.