Athletics News

    Darryl Neher--Drink The Kool Aid!

    Go Hoosiers! Hoosier Fans and Kellen Lewis
    Go Hoosiers!
    Hoosier Fans and Kellen Lewis
    Go Hoosiers!

    Oct. 3, 2007

    I'll admit it upfront: I drink the Cream and Crimson Kool Aid. I'm not the crazy, out-of-control fan covered in body paint and IU tattoos - just someone who believes in the direction that the IU Athletic Department is taking IU sports. I look at the competitive landscape of IU Athletics and am excited for the opportunities that are ahead for our student athletes, coaches, and fans.

    Drinking the Cream and Crimson Kool Aid can be difficult at times, especially when you're around others who seem to be down about IU sports. It was challenging, but I bit my tongue last week when I heard fans knocking the IU Football Hoosiers for losing to the University of Illinois. It was a tough loss, and fans will always dissect a loss and try to find explanations. Heck, to complain and to blame is cathartic, providing an emotional release that helps us feel better about losing.

    I muttered under my breath as I saw thousands of Hoosier fans bailing on the team against Illinois, even though the football Hoosiers were within 14 points with a quarter left to play. Yet there was nothing I could do to stop the mass exodus. After the game I heard one poor soul so down and wallowing in self-pity start a tirade about having to endure "another lost season." All I could do was shake my head in disbelief and walk away.

    Now I understand the frustration that comes with being a diehard Hoosier football fan - I know there have been heartbreaks, and a bowl drought that fans ache to see ended. But to write off the Hoosiers as "another lost season?" Seems a bit melodramatic and alarmist, doesn't it?

    I'm not sure what a lost season would look like. Like I said, as a Cream and Crimson Kool Aid drinker, I thoroughly enjoy sitting in IU Memorial Stadium watching the Hoosiers and Big Ten Football. And over the past three football seasons the Hoosiers have given us some big wins, some disappointing losses, but always a tinge of optimism that the future of Hoosier Football will be brighter - and as this season continues to unfold, I see something special unfolding this season.

    Don't get me wrong, the loss to the Illini hurt - especially after the week of smack talk that was coming out of Champaign-Urbana. You could hear the frustration in Coach Lynch's voice as he answered questions during the postgame press conference and on his weekly radio show. Coach Lynch was candid about poor Hoosier play, but he and his staff reviewed the game tape from the Illinois game and claimed the Hoosier problems were "fixable." As a fan who drinks the Kool Aid, I was willing to put my faith and trust in the coaching staff, looking forward to the game against the Hawkeyes.

    For some fans, the word "fixable" wasn't enough - some were even putting the Iowa game in the loss column by asking "Where do you see a road win on the rest of the schedule?"; "If we can't beat Illinois, how can we beat an Iowa team that took a top ten Wisconsin squad to the wire?" For some, trust, hope, and IU Football do not go together.

    Yet here we are, one week later. IU adds a W to the win column with a dominating road win over the Iowa Hawkeyes, on Iowa's Homecoming weekend, in front of 70,000+ hostile fans. Is this enough to give Hoosier fans a little more hope, a little more faith, and a little more trust? Are more fans willing to drink the Cream and Crimson Kool Aid?

    It is time to take that leap of faith and get behind IU football with all of its talent and the potential this season can bring IU fans. Without a doubt, this IU team is stronger at every position from last year. The Hoosiers have greater depth, greater speed, and greater size - making significant strides over the past three years. The defensive line leads the nation with 27 sacks, and our offense is averaging over 445 yards per game while led by Kellen Lewis - one of the most exciting players in the Big Ten and Division I football. And should I remind you that IU stands at 4-1 heading into this week's big game against Minnesota? Is this enough to find some hope and faith in IU football?

    During the Illinois game, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to stand on the sidelines to experience IU football from a much different perspective. Aside from the fact that the players are bigger and the game is faster than it appears from my regular seats, I learned one important fact about IU football: the Hoosier players and staff "get it." Watching the focus and intensity on the sidelines you see that this team believes in one another. After an early fumble by Marcus Thigpen, James Hardy and other offensive players were there with words of encouragement, expressing confidence that the team would bounce back on their next series. And on the sidelines, Coach Lynch is as intense as any coach I've ever seen - he's always pushing his team, he fights for his players when the refs blow a call, and he demands execution of every play.

    The IU Athletic Department "gets it" as well. All you need to do is spend just a little time watching IU Athletic Director Rick Greenspan - because from the moment he steps on the field, you can see he has the same focus the players show. Honestly, when was the last time you saw an IU Athletic Director demonstrate any sense of passion, energy, and commitment during a game? During the Illinois game, Greenspan paced the sidelines, celebrated third down conversions, and didn't let his emotional intensity wane until Kellen Lewis' final pass just missed the finger tips of James Bailey that sealed the Illini victory.

    Unfortunately, few fans showed that kind of commitment to the Hoosiers, as thousands seemed eager to bail. I felt for the squad as the clock wound down against the Illini and the U of I fans began to outnumber Hoosier fans remaining in IU Memorial Stadium. And the players noticed. Following the Illinois loss, James Hardy told a Herald-Times reporter "[The fans] all of a sudden just leave. For us, as hard as we've been working. I mean, we've been working to put this program where it needs to be. We actually just need the support."

    And here we are one week later, and the Indiana Hoosiers showed the Hoosier faithful they have life and will fight for one another and the IU football program. No matter how many people are in the stands, even 70,000, no matter what setbacks might happen throughout the course of the season, the Hoosiers have one another's backs.

    They only wonder, do the IU fans have theirs?

    IU football deserves a lot more fan faith; at 4-1 with Minnesota coming to The Rock, IU is positioned to do something special. While there are certainly no promises or guarantees in college football, I'm ready to see what the IU football Hoosiers season will bring us - and I'm hoping that along the way, we receive that magical number 13.

    So drink the Cream and Crimson Kool Aid before the Minnesota game. Stick around The Rock and see the celebration as the clock winds down to zero. The IU Football Hoosiers need to see we've got their backs.

    Darryl Neher is a Senior Lecturer with the Kelley School of Business and the host of The Afternoon Edition on AM1370 WGCL. Born and raised in Indiana, Darryl is a lifelong Hoosier fan and a regular contributor to IUHoosiers.com. You can contact Darryl directly at neherd@gmail.com.

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