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BENNER: Should franchise records of Baltimore, Indy really mix?

November 28, 2009

Of this, that and the other:

Jim Irsay is to be applauded for his attempts to thaw the icy relationship between the Indianapolis Colts team he owns and the Baltimore Colts teams he grew up with before his father, Bob Irsay, packed ’em up in the middle of the night and moved them on the Mayflower to Indy in 1984.

Just a few weeks ago, Irsay flew a couple of dozen members of the 1975 Baltimore Colts to Indianapolis, had a dinner for them, then entertained them as his guests the next day in Lucas Oil Stadium for the Indianapolis Colts’ game with Houston.

It was a grand gesture, to be sure, and well received by the former Baltimore players.

But when the Colts journeyed to Baltimore for their game with the Ravens Nov. 22, it was obvious the city is not ready to forgive or forget.

The Colts are still introduced as “the Indianapolis professional football team” while the scoreboard refers to “Indy” and not the “Colts.”

Adding further insult was the Colts’ seventh straight victory over the Ravens.

But something else occurred during the game that really has to feel like a punch to the gut of longtime Baltimore football fans.

That was when Colts tight end Dallas Clark made that one-handed touchdown catch (brilliant, by the way). While it was Clark’s lone reception of the game, it moved him past the legendary Baltimore Colt John Mackey as the all-time franchise leader in passes caught by a tight end.

I’ve made this suggestion before and I’m certain it will fall on deaf ears on West 56th Street. But here I go again.

The best thing Irsay could do to put the past in the past would be to erase all “franchise records.” Let the Baltimore Colts’ records stay in Baltimore, and let the Indianapolis Colts’ records represent everything that has happened here from 1984 forward.

This isn’t a matter of appeasement, and for some Balti-morons, it still wouldn’t be enough to salve the wound. They’ll never get over it.

But it would be the right thing to do. If the franchise’s Baltimore and Indianapolis periods are really to be intermingled, I want to see Johnny Unitas’ name on the Ring of Honor.

Moving on …

Even before the University of Notre Dame lost to the University of Connecticut, I thought Charlie Weis was toast as coach of the Fighting Irish. That’s because, a few days earlier, Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick had said “economics” would not factor into a decision about whether to retain Weis or swallow the buyout on his multiyear contract.

Remember, too, the NBC factor. Notre Dame football is an entertainment product for the network. It must deliver ratings, and the ratings have been sliding. Although, ironically, the loss to UConn garnered a season high. Go figure.

But let’s recall the words of NBC Sports Chairman Dick Ebersol in June of last year when NBC extended Notre Dame’s contract through 2015:

“We go into this thinking that if the vast majority of the years has Notre Dame competitive in that top 10 or [in] that top 10 through the majority of the season, then we’ll be very happy,” he said.

They can’t be very happy.

Quick aside I: Has it occurred to anyone that one of the best deals going is to be a failed coach with a long-term contract?

Quick aside II: Swarbrick was a finalist (some say the runner-up) for the NCAA presidency when Myles Brand got the job. I wonder if he still has interest. If so, he would be a great hire.

At Indiana University, where economics most certainly matter, Athletic Director Fred Glass is staying with Bill Lynch despite the Hoosiers’ 4-8 season and the Lynch-must-go howls swirling about in cyberspace. This is a classic case of what’s right isn’t always popular and what’s popular isn’t always right. Lynch deserves at least another season (he has two left on his contract) to prove his worth.

And, hey, the Hoosiers did tie Michigan in the Big Ten standings.

In the meantime, Danny Hope and his staff deserve recognition for holding the Boilermakers together and putting together a strong finish. Purdue was literally a play or two away from a 7-5 or 8-4 season. The foundation is there.

Finally, best wishes to my friend, Joe McConnell, the radio voice of the football Boilers who ended his long broadcast career at the Old Oaken Bucket game. Joe was the voice of the Pacers in 1974 when I broke in as The Indianapolis Star’s beat writer. He took me under his wing and we shared many good times and experiences.•

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Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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