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BENNER: There's plenty to ponder in sports world as autumn arrives

October 6, 2012

Other than the obvious, which is a total cure and return to his normally abnormal life as head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, I wonder what’s the best that can come from Chuck Pagano’s health crisis. Celebrity certainly drives awareness, so let’s hope the lines grow long at the Indiana Blood Center and donations pour in to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Although the team is way down the list of our concerns about the Colts right now, I wonder how Pagano’s illness will ultimately affect it. This already was a season rife with the uncertainty of a new coach, new quarterback and new offensive and defensive systems. I wonder if this will throw the players further off kilter or serve as some kind of rallying point.

I wonder if fans and media will now give the Colts a pass on this season.

I wonder, too, if we’ll hold back on harsh criticism of interim head coach/cancer survivor Bruce Arians the first time we think he makes a boneheaded decision.

Upon hearing the news about Pagano, my next thought drifted back to the day I learned Indiana University football coach Terry Hoeppner had been diagnosed with brain cancer. I wonder—and always will wonder—how it might have all played out for IU football had Hep stayed healthy. But I also believe God has a plan that does not include the ultimate success/failure of football programs.

• I wonder what the owners and players of the National Hockey League are thinking. It would seem the paying customer is not exactly receptive to labor strife in sports coming on the heels of the NBA lockout, the threatened NFL lockout and the entire NFL replacement referees mess.

Then again, fiscal insanity is nothing new in sports, and I wonder why we, the consumers, continue to put up with it. I wonder how far we’ll go for our love of beer and circus.

• I wonder why the WNBA—with a couple of exceptions (Seattle)—still hasn’t caught on, especially here in Indy, the basketball capital of the universe. I wonder why we haven’t embraced, in greater numbers, a luminescent star like Tamika Catchings or a local lady of such skill and high personal quality as Katie Douglas. In any case, congrats to the Indiana Fever for yet another extended playoff run.

• I wonder if the Big Ten is in a one-year slide in football, or if this is something longer lasting. I wonder if we will ever again see a Big Ten team win the national championship.

• I wonder how many fans will show up at Lucas Oil Stadium in December if Purdue University isn’t representing the Leaders Division in the Big Ten’s championship game.

On second thought, given the attendance decline at Ross-Ade Stadium, I wonder how many Boilermaker fans will show up even if Purdue is playing for the title.

• Not to let Hoosiers off the hook, I wonder if there wasn’t a better compromise solution for eliminating the 20-year tradition of the popular “First Down March” at IU’s Memorial Stadium, which is another way of saying, I wonder if head coach Kevin Wilson doesn’t have far more important things to worry about than the band (e.g., a defense that gave up 36 first downs and 706 yards total offense at Northwestern University, or that couldn’t stop Ball State University).

• Meanwhile, I still wonder if the University of Notre Dame is for real.

• I wonder why IndyCar can’t catch a break so that, on the day after its ambitious 2013 schedule is announced, it isn’t fending off media reports that the series is up for sale.

• Finally, I wonder if we’re ready for Cody Zoeller’s last season as a college basketball player at IU. And doesn’t it seem that he just arrived, like, yesterday? When you are a preseason player of the year and first-team all-American, can the lure of professional riches be far behind?•

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Benner is senior associate commissioner for external affairs for the Horizon League college athletic conference and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. He also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.

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