IUPUI stuck in hoops purgatory

March 26, 2008
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IUPUIhoopsIUPUI’s basketball program has an interesting problem. Its men's basketball team needs to strengthen its non-conference schedule so it can make a postseason tournament. Postseason exposure would help it gain a stronger fan-following, which would in turn help it raise revenue to retain a top-level coach (Ron Hunter seems to be doing a fine job as long as he stays) and build a larger arena.

It turns out to be a real chicken-egg scenario for IUPUI. Top teams won’t set foot in the Jaguar’s 1,200-seat home, but IUPUI is hesitant to sign deals only to play difficult away games with no payback. One solution would be to slate games with Indiana and Purdue. After all, aren’t these schools part of the same family? But when it comes to sports, it’s everybody for themselves.

IUPUI Athletic Director Mike Moore said he has repeatedly asked for deals to play IU and Purdue--and Butler too. While IU did play IUPUI in 2006, and will do so again in Bloomington next season, Purdue and Butler in recent years have declined. Moore has even offered to play games at Conseco Fieldhouse.

“As you get better, there’s a reluctance for the big programs to come in and play you at home,” Moore said. And IUPUI certainly has gotten better. With some of the top talent from area high schools filling its roster, IUPUI went 26-7 this year and had an RPI rating of 76. Still, IUPUI was unable to land one of 113 NCAA Div. I postseason slots.

A game against IU or Purdue—even if the Jaguars lost—would likely improve the team’s RPI by 10 spots. If they scheduled IU and Purdue and beat just one of them and continued winning 20-plus games, they’d likely be a shoe-in for postseason play.

But the big schools’ decision not to play IUPUI goes beyond the fear of getting beat by a small school. It’s financial. Schools like IU and Purdue bring in $300,000 or more for each home game. They’re not about to give that up to play in a facility smaller than most high school gyms. Instead, they offer select smaller schools between $50,000 and $75,000 to come visit their house. But too many of those away-only agreements could torpedo a 20-win season.

One solution that has been recommended is a double-header featuring some of the best in-state talent, such as IUPUI, Butler, IU and Purdue. That would offer a boost to IUPUI and Butler while helping IU and Purdue maintain their Indy alumni connections, sports marketers said. But Moore said those kinds of double-headers “have gone by the wayside.”

“The Big 10 schools are reluctant to give up the home games, and the promoters of that kind of setup would simply have to pay out too much to them,” he said. “It comes down to the financial end of it. For us, it would be a win-win.”

IU and Purdue apparently aren’t about to sacrifice a little off the top for their little brethren. Should they lend more of a helping hand?
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  • I understand the big schools being concerned about the bottom line but helping out IUPUI is an idea they should be open to. It will reflect well on the State if IUPUI plays in the postseason. I heard on ESPN and CBS last week that there were four schools for Indiana in the NCAA Tournament.

    While a double-header sounds fun, how about a Indiana Tournament featuring the likes of IU, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, IUPUI, Ball State, Valpo, Indiana State, Evansville and IPFW at Conseco. Might have to have fewer teams to make it all work out and I don’t know how you would seed teams so maybe the idea of a double-header would be better.
  • I am afraid it is indeed the case that particularly IU Bloomington, the Board of Trustees and the IU Central Administration are not fond of the idea of IUPUI having increased presence in sports (among other things as well). The campus has 29,000 students, brings in far and away the majority of IU's research dollars and is a strong player in state economic development.Its sports teams are led by fine, honest coaches. In general, allocations for the campus are under par, and recognition for its unique role as a major urban research university is downplayed. One would hope that the Central Indiana Community would demand that the campus be given its due.
  • First of all, on a national level every time you hear mention of IUPUI on ESPN (all 2 times a year) they have to pause and explain just what the heck it stands for. Its common knowledge for those of us from the region, but how about a name change-- at least in sports, to something like Central Indiana or Indianapolis State. For example, a team like Fresno State out on California is really known as California State University at Fresno. You dont hear it being referred to at CSUF on tv do you? Or the MAC school 'Buffalo' is really State University of New York at Buffalo. Its called Buffalo on tv, not SUNYB.
    Finally, UNC-Charlotte is now officially referred to as simply Charlotte in athletics.

    Why not do the same ? It can only help marketing. It makes even more sense to do the same for IPFW... just simply Fort Wayne U.?
  • While I don't know that the name is the crux of the problem, I think JohnC might be on to something. A savvy marketer could certainly help IUPUI. But a new name won't raise the team's RPI or money for a new playing venue. A little help from IU and Purdue would. The uncooporative air that surrounds the three institutions seems short sighted to say the least. Maybe some IU and Purdue folks could explain.

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