Threat of Crean's exodus moves IU

July 29, 2008
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tomcreanIndiana University is making me look pretty smart these days. And it has nothing to do with the degree I earned there almost 20 years ago.

Three weeks ago I was asked on a local radio show what the biggest challenges would be for Indiana’s new athletic director. Current AD Rick Greenspan is due to resign Dec. 31. When I said one of the primary challenges would be to retain new basketball coach Tom Crean, there was a collective raising of eyebrows.

I responded by saying you’d have to be crazy not to think Crean is evaluating his future options. Things at IU are much worse than he anticipated. And, as of last month, he has no idea who his boss will be come Jan. 1. That has to be disconcerting.

The fact that this contract extension comes from the very top—IU President Michael McRobbie—speaks volumes. McRobbie may be slow to act on replacing Greenspan, but he quickly realized he can’t afford to lose Crean, who has already proven to be a galvanizing force among IU’s faithful.

So yesterday, word came out of Bloomington that McRobbie agreed to extend Crean’s eight-year $18.24 million contract by two years. The extension has a lot more to do with what McRobbie fears could happen in the next few months or year than what will happen eight years from now.

In sports business, a contract extension has a lot more to do with a salary increase than actually extending the deal. These agreements can be relatively easily broken by either side. There’s no security. And it’s absurd to think that turning IU’s basketball program around will take 10 years. It won’t take half of that.

An extension sends an immediate message—and usually comes with an immediate raise. McRobbie’s message is meant as much for other university athletic directors and presidents as it is for Crean. IU is putting a hands-off label—or at least a very high price tag—on their savior.

You can bet that the conversation that led to Crean’s extension also involved a promise from McRobbie. Crean will most certainly have input into the hiring of a new athletic director. Football coach Bill Lynch, or any other IU coach, will be afforded no such opportunity to bend McRobbie’s ear about the choice.

IU fans might ask what Crean has done to deserve a salary increase before he has coached a single game at the school.

Crean is culpable for none of the bad things that are happening in Bloomington. He is still infinitely marketable.

He has raised his periscope out of the tall grass of Bloomington to survey the horizon. And McRobbie has taken notice.
  • That is sad that iu is so screwed up they are bribing their newest employee to stay.
  • Not sad at all. If anything, outside of Coach Crean's initial hiring, this is the most positive move made by IU in athletics this year. It's also rewarding to see President McRobbie step up and get involved in returning IU sports to a more responsible and ethical entity.
  • Anthony, that headline is very misleading. I believing you are putting words into IU's mouth. This appears to be an endorsement of Tom Crean and a tactical move by IU, not a desperate measure to retain him. Tom's words and actions describe a content coach. He knew the early days were going to be rough, but he deemed it worthwhile. The situation, no matter how overblown it was, is finally coming to an end soon.

    There is no evidence or motives by IU to see this as anything but locking up a solid name and adding to his initial deal from a few months back.

    And to 'Indyman', you took the bait. You believed this as unopposable truth. It is a 2-yr extension, period. THEY MATCHED THE SAME DEAL LENGTH HE HAD AT MARQUETTE. They are recruiting kids from the 2011 class and beyond, why not lock up a coach that you are comfortable with.

    This is what teams do that say, This is our coach for the long-term.

    We can speculate, write misleading headlines, twist around IU's intentions, bash IU, whatever... but could it be they just like their hire and want a deal to match what he had to make everyone content?
  • You are assuming that Crean is THE iu coach. How many coaches has iu had to payoff because they were not THE coach? You are also assuming the iu faithful will give Crean the 5 years or more he will probably need to rebuild iu bball. IF Crean is the coach, and IF the iu faithful give him time, then this is a good deal. It is great to have long term stability in a coach. But IF he is not THE coach and IF they have to buy him out, then the iu faithful will be ripping this as more iu wasteful spending. How many of their previous hires did they like?
  • Solid points by indyman. I think the jury is still out on this one.
  • Indyman, I get it. There were 2 coaches, not dozens as you seem to allude. How many... 2. One got stale and is likely not cut out for big conference performance (in the long term) and recruitment. The other made string of bad decisions leading to a completely overblown/overyhyped saga.

    Tom Crean will not need 5 years to get IU back to solid standing. The '09 and '08 classes as they stand when put together w/ some experience could be pretty decent and add in a few of the recruits on the radar and things actually look pretty decent in the short term, let alone 5-10 years.

    IU was in a position to endorse Crean as their guy. Matching Marquette's deal is really not that big of a stretch.

    IU really wasn't out anything under Davis. It was a minor buyout and we moved our seperate ways. That was a minor change. Sampson was a solid and worthy coach ON THE COURT (2 time Nat'l COY), but OFF IT, obviously was a different story.

    The other situation nobody mentions is Michigan State. How many years does Tom Izzo have left? The obvious name that would come up WOULD have been Crean. That is now pretty much null and void after signing on with IU, but an extension essentially makes a high-level coach pretty much hands off.

    I see your devil's advocate approach, but in modern cut-throat College Sports that doesn't get you too far. We went out and landed a huge name and we are standing behind it. We said, the coaching carousel is over, we've got a solid coach, he'll be here for awhile, enjoy the show.

    Giving him the deal he had is not a stretch. We would have been an in demand coach so you need to put up the money and retain him.

    IU really isn't out that much from Davis and Sampson from a monetary standpoint. For a school that deals in hundreds of millions of dollars, and a relatively successful Athletic dept, IU is fine money-wise. We are building a 50+ million dollar practice facility, but we are whining over 500,000 in severance, really?

    Agree to disagree, but locking in a solid coach for a team and Athletic Dept that needs a healing figure is a wise move.
  • Mr. CC you don't get it.

    You're drunk on red koolaid.

    Nearly every one of your assertions is off base. Good luck to the Hoosiers. They'll need it.
  • Knight, Davis, and Sampson all were run off and paid off. 3 coaches off in disgrace in 7 years. That is bad no matter how crimson the glasses.

    Add to it the problems with the AD and Football Coaching positions and the whole athletics program is in serious turmoil. Crean may turn it around quickly, but then everyone thought Davis had too.
  • Indyman and Schoettle are right, CC. Between football and basketball contract buyouts, IU has paid a bundle. I don't know why they even bother with football because we are never going to be a powerhouse there (although just one Rose Bowl before I die.....). However, IU fans have a tough time accepting losing in basketball. Crean is totally the right move insofar as ethics (as to NCAA rules) and making your players get an education. Those are the areas where I did tip my hat to Bobby, regardless of his personal issues. Sampson was the antithesis of those things and those things were what IU prided itself on for so many years - running a clean program and having players graduate. The question though remains as to whether Crean can win. The fans, and more importantly the boosters, will give him some time, since the programs is in a shambles. However, they won't give him 10 years. If he does get it together and start winning, I suspect there will be an announcement of another contract extension after about 5-6 years in order to increase his compensation commensurate with the salaries for other top tier winning coaches. If he doesn't, there will be another contract buyout.
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