BENNER: Eventful decade of highest highs and lowest lows

December 26, 2009

As the decade comes to a close, here’s a look back at the great, the good and the ugly of the past 10 years:

The great:

No. 1: After beating the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship Game to reach the Super Bowl, the Indianapolis Colts defeat Chicago to become the 2006 champions.

No. 2: The Indiana Pacers dispatch the New York Knicks to advance to the 2000 NBA Finals, even though they eventually lose to the Los Angeles Lakers.

No. 3: The opening of Lucas Oil Stadium solidifies the presence of the Colts and the city’s continued place in the rotation of NCAA Final Fours, and puts it in position to win the ...

No. 4: 2012 Super Bowl.

No. 5: The city of Indianapolis, the Indiana Sports Corp. and the NCAA enter into a memorandum of understanding that ensures the city will host men’s and women’s Final Fours on the condition the city continues to meet bid requirements.

No. 6: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway adds a road course and garages to accommodate Formula One and the U.S. Grand Prix. After F-1 leaves, more modifications are made so IMS can bring in MotoGP motorcycles.

No. 7: Colts quarterback Peyton Manning wins three Most Valuable Player awards.

No. 8: Guard Reggie Miller closes out what is sure to be a Hall of Fame career with the Pacers.

No. 9: Led by quarterback Drew Brees, Purdue University goes to the 2001 Rose Bowl, though it loses to the University of Washington.

No. 10: A relatively unheralded Indiana University basketball team reaches the NCAA Tournament’s championship game in Atlanta, but loses to the University of Maryland.

The good:

No. 1: In 2006, Sam Hornish Jr. overcomes Marco Andretti on the main straightaway of the final lap to win the second-closest Indianapolis 500 in history.

No. 2: Danica Patrick leads the Indy 500 with six laps to go before finishing an eventual fourth in the 2005 Indy 500.

No. 3: Although on a down note, Gene Keady closes out a tremendous coaching career with Purdue basketball while Athletic Director Morgan Burke orchestrates a smooth transition to Matt Painter, who quickly rebuilds the program to Keady-like excellence.

No. 4: Adhering to The Butler Way, first Thad Matta, then Todd Lickliter and now Brad Stevens make Butler University basketball a major mid-major success story.

No. 5: Indy outguns Chicago to win the rights to the Big Ten men’s and women’s basketball tournaments from 2008-2012.

No. 6: Washington’s Luke Zeller and Brownsburg’s Gordon Hayward orchestrate miracle finishes that bring their schools boys’ state basketball championships.

No. 7: Indy hosts the World Police & Fire Games; world championships in swimming (pools in Conseco Fieldhouse!) and basketball; national championships in gymnastics, swimming, and track and field; and numerous Olympic Trials.

No. 8: Crooked Stick welcomes the U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Solheim Cup and the U.S. Men’s Senior Open and wins the rights to host the 2012 PGA Tour BMW Championships.

No. 9: After bringing Purdue football back to prominence, Joe Tiller bows out on his own terms.

No. 10: Reunification comes to open-wheel racing.

The ugly:

No. 1: A cup-throwing fan sets off a melee that ruins a championship-contending Pacers team. The franchise has yet to fully recover.

No. 2: IU president Myles Brand removes Bob Knight men’s basketball coach. Only now, nine-plus years later, are there signs of a possible healing.

No. 3: IU hires a cheater, Kelvin Sampson, to succeed Knight’s successor, Mike Davis. Sampson flushes the program down the toilet and onto probation.

No. 4: The Hulman-George family engages in a very public squabble over the direction of open-wheel racing, resulting in Tony George’s ouster as CEO of both the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League.

No. 5: Jamal Tinsley. Stephen Jackson. Club Rio. Shots fired outside the Conrad Indianapolis. Enough said.

No. 6: Hampered by bad dates, lackluster fields and dwindling crowds, the Indianapolis Tennis Championships is disbanded.

No. 7: A dispute over Michelin tires leads to only six cars competing in the 2005 U.S. Grand Prix.

No. 8: NASCAR arrives with a poor tire compound from Goodyear, turning the 2008 Brickyard 400 into a pit-every-10-laps fiasco.

No. 9: The University of Notre Dame football burns through Bob Davie, Tyrone Willingham and “schematic genius” Charlie Weis as head coaches, but the Irish echoes remain sound asleep.

No. 10: Great regular-season records mean little after Colts playoff losses to San Diego (twice) and Pittsburgh.•

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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