The leaders of the NCAA, including President Myles Brand, have a grand vision.
They want to see student-athletes who arrive on campus prepared for the rigors of higher academia and who depart in a timely manner with meaningful degrees.
They want to see quality coaching and success on the field of play, including the opportunity for those student-athletes to compete on a national level.
They want to see the athletic department guided by the academic mission of the institution and strong administrators who make certain that mission is not compromised by the pursuit of athletic success.
They want to see broad-based athletic programs, funded not by the revenue they generate, but out of the general fund because the institution recognizes the value intercollegiate athletics bring to the institution and its extended family.
They want to see athletic budgets that are contained within the overall scope and priorities of the institution.
Some might think these are unachievable goals. Not really. In fact, there’s an example of the model in action right here in White River City:
The University of Indianapolis.
“The best-kept secret on the south side,” U of I Athletic Director Sue Willey says with a smile.
That it is. The combination of athletic and academic success on the campus at Shelby Street and Hanna Avenue deserves to be trumpeted from the mountaintops.
But the Greyhounds participate in Division II of the NCAA, which means-no matter how successful its teams and athletes are, no matter how properly it pursues its mission-it is deemed less worthy, especially by the mainstream media.
Nonetheless, it’s difficult to overlook David Logan, a senior guard for Todd Sturgeon’s Greyhound men’s basketball team. Logan averages 28 points a game and leads the Hounds in assists. He’s a finalist for the Cousy Award as the nation’s top guard (all divisions) and is on pace to break U of I’s all-time scoring record held by Bailey Robertson. To put it in historical perspective, some believe Bailey Robertson was better than his older brother. You may have heard of him: Oscar Robertson.
Logan and his fellow senior guard, Lawrence Barnes (19.4 points per game) lead a Greyhound team that began this past week at 14-5 and solidly in contention for a third straight postseason berth out of the ultra-competitive Great Lakes Valley Conference, which has placed a team in the Division II championship game 11 years running.
Sturgeon, now in his eighth year, has had only one losing season and is continuing a proud tradition that dates back to coaching immortals Harry Good and Angus Nicoson and was revived by Royce Waltman, who now is at Indiana State University and for whom Sturgeon played and coached at DePauw University.
But the amazing season for Logan-“the hardest-working player we’ve ever had,” says Sturgeon-is only part of a much larger success story at “UIndy.” Sturgeon points out with equal pride that Logan, Barnes and three other seniors will earn diplomas in the spring, and that will mean 27 of 29 players who have gone through his programs will leave with degrees.
“We have to be true to the academic mission of the school,” Sturgeon says. “If we were winning 25 games a year but graduating only 10 percent of our players, believe me, we’d have a problem.”
So U of I makes it happen in both worlds. For the last two years, all seven of the Greyhounds’ winter sports teams have qualified for NCAA postseason championships. Those squads are on track to do it again this year. In 2003-2004, Indianapolis’ all-sports ranking among all Division II schools was 14th.
Since 2000, Indianapolis has had 25 academic all-Americans, third best in Division II. Swimmer Megan Grunert was a top-10 finalist for the NCAA’s prestigious Woman of the Year Award. Tennis player Grace Wilhoit won the Arthur Ashe Award for Leadership and Sportsmanship.
“It’s not big business here,” says Willey, who graduated from Indianapolis and coached there 23 years before becoming athletic director two years ago. “The institution understands the value of intercollegiate athletics when it’s kept in an educational perspective. We’re doing it right, the way it should be in the culture of higher education. We’re in this for the student-athletes and their experience. And the kids are having a great experience.”
Benner is a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly.To comment on this column, go to IBJ Forum at www.ibj.comor send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.