BENNER: Indiana State football reigns … and other thoughts

Of this, that and the other:

• Sure, it’s been a miserable year for Indiana’s Division I football teams. Indiana has regressed from last season. Purdue is decimated by injuries. Brian Kelly’s first campaign has not reawakened the echoes at Notre Dame and has been visited by a tragedy. Ball State is again on the skids.

But going into a weekend game with Northern Iowa, Indiana State coach Trent Miles had the Sycamores at 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference.

Why is that significant? Because Miles, a Terre Haute native and ISU alum, took over what arguably was the worst program in the Football Championship Subdivision, a loser of 33 straight until it got its first win of Miles’ tenure a year ago. Miles was 1-22 at Indiana State coming into this season.

To no surprise, calls for Indiana State to drop football have quieted.

• Do they come any better than Tony Dungy? I don’t think so, and I am not talking about his skills as a football coach that won him a place in the Indianapolis Colts’ Ring of Honor last week and will surely lead him to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.

What caught my attention about Dungy this time was an interview WTHR Channel 13’s Dave Calabro did recently with Dungy in which he revealed he and his wife, Loren, now have four adopted children. Dungy said the adoptions are in response to his pro-life views and Loren’s telling him he needed to walk the talk of those views by providing a home for children given up by their birth mothers.

And to think a few years ago, a local writer took Tony Dungy to task as a poor father after Dungy decided to keep coaching in Indy, apart from his family in Tampa Bay, Fla.

• NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to make noise about expanding the NFL empire and placing a franchise in London. I bloody well hope not. In fact, I will take it a step further and say it is a disservice to the fans of franchises who must surrender a home game to go play a regular-season matchup in Wembley Stadium, as Denver (against San Francisco) did recently. Then again, given the season the Broncos are having, maybe that wasn’t a bad thing.

Point is, a franchise in London—or anywhere in Europe—will be a disaster. Players won’t want to play there; players won’t want to travel there. They’ve tried NFL Europe. It bombed for a reason … Euros like fútbol, not football.

The NFL in London would be like cricket in Indianapolis.

• Here’s a thought: If the NASCAR season goes any longer, will the good ol’ boys be changing to snow tires? Seriously, this is a season that began the second week in February and will end in the middle of November. And they wonder why most of America has lost interest.

• Applause, applause to the NBA for its crackdown on the incessant whining and complaining of players over officiating. Yes, you will get the occasional technical assessed when it’s not warranted (the Indiana Pacers’ Roy Hibbert was the recipient of one), but overall the decorum of players and coaches is much improved. It will be interesting to see if it lasts.

• Speaking of the NBA, Commissioner David Stern may just have been posturing ahead of the upcoming labor negotiations with the players’ union, but his recent comments about contraction—a potential reduction of teams—certainly had to send shudders through small-market teams like Memphis, Sacramento, New Orleans and, yes, Indiana.

“The issue of contraction is one that has to be discussed in the context of collective bargaining with the players, whether there are markets where there may not be buyers for teams that are looking to be sold,” Stern told reporters recently.

“It’s a sensitive subject for me because I’ve spent 27 years in this job working very hard not only to maintain all of our teams but along the way add a few. But I think that’s a subject that will be on the table with the players as we look to see what the optimum way to present our game is, and [whether there are] teams and cities that cannot make it in the current economic environment.”

In the same interview, Stern iterated, “We’re committed to small-market teams.”

Talk of eliminating them is a strange kind of commitment.•


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 He also has a blog,

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