It’s not quite clear why—or by whom, but when Indiana University basketball coach Tom Crean was honored at Lucas Oil Stadium during the Final Four on Saturday night, he was roundly booed.
There are several possible explanations. The University of Wisconsin was playing Kentucky at the time.
UW has a Big Ten rivalry with IU and an in-state rivalry with Marquette, where Crean formerly coached.
I’m not sure the UW-IU rivalry explanation holds a lot of water, though. Michigan coach John Beilein was honored at the same time and he wasn’t booed. I’d think Michigan is as big a rivalry for the Badgers as IU.
UK fans have never been too crazy about IU. There was a time when that rivalry was even hotter, but there’s still no love between the two programs—especially among the schools’ fans.
Close to 20 percent of the tickets sold to Saturday’s Final Four games were sold to Wisconsin residents and about 33 percent went to Kentucky fans. So, cumulatively, they could have let out a boisterous boo. And the Wisconsin student section was plenty rowdy all night.
By my unscientific calculation from press row, I’d say about 80 percent of the noise after Crean’s introduction were boos, while 20 percent were cheers. I might be being generous on the cheer side.
Then there’s a third explanation. And maybe the most unsavory. About 10 percent to 15 percent of the tickets to Saturday’s games at the 71,000-seat Lucas Oil Stadium were to Indiana residents. I saw a fair amount of IU clothing being worn at LOS Saturday night.
It’s possible that IU fans—unhappy with Crean’s performance as Indiana coach—either joined in or even led the chorus of boos.
Far be it from me to critique fan behavior. Ticket-buying fans have the right to express themselves in varying ways.
But it seems an odd time and place for that type of expression.
And this on the same day Crean’s IU program landed a commitment from five-star recruit Thomas Bryant.
Perhaps if the 6-foot-10 Bryant turns out to be the inside force he’s supposed to be, Crean will turn the boos into cheers—in Indiana anyway.
If Bryant and next year’s IU team disappoints, you can bet the boos in Crean's own backyard will be a whole lot louder.