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Glass talks road games, importance of football at IU

By Robby Howard

In this week’s conversation with IU Athletic Director Fred Glass, we talk about what happens when IU goes on the road, the importance of football at IU and his favorite Big Ten football venues.

IDS Why is it so important for you to travel with the football team when it plays on the road?

GLASS I think it’s really important. I go to virtually every away football game. I also try to travel as often as I can with our other sports, and I enjoy that. I think it’s the best way to get to know the student athletes.

With football and the way that we’re trying to build the program, I think for me to have a presence with the team on the road is really important.

IDS Can you expand on what you mean when you say it’s important for you to travel with the way that you’re building the football program?

GLASS Football is really critical to everything we’re doing. We’re all about 24 sports, one team, but football has a disproportionate impact on the university and the program. For better or worse, fairly or unfairly, people tend to equate the quality of your football program with the quality of your university.

Indiana University is an excellent institution of higher education, and traditionally our football program hasn’t lived up to that excellence. So I think that’s important from football’s perspective. Help us support our other programs. 

If we were able to sell out Memorial Stadium, we’d be able to double our football revenue, and that’s money that wouldn’t only be reinvested into football, it could also help support all the other programs in the department.

Finally, I think football is a real binder, a real glue, between the university and its students, and then ultimately when those students become alumni. I believe if people went to football games as undergraduates, they’re more likely to come back to football games as young alumni and ever-maturing alumni.

If they stay connected with the school that way, they’re more likely to make a gateway gift to the foundation or become a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board to the J-school or the business school or the college.

I think the stakes are really big for football. We’ve been treating it as such by making investments in people and our coaching staff, our strength and conditioning coaches, our sports nutritionist. We’ve been investing in infrastructure in Memorial Stadium.
And then I think my personal engagement is important, too. I try to be fairly visible at the home games, and I try to be visible to the team and the coaches when we go on the road.

IDS When you go on the road, how much are you watching what other programs are doing to improve their gameday experience?

GLASS I’m always taking notes or talking into the recorder on my iPhone. When I see ways other folks are doing things that we may want to consider doing, my eyes are always wide open.

Though I will confess that one of the things I enjoy about being on the road is I can actually sit and watch the game. When I’m in Memorial Stadium, I’m usually walking through the student section or walking through the alumni section or greeting donors in the press box or really, really working, which is what I should be doing.

But when we’re on the road, that’s the only time I get to sit down and really watch the team play from beginning to finish.

Outside of Memorial Stadium, what’s your favorite collegiate football stadium?

GLASS That’s a great question. The Big Ten is blessed with amazing stadiums. The Big House is the oldest and the biggest, and so that would have to be up there on the list. It’s a terrific environment. I guess I’d probably say the Big House at Michigan.

The Horseshoe over in Columbus — I haven’t been to Nebraska or Minnesota yet. Nebraska has their own Memorial Stadium. We’re the real Memorial Stadium; they have a Memorial Stadium. Minnesota’s new stadium is supposed to be really terrific.
As old as it is, I think Northwestern’s a cool place to go to a game. It’s very intimate; it’s very kind of art-deco.

Virtually every stadium with the possible exception of Purdue is a place where I like to go and watch football games.

IDS Who makes the decision on what football helmet to wear each week?

GLASS That’s made by the players in consultation with the coaches, and they decide on a week by week basis what helmet they think makes sense for that particular week.

IDS Do you have a particular favorite helmet?

GLASS I really don’t. I loved the Indiana flag helmets. I love the chrome and crimson helmet. I love the red and white helmet, especially with the numerals on the side. It sort of gives it a throwback vibe to the ‘50s. I like all of them, but I think those three are my favorites.

IDS Homecoming is coming up Nov. 2. When does the planning for that start?

GLASS Oh my goodness. As soon as Homecoming was over last year, Homecoming started for this year. The alumni association does the heavy lifting on that. They plan the parade, most of the functions that are around Homecoming.

It’s a big deal for us around the athletic department, too. It’s not an overstatement to say Homecoming is almost year-round in its planning.

Follow columnist Robby Howard on Twitter @robbyhoward1.

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