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Wednesday, Feb. 21
The Indiana Daily Student

Summer brought drafts, hirings, Nike to IU sports

This summer for an IU sports fan was more about questions than answers and worries than affirmations.\nDoes the football team have a shot to beat William and Mary Aug. 31?\nWhy haven't we gotten any big-time men's basketball recruits?\nWhat is the Sears Directors' Cup?\nWhat goes with cream and crimson?\nFootball head coach Gerry DiNardo has both done and said interesting things over the summer. He vowed to go to every high school in the state and to introduce himself to the state's coaches upon his hiring and made it to about half of them before recruiting rules forced him off the road. He will visit the second half next offseason.\nOne minute, he said he would like to see IU play Notre Dame, his alma mater. Next, he criticized predecessor Cam Cameron's schedule-making strategy and said IU should give itself a weaker non-conference schedule. \n"If Cam doesn't play N.C. State, maybe he's still here, and I'm doing a radio show in Birmingham," DiNardo told the Courier-Journal.\nThis greatly appeased the small -- everything about IU football is small from the stadium to the linebackers to the number of passionate supporters -- group of fans still upset over Mallory's 1996 firing and Cameron's subsequent decision to discontinue using Mallory's famed T-formation, run-it-up-the-middle offense.\nLosing Antwaan Randle El, IU's best player ever; Levron Williams; and Justin Smith to graduation meant that the team will be hard to figure. Losing Jeremi Johnson, who would have been IU's top returning rusher, to transfer meant that the team offensively will be starting from a mostly clean slate.\nOn the other hand, the transfer-in by former Notre Dame quarterback Matt LoVecchio is probably the most significant athlete transferring to IU in decades, though that's not saying much. LoVecchio won seven straight games as a starter at Notre Dame two years ago and quarterbacked Notre Dame all the way to the Fiesta Bowl. If he's good enough for Notre Dame, then he is certainly good enough for IU. But he won't be eligible until next season.\nDiNardo revealed at Big Ten Media Day that IU will have only 69 scholarship players this season, nowhere near the maximum of 85. Twenty of them will be freshmen. Clearly, the focus for IU football is better strength in numbers.\nWhile the number of scholarship players remains small, at least the stadium will increase in size. Trustees approved eight luxury suites and 300 club seats for high-end seating with the IU Foundation financing the renovations at a $3.5 million price tag. Considering that Purdue is adding 34 suites to Ross Ade Stadium, it's small, but it's a start. It will be hard for any coach to recruit, though, at a stadium that isn't even half the size of three conference rivals (Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State).

Basketball\nThe news from men's basketball this summer was largely that there is no news. Tom Coverdale's ankle and A.J. Moye's shoulder appear to be all right. Coverdale, in fact, will participate in the Aug. 8-18 tour of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands with the Big Ten Foreign Tour team coached by Illinois' Bill Self. No word if Coverdale hates the Dutch as much as Austin Powers' dad, but by simply making the flight he will have one-upped himself from last year when tardiness resulted in his dismissal from the Mike Davis-coached team.\nThat Davis hasn't gotten any verbal commitments this summer has worried some, especially as they see Illinois already fill up its recruiting class and apparently try to make room for stud forward prospect Charlie Villanueva by "convincing" guard Brett Melton to transfer.\nThe prospects that Davis reportedly is hard-after are top-notch though. Ndubi Ebi, a 6-10 forward from Houston, is considered to be Jared Jeffries-esque and ranked No. 5 among the Class of 2003, according to Von Wafer is a 6-5 scoring machine from Homer, La., the same state that brought us Donald Perry, Kyle Hornsby and Britney Spears. Excuse me if I don't know whether to get excited or not. Davis also reportedly has interest in Luol Deng, a 6-8 forward from Blair, N.J., ranked No. 2 by rivals.

Drafts\nDrafts played a significant role in the IU sporting summer. The Washington Wizards selected Jeffries 11th overall and teamed him up with Juan Dixon, the Maryland star that helped to break the hearts of Jeffries and other supporters of the "Little Team That Could." Jeffries signed and was spotted playing mostly point guard (?!) for the Wizards summer league team.\nCenterfielder Kennard Jones was taken in the third round by the San Diego Padres and later signed. Shortstop Eric Blakeley was a 21st round pick of the Seattle Mariners. Third baseman Vasili Spanos decided to return to school and wound up earning All-Star honors in the Cape Cod League, the prestigious wooden bat league frequented by major league scouts looking to get a head start on the June 2003 amateur draft. All this happened after IU improved from 24 to 35 wins overall and from seven to 15 wins in conference. Jones shared Big Ten Player of the Year honors, earning him the unofficial title of Most Anonymous Star Athlete at IU.

Most Anonymous award\nThen again, perhaps that award should go to Danielle Carruthers. Leading the women's track team to a second-place finish at the conference outdoor championships, Carruthers won the 100-meter hurdles in the second-best time in the world this year. The men's track team, meanwhile, finished fourth.\nOr perhaps Karie Schlukebir and Linda Tran are the most anonymous. Following a disappointing defeat to Auburn in the NCAA Tournament regional semifinals, the doubles duo qualified for nationals before losing to Kentucky's Carolina Mayorga and Sarah Witten in three sets to deny them a quarterfinal bid.\nAfter the WNBA's Detroit Shock drafted Jill Chapman with the 21st overall pick in the 2002 draft, little did Chapman know that IU's loss to Texas Christian in the NCAA Tournament would prepare her so well for more losing. And for even more losing. Actually, the Shock started 0-13, which prompted the Shock to hire renowned former NBA goon Bill Laimbeer as head coach. There's no word yet whether Chapman has mastered the elbow to the solar plexus yet.\nIn other women's basketball news, Jill Hartman joined the Big Ten Foreign Tour team during its June 14-24 tour through Belgium and the Netherlands. Certainly, head coach Kathi Bennett hopes that Hartman used the tour to work on her leadership and scoring skills that will allow her to move from the bench to the starting lineup for the coming season.

Cosmetic changes\nWhile former IU athletes get used to new surroundings, IU plans on going through changes that are cosmetic but hardly unimportant. The Indianapolis Star reported July 27 that IU is about to sign a deal with Nike for the sporting apparel behemoth to outfit 23 of IU's 24 varsity teams. Only the men's soccer team, which has two years left on its current deal with Adidas, will be spared the swoosh. The paper also reported that the deal will save IU $400,000 to $500,000 per year. This strikes of McNeely trying to make a lasting impression with a consistent cream-and-crimson color scheme.\nWhile it hardly dovetails with IU President Myles Brand's National Press Club speech of January 2001, where Brand argued that corporate advertising and logos were having too large an impact on college athletics, the fact remains that a school that draws only about 25,000 per game for a football program overwhelmed by contempt and apathy needs to pinch pennies.\nOn the other hand, if we go to Nike Stadium instead of Memorial Stadium for a football game in the near future, my opinion might change.\nSo where does IU stand heading into McNeely's second fall semester as director of athletics? The Sears Directors' Cup, which measures on-field success for all men's and women's teams, had IU ranked No. 27 in its final rankings, ahead of archrivals Kentucky (No. 36) and Purdue (No. 41) and at its highest end-of-year ranking in the nine-year history of the Cup. (IU was eighth immediately after the national championship game loss to Maryland but slid after the spring sports season.) While IU can't compete with Stanford, which has an eight-year headlock on the award, IU has shown greater accountability, both financially and on the playing field.\nNow it's time for questions to be answered.

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