Some of Fred Glass’ earliest memories are from IU football games. There’s a football, one of many he remembers being handed out to “average goofs” like him the year after IU went to the Rose Bowl, in his office in Memorial Stadium that can always bring them back.
But he doesn’t just keep it around for the aesthetic value or because it’s a cool memento. IU’s athletic director used to be the kind of kid who turned sweatshirts inside out and drew Hoosier uniforms on them with his favorite players’ numbers. He even met his wife, Barbara, as a junior at IU in the east grandstands during a game.
The football represents Glass’ challenge. Every game day is about fans making memories. Memorial Stadium is their destination, and he’s running the show.
“I try to be very, very accessible,” Glass said. “I’m the ultimate host.”
Everything comes back on him.
Before the kick
Glass is all smiles as the buses carrying IU Coach Tom Allen and the rest of the football team arrive just after 9:45 a.m. near the west entrance of Assembly Hall. It’s time for The Walk, the first pregame activity of the day for the Hoosiers before their Nov. 4 game against the Wisconsin Badgers.
There aren’t many fans waiting along the route the team will take into the stadium. Noon kickoffs have had that effect in the past, but the light rain and fog that have blanketed Bloomington for much of the morning have further accentuated it. Glass can see his own breath and grumbled before the team arrived about how the rain forced him to don a hat so early in the day.
He says the white cap, which has "Hundred" in crimson block letters across the front, the IU logo over his left ear and "Play 13" over his right, will give him hat hair.
His shoes are a source of joy, though. The pair’s vibrant design hits every shade of the rainbow in a checkered pattern that makes his feet pop against the dull, concrete pavement. Glass said he once saw former IU basketball player Troy Williams wearing them and had to get himself a pair.
“I can’t pull it off like Troy,” Glass cautions, “but I like to have fun shoes.”
They’re hard to miss as he matches Allen stride for stride, no doubt powered by the unsweetened iced tea and double steak burger with cheese he ordered this morning from Steak 'n Shake. The fans at The Walk are mostly the same die-hards who go every time, although this year Allen has Glass passing them at a brisker pace than former head coach Kevin Wilson used to.
Wesley Jones, Glass' body man and an assistant director with IU Athletics, picks him up in an electric vehicle affectionately called the “Fredmobile" once he’s done.
Jones is Glass’ companion throughout the majority of the day until Glass retires to his office in the third quarter. Whatever Glass might need, Jones is there. Apart from a jam-packed first quarter, Jones isn't too worried about keeping IU's "nontraditional athletic director" on schedule.
At 10 a.m. Glass is back near where The Walk started, joking during a pregame radio interview that it’s actually beautiful outside. To each question about the team in Allen’s first year as head coach, he offers the usual optimistic, but hungry for more, response.
Glass checks in at the Big Red Bash, an IU Alumni Association event, 16 minutes later and slaps on a name tag.
“It’s a bit presumptuous not to have one,” Glass says. Jones wasn’t exactly sure Glass would be on the list.
Glass takes his time and mingles, more often than not greeting someone with, “How are you doing, brother?”
He checks in with Edson Sample, who funded the Sample Gates, and later can be found sharing Halloween pictures of his granddaughters with the daughter of one of his former law partners. He’s not off the clock, though. One attendee presses him to make the bison IU’s mascot.
Glass later says that it's a decision above his pay grade, but he does try to lure his wife to the Big Red Bash by texting her a picture of some bananas foster.
“Let’s see if this works,” Glass mumbles to himself. It doesn’t — she can’t tell what he took a picture of. Glass decides to leave the tent at 11 a.m., and he tells Jones to meet him at Varsity Club Day, while he goes to track down his wife.
When he finds her at a tailgate and asks how she is, she says, “It’s cold.”
The detour causes Glass to arrive at Memorial Stadium’s Henke Hall of Champions at 11:20 a.m., 20 minutes behind his official schedule. He doesn’t seem to mind.
“These are the fun people,” Glass says.
Jones breathes a sigh of relief when he sees Glass. Sometimes he feels like he’s taking a leap of faith when the two split up and agree to meet somewhere.
Glass stands off to the side with Jones as Mark Deal, a former IU player and coach-turned-assistant athletic director for alumni relations, promises the crowd of IU Athletics fundraisers the Hoosiers will win. Glass is confident, too, but mentions in passing that Wisconsin might try to run up the score if it gets the chance.
So far, Glass hasn’t been approached about the men’s basketball team as much as he would this time of the season in past years. The Hall of Fame induction ceremony the night before might be responsible for that to some extent.
“I think this team has held fans’ interest longer and deeper than in the past,” Glass reasons, “but this is Indiana, and a lot of people’s first love is basketball.”
Jones has Glass moving quickly now. It's 11:49 a.m., only 17 minutes before kickoff, and they need to beat the team to the weight room if Glass is going to make it to the field and get to his usual spot. There are no secret signals when Jones needs to get Glass going, he merely says, "Hey, it's time to go, we need to go."
They take the stairs down to field level, walk through the weight room and out onto the field to the left of Hep’s Rock just before noon. Once the Marching Hundred finishes its pregame responsibilities, Glass and Jones must freeze in order to not be trampled by the trumpet-carrying and drum-wielding Hoosier musicians.
Glass watches IU’s first offensive possession after kickoff end quickly with a punt before starting to make his way up and through the student section. Glass and Jones are joined by two others who carry bags of T-shirts they plan to throw out to students at the game.
“Thanks for firing Crean,” one shouts at Glass.
“Buy me a beer, Fred,” yells another.
The whole way up Glass is thanking students for coming and shaking their hands. He alternates sides of the aisle and takes some by surprise. The vast majority don’t even notice him as they watch Wisconsin drive down the field, and most care more about the free T-shirts than who he is.
“Most of them don’t know who I am, and I don’t expect them to,” Glass says as he walks across an empty row toward the Marching Hundred. The band greets him with cheers, and IU picks off a pass in the end zone to kill Wisconsin’s first drive as Glass finishes thanking the band.
Back on the field, he watches from the north end zone as IU marches down the field and takes the lead on its first touchdown of the day. He cheers, but reservedly so compared to others around him. He wants to lead by example and not get too high or too low.
The first on-field recognition, this for a major donation, went off without a hitch. But as Glass makes his way to the south end zone through the IU bench past people Jones describes as “already big, and bigger with pads,” his leisurely stroll turns to a jog and finally a sprint in a handful of steps.
The second recognition is for the women’s basketball team, and they are already walking onto the field when Glass finally joins them.
In between the next two recognitions in the north end zone, he notices a cut on his right thumb and minor blood stains on the paper he's holding that outlines his schedule. “You shake so many hands you don’t want a cut,” Glass says. “It’s kind of gross.”
Jones grabbed a disinfectant wipe and a Band-Aid from the bench to rectify the situation. It’s the first time in Jones’ five years doing this that it's happened. While there are a few things he says he’ll always try to have on him, like gum or hospitality passes, first-aid materials aren’t going to join the list.
The mood of the game shifts after Glass takes part in his final recognition of the half. Once the women’s cross-country team leaves the field, IU immediately turns the ball over on a controversial fumble. Boos rain down from fans as Glass starts to make the march up the west grandstands toward the suites and press box. A fan a section over nearly hits an IU staffer on the field with a water bottle.
Like with the student section, Glass shakes hands with those who recognize him and those who don’t, thanking them all for coming. Behind him, Wisconsin takes a 14-10 lead.
“Get 37 worked out,” one fan hollers. Glass is amused.
“More and more I think people are working against us,” another tells him, certain there’s a conspiracy against IU.
Jones admires Glass' ability to react on the fly to unpredictable fans and their many questions and suggestions, and he thinks a lot of that ability comes from Glass' background in politics.
Glass arrives at the stadium club seats with a few minutes left in the half and says hello to some people before heading up to the sixth floor suites, which cost $45,000 to rent for the year. Here, he ends up spending most of halftime. Glass spoke with Jane Hoeppner, former IU football head coach Terry Hoeppner’s widow, in one suite before stopping by the others.
Then, as the teams take the field and get ready for the second half, he makes his way back to his office to the small group of family and friends who haven’t seen him since he stopped by their tailgate earlier in the day.
Among them is his wife, who calls his reserved demeanor at games an act, and says he is totally different when he watches at home.
The excitement everyone in his office, which has a terrace overlooking the field, shared in the third quarter when IU trailed 24-17 turned to disappointment as turnovers ended IU’s hopes for a comeback and allowed Wisconsin to run up the score.
With a few minutes left, as he usually does, Glass hits the field. As he posted up near the back corner of the north end zone closest to IU’s bench, Wisconsin scored its final touchdown to cap a 45-17 win for the Badgers.
After the final whistle
Glass went to the locker room for Allen’s postgame remarks once the loss became official, as is his routine for any game, home or away, win or lose. The team’s disappointment with letting another ranked Big Ten opponent slip away in the second half was evident.
Glass tried to stay positive though and stuck with Allen for the radio interview with Don Fischer and postgame press conference. Afterward, he finds a quiet moment with him in the weight room to share some private thoughts.
Those thoughts stay between Allen and Glass.
Once they parted ways, Glass went up to his office to reconnect with his wife and watch some television before heading back to their house in Indianapolis. They also have a condo in Bloomington, and while Glass prefers to stay over in town when they can, his wife had plans to visit relatives and needed to get back to Indianapolis.
When they do stay over, Glass enjoys going to Bear’s Place on the southeast side of campus.
“It’s a good college place, but also is full of music students, and most of them don’t know there was a game and don’t know who I am,” Glass said. “We can have a couple drinks and decompress.”