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COLUMN: Profane chants should be wake-up call for IU Athletics


IU Athletic Director Fred Glass looks up at the new south end zone scoreboard July 25, 2018 at Memorial Stadium.  Matt Begala

Overreaction is common in the sports world.

One thing happens and fans obsess about it for 24 hours. Then time passes by and we think, "What was all that fuss about?"

IU men’s basketball has been at the center of clear overreaction this week. After fans rained vulgar chants down on Purdue sophomore center Matt Haarms during IU’s 48-46 loss to Purdue in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall on Tuesday, national critiques came storming in.

The chants came after Haarms had chippy altercations with IU junior forward De’Ron Davis. It started with the players locking arms and receiving double fouls and then Haarms receiving a technical foul later in the game.

IU students were ripped for their actions during the rivalry game, and it eventually led to IU Athletic Director Fred Glass sending out an email to all student season ticket holders.

“The profane chants directed at a specific Purdue player were not part of your positive contributions,” Glass said in the email. “They were embarrassing and unacceptable and reflected poorly on you and Indiana University. Knock off the profane chants, and please help those around you to do the same. You and Indiana University are better than that.”

Sure, there are better ways to be a fan, but this should serve as a wake-up call to IU’s athletic department.

Fans are irritated.

Irritated by losing streaks, underachieving and what could be the most nagging part of it all: losing to Purdue.

Very few, if any, IU fans have any personal affiliation with Haarms. While the chants may have seemed vulgar, Haarms was never in any real physical danger while in Assembly Hall or Bloomington itself.

After his game-winning tip went in, the anger wasn’t aimed toward Haarms. The chants didn’t start up again. Instead, fans were upset about the latest episode of IU collapsing late in a game this season. Another loss, another reminder of another underachieving season, along with a fifth-straight defeat to Purdue.

The chant was inappropriate, but it was a frustrated fan base looking to get in the opposing team’s head while also trying to bring life into a team that has looked to play with minimal purpose at times. Never was there true ill-intention toward Haarms.

It's not like this is an uncommon move for fans. That’s where overreaction plays a factor again.

Rivalry games like IU versus Purdue makes everything bigger. But what about last season when the same chant was made toward former Duke University guard Grayson Allen?

It was all overlooked, maybe because Duke is hated by many in the college basketball world.

Was it right to do it with Allen? Maybe not, but it was not overblown nationally to the extent the Haarms story has been.

And profanity is another source of overreaction. IU freshman guard Romeo Langford has received chants of “overrated” all season long, but nobody worries about how that might affect him.

Certainly, there should be some concern of whether any chants are psychologically affecting players. 

That brings up the jokes mode on social media — the ones that slipped away without much attention — about former IU quarterback Brandon Dawkins leaving the program last August due to mental health issues. Where was the scrutiny toward fans about that?

 “You don’t want to get into the personal side of things with players" IU Coach Archie Miller said. "They’re out there working hard. They’re out there playing and competing. It’s hard enough to be in the public eye all the time."

Fans should consider what effect they have on athletes once they step off the court or field, but those judging the fans should also avoid double standards.

And where were IU’s leaders to step up and do something as it was happening?

When Duke fans chanted “overrated” at Langford earlier this season, Blue Devils Coach Mike Krzyzewski told fans to stop. After University of Georgia fans threw objects on the court late in Wednesday’s game against Mississippi State University, former IU coach and current Georgia Coach Tom Crean grabbed the microphone and made a statement telling them to stop.

But where were Glass and IU Coach Archie Miller during Tuesday’s matchup? Well, after being criticized nationally, Glass decided to send out an email.

It was another example of the simple solution that we see far too often: the obligatory email after not making the right decision in real time.

It was sport. It was a rivalry game. It was profanity.

So, naturally it had overreaction.

"We’ll move on from it," Miller said.

Surely we will move on. But will both sides learn something in the process? 

It can serve as a learning experience for college students as they develop into the “real world.” 

IU Athletics can learn just as much, but first it needs to see the deeper frustration behind the chants rather than take the easy route of issuing an email and sweeping it under the rug the next day.

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