If you’re new to IU or the collegiate athletics scene in general, the barrier to entry as a fan can look rather tall. With 24 teams representing 16 extremely distinct sports, you may feel like all you can do is cheer on the athletes wearing red, which gets tricky since that applies to nearly half the schools in the Big Ten.
That’s the conference in which all of IU’s teams compete, by the way. The Big Ten contains 14 schools, which should immediately tell you how well organized it is.
Most of those 14 schools are conveniently nestled in the Midwest, although there are a couple along the East coast. They aren’t relevant in the context of this guide, and honestly they’re barely relevant outside of it.
Part of being a Big Ten school means spending a lot of money on sports, which is a huge reason why IU has had so much success in so many different ones throughout the years — just don’t Google anything about the football team prior to, say, 2019.
Unequivocally the most popular sport at IU is men’s basketball. Even if you haven’t watched a single minute of Hoosier basketball, you’ve probably heard the name Bob Knight. You might have even watched the 1986 film “Hoosiers,” easily one of the 17 best sports movies ever made.
Basketball is to Indiana what Hollywood is to California or what hilariously bizarre criminals are to Florida. For IU, that means every basketball season starts with expectations higher than the five championship banners hanging from the rafters in Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall.
Now, if you ever visit Assembly Hall, you may notice the most recent date on those banners is from a time when your parents would have been in college. That’s a bit of a sore subject for Hoosier faithfuls, but a championship run could be right around the corner. IU just needs to actually make the tournament first.
Fortunately, basketball is far from the only sport at which the Hoosiers excel.
IU men’s soccer is hot off a national championship appearance, its fourth in the last decade. The team’s eight NCAA titles are the second most of any program, but the Hoosiers are still largely considered the best squad across collegiate soccer history. The school with the most championships hasn’t won one since 1973, which just so happens to be the same year IU men’s soccer gained varsity status.
Coincidence? Who’s to say?
Speaking of top-flight talent, both the men’s and women’s swimming and diving rosters are studded with Olympians, in case watching the literal greatest in the world compete at the highest level is something you’re into.
This winter, you have to catch a swimming and diving meet at the Counsilman Billingsley Aquatic Center — or as you might know it, the massive pool in the Student Recreational Sports Center you’re usually not allowed to go in.
Then there’s the team with the most recent success at Assembly Hall, IU women’s basketball.
Head coach Teri Moren has transformed the Hoosiers into a national competitor with championship aspirations. The fact that you can get into one of their games with no more than your student ID is the sort of fantastic steal you’ll see senior guard and gold medalist Grace Berger make regularly on the court.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the football team, which has also experienced a massive glow-up as of late. Again, not that you should ever, ever look into the program’s history, but its present is extremely sweet. Head coach Tom Allen is a neutron star of limitless energy worth the price of admission alone.
I’m pretty sure the bandwagon is still accepting riders, so hop on before IU messes around and becomes a football school.
These are the sports you’re bound to hear the most about during your time in Bloomington, but don’t overlook the hidden gems.
A softball game at Andy Mohr Field or a baseball game at Bart Kaufman Field is a great way to unwind after finals in the spring. Watching an IU wrestling match will leave you wondering how it’s possible to be that jacked and that flexible at the same time. If you didn’t go to the approximately 12 secondary schools in the world that have a water polo or field hockey team, now is the chance.
Above all, try to have fun and remember the best fans are the ones who exemplify sportsmanship. That means displaying humility in victory, being gracious in defeat and brutally mocking the team in black and gold if it so much as misses a free throw.