The seemingly all-day tailgating. Candy-striped pants and Martha the Mop Lady. Fall sweater weather and smacking the boards before corner kicks. Cyclists racing to the sound of their respective thundering clans. Spring sunsets as the backdrop for seven-to-nine innings.
Welcome to the scenery of Indiana University’s sports — to quote one sports announcer: “Where basketball is religion.” For rivalry and ranked matchups, students will line up outside Simon Skojdt Assembly Hall for hours in the cold for the best seats to watch the Hoosiers.
Residents of the state of Indiana are nicknamed Hoosiers. This is also the name for the school’s 24 sports teams, though at one point, Indiana’s mascot was the bison. Regardless, corresponding with the 24-sport medley on campus, Hoosier fans are impassioned.
The football schedule begins the first week of September, as the Hoosiers, which compete in the 14-team Big Ten Conference, play every Friday or Saturday up to the end of November. The team’s season-opener is at 3:30 p.m. EST on September 2 versus Ohio State.
The parking lots encircling Memorial Stadium will be packed with thousands of fans for home games, as will the nearby Tailgating Fields across the street. Though football isn’t Indiana’s staple sport – the team has had back-to-back losing seasons – it’s the lone repeating sport that features lively all-day activities for students: from pregame tailgates, to the game itself, to afterparties. Getting enough rest and staying hydrated are important for game days.
Student tickets can be found on the IU Athletics website. Student season tickets to football games cost $120. The price jumps to $440 to combine basketball tickets. Basketball is synonymous with Indiana and the basketball stadium, Assembly Hall, becomes more than rowdy welcoming rivals like Purdue. The five-minute video on YouTube titled “Proof that Indiana has the best fans in college basketball” shows clips of frenzied fans at the Hall, starting with the renowned “Wat Shot” in 2011.
Indiana has won five national championships in program history, the latest in 1987. Current head coach Mike Woodson, who was appointed before the team’s 2021-2022 season, played at Indiana in college and has coached in the NBA. Indiana hadn’t contended for the NCAA Tournament since 2016, until back-to-back Tournament appearances the past two seasons under Woodson. Players Jalen Hood-Schifino and Trayce Jackson-Davis were selected in this year’s NBA Draft.
The women’s basketball team, which likewise plays games inside Assembly Hall, has been on the rise under ninth-year head coach Teri Moren. The Hoosiers have posted eight consecutive 20-win seasons and reached their first Elite Eight in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. This past season, Moren was named the program’s first-ever Associated Press National Coach of the Year as Indiana won the Big Ten regular-season title for the first time in 40 years — also playing in front of the first sellout crowd in program history. Guard Grace Berger, Indiana’s all-time winningest player, was selected by the Indiana Fever in this year’s WNBA Draft.
The gameday experience at Assembly Hall has traditions such as players wearing the iconic cream and crimson striped pants during warm-ups and Martha the Mop Lady — an opera singer named Martha Webster mopping the floors of Assembly Hall shown on the video board — singing the school's fight song "Indiana, our Indiana" before tip-off. This video can be found on YouTube.
The caption from the Indiana University Athletics video reads, "During the mid 1970s, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance ads included this iconic Martha the Mop Lady campaign. It ran prior to the [Indiana] games on local television channel WTTV-4. When broadcasts expanded to national networks, Martha was displaced for roughly 20 years. It was not until 2010 when Martha reappeared; this time, it was on the video board inside Assembly Hall prior to tip-off."
Though football and basketball largely attract the Hoosier fanbase, plenty of other Indiana sports are worth checking out. The Indiana men’s soccer team has won eight national championships and have reached 22 College Cups. This past season, the Hoosiers reached the national championship match in North Carolina, though lost in penalty kicks.
The team plays midweek night matches at Bill Armstrong Stadium in the fall semester, which is the perfect setting to destress or relax on cool nights with friends. Plus, fans can stand directly next to the pitch on the far side and collectively smack the boards. This section is where the Hoosier Army, the group of devoted Indiana men’s soccer fans, watches matches.
Indiana’s volleyball team plays matches inside Wilkinson Hall, next to Assembly Hall, and this past season beat two ranked teams on the road for the first time in program history. You’ll find students acting berserk in the stands at volleyball matches. Perhaps the sound reverberates better indoors.
The Indiana men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams always seem to be churning out Olympians. In the spring, evening baseball and softball games are the perfect time to unwind. This past season, the baseball team made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019, while the softball team achieved the same feat for the first time since 2011 –– winning 23 consecutive games at one point during the season.
Then, there’s the Little 500 – the largest collegiate bike race in the United States held annually in April – which began in 1951. Modeled after the Indianapolis 500, four-person men’s and women’s teams comprised of the school’s fraternities, sororities and more race laps around the quarter-mile track that circles the outside of the soccer field.
The men’s race is 200 laps and the women’s is half that. Deemed “The World’s Greatest College Weekend,” there are plenty of festivities in Bloomington the week leading up to the race. Cutters, an independent team, boast the most wins in the men’s race. The women’s race began in 1988. The Kappa Alpha Theta sorority has the most victories.
Students must purchase tickets to attend football and men’s basketball games. Admission to all regular season home games for baseball, men's and women's soccer, softball, volleyball, women's basketball and wrestling, however, is free upon showing your student ID at the entry gates.
With many of Indiana’s 24 sports teams having great success this past sports season, the environments of sporting events at Indiana offer many opportunities for students. From all-day tailgates and shouting at football and basketball games, to methodically-paced soccer, baseball and softball, not only is attending most sporting events free, but they provide a well-rounded fan adventure year-round.