Bucket Game the real deal for Hoosiers

Mark Deal doesn’t do it every season.

But when an Indiana football coach wants to school the Hoosiers on the history of the Old Oaken Bucket during rivalry week, they turn to Deal.

So there he was on Tuesday morning, speaking to IU’s team about the Bucket’s history, its origin and travels during its 93 years in circulation.

It was equal parts history lesson and motivational speech for Indiana players. It was also a reminder of one of the absolute truths within IU’s football program.

No one loves the Old Oaken Bucket quite like Mark Deal.

“Coach Deal, the way he explains it, it just juices you up,” senior linebacker Tegray Scales said.

In addition to his duties as an assistant athletic director at IU, Deal, a former IU center and on-field assistant coach for the Hoosiers, is also the keeper of the Bucket when it’s in Hoosier hands.

Indiana players got a kick out of Deal’s speech on Tuesday. He walked into the room wearing an IU windbreaker, which he later removed to reveal the old No. 53 game jersey that he wore in the 1976 Bucket Game, a 20-14 Hoosier victory.

“That was fun for the guys to see,” senior corner Rashard Fant said. “I’m sure some of them were like, ‘Did he really play?’ They may not have known about some of the stories and how big (the game) actually is, especially if you’re not from Indiana.”

Deal, of course, is a native Hoosier with deep ties to Indiana University. He played high school ball at Hobart and followed his brother, Mike, and their father, Russ, to Bloomington, where Deal played center for the Hoosiers from 1975 through 1978.

All told, the Deal family has played in eight Old Oaken Bucket games. Deal, himself, is one of nine people at IU who have played and coached in a Bucket Game victory for the Hoosiers. Indiana defensive line coach Mark Hagen joined the club after last season’s 26-24 victory at Memorial Stadium.

“It means a lot,” Deal said. “I’m proud of that. I’m real proud of that. There’s not many of us that have won both — playing in a winning game and coaching in a winning game. It’s way more easier to play in it than coach in it. It’s way easier. Coaching in it, you just want to throw up on your shoes for 60 minutes.

“Coming back to coach for Coach (Bill) Mallory in 1996, oh my gosh. It was way harder to coach than play. As a player, you have a little bit of control. As a coach, you think you have control, but you really don’t. But the best part is it is the best week of the year for an IU football player. No doubt about it.”

Deal’s speech on Tuesday was a reminder — not that the Hoosiers necessarily needed prodding.

“He’s so excited,” senior defensive back Tony Fields said. “He knows every fact, every year, every date down to the T. It’s impressive. I can sit and listen to him talk about it for hours because you can tell he really enjoys it. He’s a main part of getting us fired up and taking pride in it.”

That’s because Deal learned from some of the best.

“Playing for Coach (Lee) Corso, he made it a 365-day-a-year thing,” Deal said. “We ended every practice in the spring, ended every workout by getting together with ‘Beat Purdue!’ You walked into Coach Corso’s office and there were pictures, something from every Purdue game, good or bad. Even if we lost, there was a picture that represented those games.

“Coach Mallory would wear the “I” from the Bucket around his neck the week of the game. After the games that we lost, Coach Mallory put that I in his drawer so that when he opened his drawer every morning, the I was there. He had to look at those. Coach Mallory got it, too.”

On Sunday, Deal received a call from Corso. The message? Beat Purdue.

He relayed that rallying cry to IU players on Tuesday, hoping that this Saturday’s contest against the Boilermakers ends like each of the past four — with a Hoosier victory.

“It’s emotional,” Deal said. “It’s very emotional. I don’t want to give it up because I’m the one who hands it over. I’ve done it twice and I don’t want to be the one to do it again.”


  1. Outstanding! A history lesson in the locker room from a guy with passion and personal experiences. Has to be more motivation starting the week for the team heading into the Bucket. PDTTOTMFB!!!!!

  2. Chet, I’ve a question I’ve wanted to ask for some time and just have failed to do it. Did you not require some pretty extensive shoulder surgery a year or year-and-a-half ago? Just curious if it put you back in the saddle.

    1. Yeah, it went great. Really good surgeon in the area probably as a result of the huge mountain biking community. My shoulders need a little more meat on them. Thanks for asking.

  3. A great story about the role Deal players during Bucket week. He gives the players a direct connection to Bucket history and brings alive the meaning of the rivalry.

  4. This OLD OAKEN BUCKET GAME is huge in so many ways for both schools every year, but this year the HOOSIERS have an opportunity that has not been there for many a years. I consider Purdue a rival, not an enemy, cause I have many Purdue friends. Winning the BUCKET is very rewarding in many ways as a HOOSIER. Hopefully we can keep the BUCKET in Bloomington for another year. GO HOOSIERS!!!

  5. I may have played in some games against Deal….Hobart kicked our Chesterton asses most years. We only had their number during my freshman year….when we went undefeated. Hobart kids knew how to hit.

  6. Never mind….I misread the years. I didn’t play against any Hobart team he was on. Nonetheless, Hobart was always one of the toughest teams in our Duneland Conference.

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