COMMENTARY: IU from the wrong side of Big Ten tracks

For more than five decades now, Indiana football has been living in a van down by the river.

There’s been the occasional foray into town, some seasons providing a more reliable roof over IU’s head, others seemingly washing away all hope.

But the Hoosiers have refused to be defined by their circumstances, slowly bettering themselves in recent years before finally being able to afford rent in the Big Ten’s high-class district this season with wins over Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State and Wisconsin — all long-time landlords in the conference.

However, like anyone born on the wrong side of the tracks, it’s only a matter of time before someone reminds you of it.

Indiana got reminded Tuesday night and again on Wednesday afternoon.

It started with the College Football Playoff rankings, a made-for-TV weekly event providing an allegedly unbiased and well-researched approach to determining the best teams in the country.

With No. 12 IU coming off a win at No. 16 Wisconsin, surely the Hoosiers were in line for a bump in the standings.

Uh, that would be a no.

Indiana stayed at No. 12.

Those ahead of them:

• Two-loss Iowa State, No. 7 despite dropping games to No. 19 Louisiana and No. 22 Oklahoma State.

• Unbeaten Cincinnati, which at least has a case in that sense, although the No. 8 Bearcats’ signature wins are then-No. 22 Army and then-No. 16 SMU. Neither are currently ranked.

• Two-loss Georgia, granted those losses were to No. 1 Alabama and No. 6 Florida, but both games were blowouts. No other foe for the No. 9 Bulldogs is currently ranked.

• One-loss Miami (Fla.), No. 10 with a 35-point shellacking at the hands of Clemson on its resume with No. 23 N.C. State currently its best win.

• Two-loss Oklahoma, one of those to Iowa State, the other to 4-6 Kansas State, yet the Sooners sit at No. 11.

Now, it’s also fair to point out that Indiana does not have any wins against teams currently in the top 25 after Wisconsin fell out of the rankings this week. One could also argue even that’s a backhanded slap in the face, as the Badgers have such bad losses to Northwestern (No. 14) and IU that they are not worthy of being ranked.

But the Hoosiers don’t have any bad losses, and since much of these rankings seem somehow connected to how good or bad a loss might be, it seems IU has arguably the best loss of anyone with a seven-point defeat at the hands of Ohio State.

Which brings us to that second reminder that the name on the front of the jersey is what matters most.

Suddenly enraged at the stupidity of putting a minimum games-played rule in place at the beginning of an impossible nine-week season with no scheduling wiggle room, the Big Ten had a change of heart on Wednesday.

It waived the rule in order to allow fourth-ranked and 5-0 Ohio State to play in the Big Ten Championship game.

I’m not here to argue the Buckeyes don’t deserve to play for a Big Ten title. They do. And they beat Indiana head to head, so they certainly had the tiebreaker if it came to that.

But it didn’t, because it never had a chance. Ohio State missed three games due to COVID issues. IU is going to wind up missing one, the finale against Purdue that was canceled on Wednesday.

Prior to this week, the Hoosiers played seven straight games, the last three against teams that had at least a week off prior to the game. You can argue that the layoff might have hurt those teams as much or more than helped, but the whole point of putting in the minimum was to determine as true of a champion as possible. (Another reason was providing additional motivation for teams to be vigilant and avoid outbreaks.)

A season requires playing through ups and downs, maintaining focus and discipline no matter the opponent. Ohio State only had to do that for three weeks, then it got a week off before Indiana, another week off before Michigan State, and now will have another week off before the Big Ten Championship against Northwestern. Should the Buckeyes have won the games that got canceled? Yes, they would’ve been heavy favorites. But those heavy favorites also lost to Purdue in West Lafayette two years ago in a game that no one expected them to lose. The fewer games you play, the fewer chances to make a mistake.

But let’s face it, the dollar signs have always been the driving force in the leadership farce of the league, which failed to have a plan in place during the summer, canceled the season, then un-canceled it, created a schedule that was going to be impossible to fully play out, and set up rules that it now refuses to follow.

There’s not a lot of value in a Northwestern-Indiana title game, but throw Ohio State in there and you’ve got something people will watch. Keep in mind it was Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez who was talking about changing the rules just last week — before Indiana eliminated the Badgers from even taking advantage of a rules change to make the finale.

The league would have thrown Northwestern under the bus just as quickly as Indiana, given the opportunity.

In addition, if Ohio State wins that game, as de facto Big Ten champ it is virtually guaranteed a spot in the College Football Playoff, where the B1G, B1G money really is.

The truth is the Buckeyes were probably going to get there, regardless, since a win against No. 16 Iowa in the likely second-place crossover game isn’t much different than one against No. 14 Northwestern.

However, Ohio State is the entitled rich kid who will not be denied what it wants, when it wants it. An Ohio State writer on Tuesday said that any argument that Indiana should have been in the Big Ten Championship game was stupid.

So remember that the next time a police officer pulls you over. Just tell him that you don’t deserve to be ticketed because the rules should be changed, they’re stupid. And if that fails, tell him you’re an Ohio State fan.

Meanwhile, Indiana could be enjoying a seminal moment in its history, right up there with the 1968 Rose Bowl. But the league will take a pass on putting the Hoosiers in the spotlight.

At this point, one can only assume the Hoosiers’ consolation prize will be a trip to Iowa City. And if that’s the case, IU ought to just decide that its increase in COVID cases isn’t going to let up in time to play next week and just await a bowl game assignment.

But more likely, Indiana will take the high road, as AD Scott Dolson did on Wednesday in a statement.

“Coach (Tom) Allen and I are proud of this team and the success we have had so far this season,” it read. “We are one of only two teams in the country with three Top-25 victories and have matched a program record for Big Ten wins. Although we understand the conference’s decision, we are disappointed. From the start of the year, we have said we can only control what we can control. We had a chance to earn our spot in the Big Ten Championship Game, but ultimately fell a touchdown short on the road against a great Ohio State team. We look forward to resuming activities and completing one of the best seasons in our school’s history.”

That’s a kinder response than the Big Ten deserves, but as Dolson notes, this situation was out of Indiana’s hands.

There’s certainly no sense in the Hoosiers worrying about what anyone thinks, because after this week, we already know.

As far as Indiana has come, for most folks, it clearly has a long way to go.


  1. Good article about the situation IU is in but I don’t think any of us think IU has arrived yet. The issue is does the B1G change the rules when things don’t go the way they want – the answer is yes they will.
    When coach Allen and staff get the program to the point they challenge the football powers to the point IU is seen as one of the football powers.

    Still this team is damaged by the perceptions of IUFB and the B1G’s lack of integrity. The infuriating thing is the CFP committees ranking. Putting ISU, Georgia, Miami, and Cincinnati ahead of IU defies reality of how this season has gone. Their rankings show the bias that exist in the committee as two loss teams rating higher than IU with one close loss.

    The only way to overcome the bias is to win every game and leave no question about how good you are, at least with a B1G schedule.

    1. OSU is the best team in the East and likely the best team in the conference. The commentary that they’re the “rich kid” who gets off easy when one accepts the undeniable fact that they hold their top position due to merit.

      And as we’ve seen, being careful in all f this isn’t likely the reason some teams have had outbreaks and others have not. It’s a highly contagious, if somewhat benign (at least for young and healthy people, like college athletes), virus. Thankfully, while several have been infected, few have actually gotten “sick”. Even with all of the concern over one of our football Hoosiers (he was very “careful”, by the way), he was never hospitalized (he spent some time in the ER).

      As for our ranking, it’s obviously the result of several subjectivities, but the nonsense that we’re somehow being cheated or mistreated has zero merit when you accept that objective standards are few (which is why it’s a subjective determination, after all). On a neutral field, we’d be an underdog to UGA and UM, likely one to UC, and a pick ‘em with Iowa State. That hardly makes the argument that we should vault all four of them in the CFP rankings as convincing to most observers not dressed head to toe in cream and crimson.

      If people want to be mad about this, direct that toward a conference that said we were going to play, almost immediately reversed field and said the season was cancelled while emphasizing the decision would not be revisited, reversed field again and said games would occur, waited four weeks to start the season when coaches said they needed half of that time to prepare, built a schedule with no contingencies other than cancelling games, imposed standards well beyond CDC guidelines for the time positive test athletes would need to sit out, and then imposed a standard for how teams would qualify for the championship without any idea of how things might progress through the shortened season.

      Blame the conference for consistently playing behind the curve. But don’t blame them, and don’t blame OSU, because they had the audacity to pick the best team to play for the conference championship. Amazingly, they got that one right.

      1. Bear,OSU is the best team in the B1G. But, on the field, IU is better than Cinn, Miami, Ok St, and IA St. However the Big 12 needs 1 team to be in the top 12. Cinn is undefeated but unproven, politically correct, and ESPN needs Miami to bolster the case for the “looser” of ND and Clemson to be in the final four. Ratings = Money = Rankings! So much for “sport”!

        1. We only know OSU is tops in the East. The rest is subjective . . . Who knows if we’re better than any of those teams?

      2. The only thing more “audacious” than IU’s 12th place positioning is YOUR unbelievably biased interpretation. As for point spreads and preconceptions, the Vegas ‘experts’ have sold IU short on every game,..i e pointspread, by 15.8 points. We were a 14 point ‘dog’ in Madison. That’s a 22 point misfire!

        1. Again, you’re offering an opinion without seeing any of those teams play, which is fine. But to dismiss the views of people much closer to it makes no sense. We’re all fans but the rankings beyond the top four are subjective. It’s not bias as much as it is a realistic look at each team and their attributes.

  2. You’re exactly right, BD. And I do blame the conference officials. They lost a ton of credibility last summer, and now they’ve just proven they’re totally corrupt. I guess the rules are O.K. as long as there’s no money at stake.

    As for IU’s ranking, well that’s just another classic example of “perception bias” at work. Just like IU not getting the vital calls from refs when they’re playing the previously elite teams in the Big Ten. It’s going to take a while and a lot more wins before IU FB eliminates the burden of perception bias. But we now have the coach that can lead teams to overcome that problem.

    One last thing. From now on, when IU has any opponent down in the second half, they need to run up the score and maximize the margin of victory. Apparently, that matters to the people who create the rankings and sportsmanship is a quaint but antiquated concept these days. Goodness knows, IU has been on the wrong end of lopsided games; maybe it’s time we start returning the favors.

  3. Great job, Jeremy. Loved the creativity of comparing IU Football to living in a trailer down by the river. Sports journalism (particularly, the talent void of dull talking heads we most often witness on the major outlets/networks) rarely gets a treat of creativity you displayed here.

    Sadly, it appears IU Football and IU Basketball are currently on “the other side of the tracks.” But who’s to blame? Nobody forced us into self-righteous witch hunts, rarely giving second chances to kids who got in trouble or the empty marketing of “We’re Back!” while other programs were truly competing on the highest stages. When you overly promote, sell your own “holier than thou” standing and gloat upon yourself with little in the trophy cases to back it up, it begins to sound a bit shallow…and ‘down by the river.’

    To get respect, Indiana might want to try banging on their own drum a bit less. Walk off the field like you’ve been there before….Maybe Tom Allen’s cartwheels and Richard Simmons act is just a bit too much for some? Personally, I would have liked to have seen Tom Allen just refuse postgame interviews. Jog off the field with his team like they were General Patton’s Army ….Ready for battle and matter-of-fact.
    Why must it always be a Hallmark commercial with players needing a box of Kleenex while providing personal endorsements of enough “love” to bring a swamp of crocodiles to tears? Overkill (even in its sincerest form) rarely brings respect from peers. And overkill after one breakthrough season during a pandemic? Not to hijack your creativity, but gypsies down by the river should know better….

  4. It’s 15 days until Christmas. If the B1G conference was in charge of scheduling the Holiday who knows when it would happen.

  5. I think IU is under ranked, but that’s as much of my heart talking as it is my mind. Any of the schools you mentioned would be tough as hell opponents, and I can easily argue how we could both beat or lose to any of them. The BiG, on the other hand, has peed down their legs on this thing from the outset, all under the guise of protecting players and coaches. The Presidents rule the roost, so most of the blame goes to them, but Kevin Warren’s lack of influence and experience has been a big contributor to the overall poor execution here. I think OSU is the best team, and they beat us, so I don’t have a problem with them representing the East. But the BiG set themselves up to be second guessed, and they look amateurish because of it. At this point, I’ll be happy if we just get to play a bowl game, and I’m not totally confident that will happen.

    1. Good post BD as the conference, especially the presidents, have opened themselves up to ridicule and second guessing. I don’t know why anyone would believe and trust them any more after all the take backs they have had this season with we won’t play, to we will have a full season, to an abbreviated season, and now we changed the rules again for the B1G title game. I have no issue with them saying OSU is the best team this year but ignoring the rules to get what they want is wrong.

      IU is very under ranked by the committee and I think the polls have them in about the right spot at #8 or #9. In this crazy year it is not unexpected to have IU’s year get derailed a bit but it can’t tarnish what they have achieved so far.

      1. Take a look at what is happening (along with “self-imposed” sanctions) to last year’s national football champs. The SEC will do anything for cash. The BigTen was not in an easy position when the SEC declared amateur athletes to be as “essential” during a pandemic as a front line hospital worker. I think we’re being a bit too hard on the new commissioner. In the climate today, had he stood his ground and cancelled the season, he would have likely needed 24 hour security at his home due to death threats to his family.
        He was going to face harsh criticism for either following or standing his ground. Once the SEC decided cash was of the utmost importance, the BigTen was between a rock and a hard place.

        College Football in the BigTen before Warren? The fact PSU is even playing in a “power conference” after Lysol Jerry made “Happy Valley” happier pretty much tells you all you need to know when it comes to caving to dollars. The raping of a child in a locker room shower at the hands of a grotesque animal identified as a “coach” could not derail the prestige of Penn State football remaining in the BigTen.

        And LSU? Give back the trophy. Indiana Football deserves it far more than you. I vote you out.

        1. H4H I have no problem with our new commissioner as he hasn’t had enough time to build his rep and it was the presidents were the ones deciding the decision on the season. I agree with you about PSU as they were in the B1G when the scandal came out to the public. PSU has another scandal that hasn’t really made the press with a fight between their best LB that started it and another LB on the team. Coach Franklin told the LB to keep quiet and not report it a couple of players told him he would be done what Sandusky did. When Franklin was at his Vanderbilt there was a sexual scandal [rapes by his players] he didn’t handle well but PSU hired him anyway. PSU should have been booted out of the B1G just like MSU should have been booted out for their sexual scandal that went on for years. Get schools in without scandals like that and be a real B1G.

          LSU is struggling this year with their new DC and failing on defense that was very good. With the talent they have the defense should have been very good again.

          I hope IU can avoid what LSU, PSU, and UM this year with established HC and their talented rosters they had.

        2. The Presidents are the decision makers in the BiG, not Kevin Warren. Delany had huge influence over as a result of his incredibly successful tenure as commissioner, but Warren has to wait for a table in that restaurant just like every other commoner.

          As for PSU, that’s been beat to death with so many half truths and innuendo, let alone outright falsehoods, that no one will ever be swayed from whatever “truth” they choose to invent and believe. Suffice to say there’s enough misinformation and wrongheaded moral indignation to fill an ocean, so reasoning with ignorance will never make sense. They remain a member of the conference due to that, not in spite of it. Thankfully.

  6. OSU may see themselves as rewarded their superiority, but I’m sort of buying into what Jay Bilas had to say about college athletes being more “essential” than essential front line healthcare professionals during a pandemic. The dollars in sports are more “essential” to keep these slaves to corporate riches on the fields and on the courts than to let them go home for Christmas while we just back a way for a bit in an attempt to examine what we’re actually attempting to do accomplish here. for an “amateur” athlete.
    If they are essential and being tested more precisely and frequently than hospital workers then why aren’t they being paid?

    Reminds me of an old joke….and maybe it applies to those players/teams who have self-identified themselves as deserving and rightful recipients of their own prestigious standing. But let me remind you, amateur athlete. You are “essential” only to our desires. You are merely a negotiated cost for our pleasure. The joke: “We’ve determined what you are. Now we’re just negotiating price.” The pleasure you provide really costs us very little compared to the riches you are locked out.

    1. H4H, I wouldn’t say the games haven’t done as much for people as the health care people have but that they have different roles in society. You should remember that playing the games are also helping not just the fans but the players and coaches based on what they say. Games aren’t just desire for people but something important to their well being just as music and arts is for most people. I know the season IU is having provided many with joy that they didn’t have due do too many things taken away by shutdowns and stay away from crowds due to the virus.

      We can argue about the need for sports and people’s mental health but the reality is sports do impact people and their mental health. Sports isn’t just about desire of people but an outlet that lets society work better. It brings people together for their teams, provides competition in a good way because people are competitive naturally and will turn to other things than sports to compete with other people. All you have to do is look all over the earth to see how societies come up with competition outlets for societies.

      There are many people today trying to deny competition by criticize people for being competitive but they are looking at the wrong thing about the issue. We see it with the decision B1G just made to ignore the rule they created to get the result they hope to get. People are competitive from the day they are born, it is the idea that to compete with others and accept the results aren’t enough for some. Understand it is more about having morals to follow the rules society and the groups you belong too and than it is about competition is bad.

      We can look at making things better but we must understand the issue, life isn’t easy but complex and hard to understand in all its complexities because people are complex beings.

  7. If OSU had lost to MSU or Rutgers, would they still deserve to be ushered in to the Big Ten Championship game without abiding by the original rules? If they had lost one of those games, would IU be playing in the Big ten Championship game? As pointed out in the article, there’s always change that by playing two additional games, OSU would have lost one of them. And if that had been the case, IU would surely have earned the right to play for the Big Ten Championship. The rules matter because playing the games matter.

    Kevin Warren is too weak to “guide” the Big Ten Presidents to the appropriate decisions and therefore has become an errand boy. Therefore, that group of pampered elites have made a mess of things and exposed their collective incompetence. Generally speaking, higher education in the USA has become a disgrace.

    1. No, had OSU played and lost one additional game, they’d be the BiG East representative in the championship game. That’s why the indignation over this revision is misplaced. One more game, even if it was a lopsided loss, would’ve still gotten them to the championship game. That’s why the Big 10 had no problem changing the standard – it wouldn’t have mattered anyway.

  8. The Bubble Bowl Esencial…is brought to you by the fine makers of “Mr. Bubble.” When other are students are allowed to go home and roast their holiday chestnuts on an open fire, Mr. Bubble Essencial will bubble your locked-up college athletes clean of Covid-19!

  9. Will OSU Basketball now declare they can play a handful of regular season basketball games (number to be determined later) and qualify for the championship of the Conference Tournament…and then proceed directly to a Final Four if they win one conference tournament game?
    Welcome to the world of prestige. Jay Cutler should be the national spokesperson for college football.

  10. I think Penix’s injury hurt us in the overall college football rankings. It may have even hurt us in the decisions on Wednesday to allow OSU to be the ‘defacto’ champs of the East.
    Tuttle has been fine, but there was a national buzz beginning around Michael Penix. Penix should have had a shock collar around an ankle to stop him from running for yardage.

    Much of the “selling” of college football (along with the top Heisman candidates) primarily revolves around the qb position. Penix was entering a new realm for IU quarterbacks. The defense on the Hoosiers is vastly improved, but Penix was the headliner creating closer examination and appeal. It began with the huge individual play against PSU…It continued with outshining the Heisman candidate in Columbus and his orchestrating a tremendous comeback.

    Personally, I never saw Tuttle as anything close to what Penix was bringing to our offense. The loss of Penix took away much of our national “shock the world” appeal. The marketing of quarterbacks is of massive appeal in the college game and in the NFL. Penix came with a great story of natural god-given talent overcoming terrible setbacks. Coming into this season, he had little to zero experience against top BigTen opponents. He was dicing up pass defenses like a Veg-O-Matic. He set the momentum of this season in motion in Week One. We was our “it factor” and our Broadway Joe.

  11. Note to commission head and Iowa AD, Gary Barta. Your rush to ensure the BIG got a seat at the playoff table with potentially lost revenues is understandable. After relegating IU at #12, likely 5-6 spots off where they should be,….you have not only jeopardized automatic bowl revenue, but unjustly, put IU’s bowl season in doubt.

  12. The College Presidents wouldn’t have yielded to “pressure” to open colleges and athletics if the “Sociopath” living on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. hadn’t called them to pressure them to open. His concern for the money and businesses drove that pressure. The SEC happily joined the rant to open because they NEED the FAN MONEY to keep programs and businesses open; and there are 300,000 dead and 3000 dying daily that proves money buys blindness and deafness to the social ramifications of listening to a sociopath versus some resemblance of common sense and intelligence. Wisconsin admitted to losing $16 MILLION a home game. If someone hadnt pressured to “flip the on sitch ” The “cost” of opening the campuses wouldn’t have been so great. On another note about ESSENTIAL..since most hospitals are full and overflowing ; who’s going to care for the sick when the nurses arent available…You assume that nurses will always be there to give the medical care ;but maybe they cant be so off to YOUR home the sick and dying are coming..then talk about “essential athletes”

      1. ask the Bloomington Businesses that rely on the athletic programs how they are doing? Ask IU President or Chancellor how much they lose without fans in the stands? And lastly if you think its BS about the hospitals running out of OR have run out of beds…go work on a Covid-19 floor, see the fatigue and frustration of aching people dying faster than you can clean the bed.

        1. What BS. Go live your life. Don’t be cavalier but just live your life. Blaming people for your troubles is so shortsighted.

    1. Dude, this is hogwash, and I’m a million miles from a Trump fan. Opening up college football hasn’t caused a spike in Covid cases, there have been no hospitalizations, and literally no serious cases. Certainly, no one has died or even come close to that.

      1. do you know how much money as lost from football NOT filling the stands and then conversely fans not crowding the streets of Bloomington? or how much ill be lost ith Basketball not filling Assembly Hall and fans not going into businesses?

        1. A ton f money has been lost, obviously. The “hogwash” part was blaming their reopening on pressure fromTrump. I’m no fan of his, but they reopened because they were facing financial devastation if they did not. I thought that was quite apparent.

  13. TJ, you’re going to be a very unhappy person when you can no longer blame Trump for everything you perceive to be wrong in this country. Big things are going to begin to decline and go bad in the months and years forthcoming because we’re going to have a truly corrupt, compromised, dementia-riddled half-wit occupying the Oval Office (at least until the swamp creatures get rid of him). And when you no longer have Trump to blame, then what will you do? Perhaps the new administration, like the Obama administration, with the help of the corrupt media outlets and Big Tech, continue to blame Trump for all their problems for the next six years.

    1. JUST a reminder PO… Trump said the Covis-19 virus was a hoax…then said it would miraculously disappear by Easter; cold weather would halt the spread. The blaming of trump is not an emotional one but it is one based on his behavior. If you had a doctor that told you the cancer would disappear or it is a hoax…thats not pointing blame without cause…300,000 dead and 3000 dying daily and he is worried more about staying in power to avoid serious criminal investigations than LEADING . I hope you never have to question a Dr. when he tells you your heart attack is just a “hoax”

      1. BS! You’re blind. Nancy ‘Know-All’ Pelosi spent an afternoon in February in Chinatown trolling the President about shutting down travel between the Chi-Coms and the USA. So did Braindead Biden. Fauci early on said masks were no help and unneeded. Whiff…miss. Care to stick the 2nd foot in your mouth?

  14. Um.

    Sorry to derail and talk about the article, but great writing JP. I love reading things that make me jealous of how effortlessly they are articulated. Some serious chops there.

    Also, agree with your nuanced perspective, too. The best thing the outside world can do to the burgeoning Indiana Football Program is to undervalue and diminish them. They’ll keep using that as fuel to keep proving themselves.

    Remember, this team is not only 6-1, they beat the spread in ALL 7 games. Right there is the intersection of outside perception and Indiana’s ability to win as a team.

    1. Agree, DD. That’s why I gave Jeremy the same “props” @ December 10, 2020 at 3:20 pm near the beginning of the thread. Thanks for jumping aboard to give Jeremy some kudos.

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