COMMENTARY: Its about the memories

The key was to not think about the duck feces.

Honestly, that was not difficult — I was more focused on the few-hundred impromptu swimmers. I was more concerned about just how fast the goal posts had sunk to the bottom of the duck pond.

The coldness of the water and the unsanitary nature of swimming in a pond inhabited year-round by ducks was just something to be dealt with, a thought to be pushed aside.

That’s because the play that remains, eight years later, the greatest I’ve ever seen in person had just happened.

With seven seconds remaining, Furman scored a touchdown to make it a 15-14 game. For reasons that remain unknown, Furman elected to go for the two-point conversion.

Quarterback Billy Napier rolled out to pass, but his throw was intercepted at the 4-yard line by Appalachian State’s All-American defensive end, Josh Jeffries. Jeffries started sprinting towards the opposite endzone, and quickly flipped the ball to cornerback Derrick Black.

No one caught Black. No one came close. Appalachian State won, 16-15. I can remember so vividly being in the stands and watching the Furman sideline go from ecstatic to stunned silence as Black ran by.

There was no doubt we (I was a sophomore at the time) were going to take down the goal posts. We did that, and a horde of students then navigated the goal posts through the stadium and down the hill towards the duck pond.

Eventually the goal posts were raised from the pond (really — what good are they at the bottom of a body of water?) and they were hauled around campus.

It was a magical day, a special one in four years of undergraduate studies. One of the few times I got to be a fan — by the following fall, I was covering the football program. After I graduated, I immediately started covering ACC football.

I’ve been back to Appalachian State for a football game once. The three national championships? Beating Michigan? I enjoyed them from afar, but it was just that.

Which is why I had absolutely no problem with several thousand students storming the court after Indiana beat No. 20 Illinois. I would have been disappointed if it did not happen.

Indiana’s undergraduates have lived through the very worst of times in Indiana basketball history. A senior has seen everything from Kelvin Sampson’s dismissal to 56 losses. At least he got to watch half a season of special basketball: the juniors, sophomores and freshmen have just seen the losses.

It was the first time in many of their college careers that Indiana had defeated a top-25 team. And it was not just any ranked foe: it was Illinois, with Bruce Weber on the sideline.

They needed to storm the court, with little worry for how it would play nationally. Twitter may not have approved, but who gives a damn?

Those expressing disapproval seem to believe that a school like Indiana should never storm the court after a win that made it 2-6 in Big Ten play.

But history and context really do not have much of a place in this discussion. Students get four (OK, maybe five or six or seven) years on campus and so few opportunities to just let loose and create a memory.

That’s what Thursday was. The students showed up and were rowdy from the word go. They rejoiced with every Jordan Hulls 3-pointer, and kept going as Illinois tried to take the lead.

When Tom Pritchard scored the game-winning points, Assembly Hall was as loud as it has been in years.

The whole experience was therapeutic in nature, a night where the last three seasons did not matter. For many students, it’ll be the only night like it.

There’ll be a time when Indiana is expected to beat Illinois, but that’ll be in front of a new generation of students. This group will have graduated and taken jobs in Indianapolis or Chicago.

They’ll watch, and they’ll be proud. But it won’t be the same as the night Indiana beat Illinois as Weber sulked and Tom Crean celebrated in the south lobby.

14 comments

  1. Nice piece, Hugh. You tied the two experiences together really well. I agree with you wholeheartedly; that was a huge win the other night for IU and a much needed boost for the program.

  2. Agreed, watching that video of Crean in the lobby gave me goosebumps, because every student should get their Assembly Hall moment (mine was Killingsworth against Duke, or upsetting #2 Wisconsin) and I’m glad these students have theirs now.

  3. Impressive article! Yes, even though they where so long ago the IU memories are carried through the years!

  4. Mine was the Austin Starr bucket game, beating # 2 wisco, and then the following year w/EJ & DJ getting us to #7 before it all fell apart.

  5. Great column, Hugh. People like to talk about tradition, but the fact remains that the vast majority –if not all — of those 7,500 students weren’t even born when Keith Smart’s jumper from the wing fell. (hell, I was only 5 months old myself) I’ve been in Bloomington through the absolute worst: The NIT flop against Vanderbilt, the backlash against Mike Davis despite having one of our best players in a cast (DJ and Marco down low might’ve gotten us a Final Four that year), Kelvin Sampson, and the losses after the implosion of the roster. I watched from afar on Thursday, but the energy in that building when Jordy hit his threes came right through the cables and out of my TV set and made me nostalgic for the good moments since I’ve been here. The loudest I’d ever heard the building was when Killingsworth hit the breakaway dunk against #1 Duke…I couldn’t hear a damn thing and I thought the roof was going to fall in — and there’s nowhere in the world I would have rather been. The toughness this under-talented team has played with in certain games tells me that the good moments will be coming back in the next couple of years.

  6. I respectively disagree. What do the fans need to celebrate? They have been sub-par these last few years. I would have preferred to see players go around and celebrate with everyone near the stands (like football). But let Coach Crean continue to do his thing wherever he celebrates.
    This was an 14-6 Illinois team. They lost to UIC and Missouri for example.
    Yes it got us over a hump, biggest win in Crean’s era, and a ranked team. But the fans shouldn’t selfishly rush the court and do so in a weak manner in that (either go strong or don’t go at all).
    I was there, just like I’ve been at every game this year. Rushing the floor wouldn’t be my favorite college memory. I hold myself to a higher standard than that.
    The only proper criteria may have been a No.1 or undefeated top 5 team.
    Otherwise, we don’t need the “storming the court” mindset like other schools.
    Instead, I just sat back, smiled and said, “We’re Back.”

  7. Agreed. Us old people had it good, so it is hard to understand fully what the current student body has faced. I’m most fortunate to have been on campus from ’85-’89, which was a stellar period for IU athletics.

    My moments weren’t “Assembly Hall moments”…we never would have thought to storm the court. My moments were the “Memorial Stadium moment”: IU 14 Michigan 10 on a cold and rainy day and–for me–a “Read Hall moment”: 1987 National Championship (as seen on TV).

    Storming the football field is not an easy task… we all had to make a jump for it. Guys were cathcing girls as they navigated the top of the wall; goal posts came down; and aimless running…we really didn’t quite know what we were supposed to do. And I guess that’s kind of the point.

    The ’87 NC was the most unbelievable night. Students streaming into the streets. We congregated at Showalter Fountain first. I remember not really taking a step but ending up nowhere near where I started (when I left the dolphins were still in tact). Our group migrated to Kirkwood and people were climing the buildings and light poles. Definitely a wild scene.

    Glad this year’s group of students found their moment. Hopefully, there will be a few more soon.

  8. Spot on.

    My moment, like Chicago Hoosier’s, was dropping over an 8-foot wall after Starr’s FG. My wife’s was the big sweaty hug she got from James Hardy moments after. I have no problem with the current students creating their own.

  9. ^^^^ Like RodWilmont, rather. Though that IU-Duke game may be the loudest I heard the Hall in my four years.

  10. My mom can’t cook..Bless her heart, she tries..There are five championship meatloaf banners that hang high above the maple kitchen cabinets..Long before I was born is when she cooked those meatloafs..Never tasted them..Never had a chance to experience what my dad said was once a championship pot of mashed potatoes and the most delicious loaf made of meat …There may have been some better players in the kitchen back then..I think my late granddad could really cook up a storm… Maybe grandma was playing point then…man, I heard she had game… I have no reason to storm the kitchen if mom serves a loaf made of meat now. Why would I? It aint meatloaf. It’s a loaf of meat..It resembles Alpo but it comes out of a square pan instead of round can… I would do anything for mom’s love…..but I won’t storm the kitchen for her loaf of meat..I won’t do that!

    Don’t storm the kitchen unless it’s MEATLOAF!

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