Quotes from “Voice of the Hoosiers” Don Fischer during recent IU Tailgate Tour event at Oak Meadow Country Club;
Q: A year like this has to make it easier for you when you come to events like this to promote what is happening in Indiana athletics:
FISCHER: “You know, I’ve been doing these for so long, and coming to these for so long. Whether you are in a winning mode or a losing mode, it’s not that big a deal. Indiana University is such a great school and the program is such a great program. You are going to go through cycles where you are down a little bit or up a little bit depending on what sport it is.
“It’s a little eaier when you are wining. When you are winning you don’t have to spin it a certain way. You can just talk about your success.. When you are losing you have to spin it a little bit more. But from my standpoint, I’m basically the emcee, so I don’t have to say anything negative or positive.
“My record has not been affected by it. If my record was affected by it as a broadcaster, I would have been fired a long time ago – football especially.”
Q: But it has to be a little easier this year because all the programs appear to be on the upswing. including basketball being ranked No. 1 for so long and soccer winning a national championship:
FISCHER: “It’s really been a very productive year at Indiana in the athletic department. The baseball team just had a remarkable run, winning the Big Ten and the Big Ten tournament. Indiana won the Big Ten basketball championship for the first time since 2002, and 1993 was the last time they had won it outright.
“Basketball, of course, sort of drives the perception that everything is back to normal again and I think that’s where we are at right now.
“I know people don’t talk much about football and how that’s going at this juncture. But we’re just two years into the reign of Kevin Wilson and we went to four wins from one win, and I don’t think there’s any question that they are going to win a definitive number more than that this week.
Q: Any predictions on how many wins this fall?
FISCHER: “I don’t predict anymore because every time I predict something good, something bad happens and if I predict bad, something good happens. So I’m not a very good predictor.
“The truth of the matter I saw a definitive difference in the attitudes of the players. I saw it last year to some degree at the beginning of the season but I’ve really noticed it this year in spring practice. I just think there is something special going on with this football program.
“And the recruiting would seem to indicate that – the best recruiting class the school has had since they’ve been doing ratings. When you do that you know the coaches are getting through to these kids and the kids are starting to believe what is being said about the program.
“The facilities upgrades that we have had are just phenomenal. New baseball, new softball, the North Endzone and the football complex, field hockey got a new facility, Cooke Hall for basketball.
“There are so many good things happening and Fred Glass has done such a remarkable job pulling it all together and just kind of transitioning into some stability.
“We had something like five Ads in eight year’s time, or four in eight years, whatever it was. (Glass has) done a remarkable job in that context. I just think there are so many positives that if there are some negatives that are out they, they are far outweighed.”
Q: With football having eight home games, that would have to add to the optimism this season?
FISCHER: “The eight home game schedule is phenomenal. That’s kind of where you want your program to get to because the Michigans and Ohio States play eight home games every year.
We have not filled the stands – although that has gotten a lot better, too. During the last year or two, we have put people in the stands again and that’s huge. You need that stadium packed if you are going to make the kind of money some of these other schools make, and we still have a football stadium that is small in comparison to many of the others. To have the stands full is critical. But to have eight home games, we have a chance to fill them more than the normal four to six times.”
Q: What are your thoughts on the expansion and the reshuffling of the divisions?
FISCHER: “I know Coach Wilson, from the football standpoint, has been very positive with about the fact that Indiana is going into the Eastern Division, which is going to be the hardest of the two divisions. – At least projectionally.
“He’s said from his perspective, he’s using it as a recruiting tool. He’s telling players they will be playing the kind of competition on a weekly basis that makes the Big Ten. Why wouldn’t you want to play Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State every year. Kids are thinking this program is on the way up, and they want to be part of that scenario.
“Look at it this way: The Western Division has more Big Ten championships since the mid-90s than the Eastern Division does. You could say you would rather be in the West because it looks to be a lesser group of teams but you don’t know … We’re placed in the East, why be negative about it?”
Q: What outlook do you see for basketball after losing something like 78 percent of the offense and having so many new players coming in?
FISCHER: “I see a drop off in the sense of expectations, which I think is good. I thought last year’s expectations were too high. Yeah, they were capable of getting to the Final Four and they were probably capable of winning a national championship. But remember, they were only two years removed from a 12-win season.
“There are reasons they lost only seven or eight ballgames, but that meant they were capable of being beat, too. Teams are going to figure you out, and certain match ups are difficult as we found out with Syracuse.
“The one thing about this new team is the expectations won’t be as high and that will probably play in Tom Crean’s hands because he doe6s a really good job handling that situation. I think he gets guys to play with a little chip on their shoulder.
“I think we’re going to be good, I just don’t know how good.
“Honestly, the expectations were so high last year…. One thing that didn’t’ come to fruition, is we thought they were going to have a great bench, and the bench didn’t turn out to be so great. The biggest loss was Derek Elston. He never became healthy last year, and when he did come back he was still not 100 percent.
“The bench was nearly as strong as you hoped it would be. Will Sheehey was really good. Remy Abell was OK. Jeremy Hollowell was OK. But after that you really didn’t get any help from the bench.’
Q: Were you surprised Cody Zeller left early for the NBA?
FISCHER: “My hope was he was going to do the same thing as his brothers – that he would get his degree before he left. And he would have been able to do that in three years time. But the truth of the matter is when you are going to be a top 5 or top 10 guy, the money is too good and you would be taking the chance of getting hurt if you came back. And it could be a career-ending injury.”