TERRE HAUTE —
No one saw this coming.
On the final October weekend of 2012, Indiana State’s football team was 7-2 and a Football Championship Subdivision playoff bid seemed a mortal lock.
One year later, ISU is 1-7. Shakir Bell, far and away ISU’s most recognizable player, is gone via bizarre circumstance. And the Sycamores are on the wrong end of final scores that are reminiscent of the bad old days of 2005-09.
The biggest difference is Mike Sanford is the head coach instead of Trent Miles. And for many fans, that will be difference enough to explain how it’s all gone wrong.
When you lead a college football program, fair or unfair, you absorb the slings and arrows, and no doubt, they’ll be coming down with ferocity on Sanford and the athletic department given the present state of the team.
ISU fans can’t be faulted for trying to compute how this season went so wrong and why the program has taken a step backwards after three straight winning seasons. They’d be foolish not to.
There are legitimate reasons. The loss of talent, particularly defensive standouts, from the 2012 season have hurt.
Rampant injuries — especially on the defensive side — have played the biggest role, and while the time-worn trope that injuries are part of football will be trotted out, the truth is that the injuries have played a major role in ISU’s fall.
On the other hand, (some) newcomers haven’t lived up to their billing and some of the schemes tried on both sides of the ball have not worked. Some starters, including some veterans, have not produced at a level they have in the past.
ISU found ways to lose close games early and the accumulation of all of the above have led the Sycamores into a very dark place indeed.
ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman hired Sanford. Like everyone else, he never expected ISU football to be in the state it’s in. But he knows he has to answer for it.
Prettyman did after Saturday’s 56-10 loss to No. 1 North Dakota State.
“I take a lot of the blame for what’s going on and that’s because we set our new coach [Sanford] up for failure,” Prettyman said. “We have arguably the toughest schedule we’ve ever played. We had two Big Ten teams. We’ve had four top 25 FCS teams and five home games in a 12-game schedule. We’ve had incredible injuries, more than I’ve ever seen. We didn’t give our coach a chance to be successful. Part of that’s my fault.”
Prettyman gave no indication that Sanford’s job was in jeopardy, not only because of the 1-7 start, but due to some of the off-field distractions that came to a head this week.
“I’m committed to seeing this through. I have a great relationship with coach Sanford and I have a lot of confidence in him. I’ve never seen a staff care about their student-athletes as much as this staff does on and off the field,” Prettyman said. “Certainly we didn’t think we’d be 1-7. Three times we’ve outgained teams that had more points than we did. I still believe we’re capable of being very good and win games.”
Given the injuries, Prettyman said he told Sanford earlier this week that he felt like his starting unit from 2015 was on the field instead of the intended 2013 team.
Of course the problems that come with a 1-7 start go well beyond just wins and losses. The ISU and Terre Haute communities are not renowned for their ISU football enthusiasm in the best of times. The damage to attendance and to potential revenue from boosters from ISU’s poor season cannot be taken lightly. Saturday’s crowd was 5,009 on a day the school was shooting for 10,000.
Prettyman was asked whether he was concerned about the impact the 1-7 campaign could have in terms of enthusiasm for the football program.
Prettyman was blunt in response.
“Intelligent fans will understand what’s going on. The fly-by-night fans, the people who never come to games, the people who don’t watch how hard our kids play, the people who don’t know our coaches, the people who are not committed to this are going to second-guess a lot of things that are going on,” Prettyman said.
“The people who are fully committed and have gotten to know our coaches and have seen the commitment from our kids though adversity, they’re still on board,” Prettyman said. “People can quit coming to games all they want, but that’s not going to make our kids, coaches or administrators work any less hard.”
“I can’t speak for the people who decided they’re going to get off the bandwagon because they’ll get right back on as soon as we start winning,” Prettyman added.
The strange Shakir Bell situation added gasoline to ISU’s fire. Bell claimed he was dismissed, Sanford said it was a season-ending injury, but regardless, the he said-he said distraction didn’t help ISU’s cause no matter where the truth lies.
Bell’s end was unceremonious to be kind. Bell has earned the right on-the-field to be called one of the best Sycamores of all-time. He was certainly marketed that way. His end is a body blow the program didn’t need in an already challenging situation.
“I wish Shakir Bell well. I think he has a future in the game. When I met with him this week, I told him I hope to see him in a NFL uniform next year. I told him he needs to take the time to work through his injuries and get a degree from Indiana State University,” Prettyman said.
Prettyman shed light from his perspective on how Bell’s exit came about.
“Essentially what we did was dismiss him from responsibilities with the team from here on out. We worked with the trainers and doctor and they agree his foot was a season-ending injury. That had a lot to do with the decision for him not to continue,” Prettyman said.
No matter how ISU football got to this place it’s in a position where circling the wagons is the only option.
“I go back to thing I have the most pride in — our athletic department and that’s the people we have. The coaches, the assistants, the trainers, the doctors, I want people like that leading our people in our program,” Prettyman said.
Prettyman is going to need to call on the good will on those people — and ISU fans — to get through a very tumultuous time for ISU football.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 208-2643 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Golden on Twitter @TribStarTodd.
TERRE HAUTE —
No one saw this coming.
- Indiana State University
ISU win streak at 12
Ryan Keaffaber recorded his sixth save in seven opportunities Monday as Indiana State won its 12th straight college baseball game, holding off a rally by visiting Western Illinois for a 7-4 victory on Bob Warn Field at Sycamore Stadium.
Metro sports: Indiana State's Abdul-Qaadir honored by MVC again
Bilquis Abdul-Qaadir of Indiana State has been named Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week for women’s basketball, the league announced Monday.
Guts, sweat, tears: Sycamores fall to perfect Shockers
No one on Indiana State’s men’s basketball needed to say a word about the Sycamores’ 83-69 loss to Wichita State in Sunday’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game.
Todd Golden: Sycamores ran with the best
It’s hard to run with Secretariat. Secretariat, for the uninitiated, won horse racing’s Triple Crown in 1973 and famously stormed to victory in the Belmont Stakes by an unfathomable 31 lengths. Secretariat is widely considered to be the greatest thoroughbred of all time, and his Belmont performance is one of sports’ all-time greatest moments. In Missouri Valley Conference terms, Wichita State is Secretariat.
Reliever leads comeback in ISU's 11th straight win
It could have been just a mop-up role for Josh Dove on Sunday at Bob Warn Field, but the Indiana State relief pitcher wasn’t thinking that way.
ISU fans cheer their team from afar
Indiana State University basketball fans eagerly supported their team Sunday, even from a distance, as they watched the Sycamores battle in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament championship game being played in St. Louis.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Odum rises to WSU challenge
When you’re getting ready to play the No. 2 team in the country — the undefeated No. 2 team in the country and the best Missouri Valley Conference team in a generation — the unwritten rule says you’re not supposed to rile them. That you’re not supposed to poke the hornet’s nest.
Clock problems delay start of Indiana State semifinal game
Time stood still in Scottrade Center on Saturday.
Not by design.
Sycamores advance to Arch Madness title game
No one said advancing to the Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball tournament championship game was going to be easy.
ISU women grab share of MVC regular-season title
The preseason Missouri Valley Conference favorite lived up to its expectations, as the Indiana State women’s basketball team grabbed a piece of the regular-season title with an 85-72 triumph over host Northern Iowa on Saturday afternoon inside McLeod Center.
ISU headed to MVC title game
Indiana State defeated Southern Illinois 62-59 on Saturday to advance to Arch Madness championship game.
Ramblin’ On: Sycamores use defensive stops to reach Missouri Valley semifinals
It sounds counter-intuitive, but to go forward in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament you must first get stops. In Friday’s MVC Tournament quarterfinal against Loyola, ISU followed that bit of zen to a tee. The Sycamores never let the Ramblers get comfortable offensively and put a hammer-lock on Loyola standout Milton Doyle. ISU rode its defense to an easy 75-62 victory at Scottrade Center.
ISU baseball looking to carry success home
Indiana State had pitching questions coming into the season, having lost its entire starting staff from a year ago.
So far anyway, those questions have been answered. The Sycamores are 9-1 going into their home opener today against Western Illinois.
Metro sports: Rose-Hulman picks up baseball win
A late run in the eighth-inning broke a 4-all tie and proved to be the game winner for Rockford College in a 5-4 decision over the Rose-Hulman baseball team Friday at the Chain of Lakes Complex.
Sycamores rejuvenated heading into MVC Tournament quarterfinals
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum is sick-and-tired of being sick and tired.
He’s tired of hearing about the team’s three-game losing streak. He’s tired of the Sycamores playing below par. He’s tired of the team not fulfilling its potential.
He plans to do something about it this weekend. Second-seeded ISU begins its Missouri Valley Conference Tournament trek at 7:05 p.m. tonight against either No. 10 Loyola.
ISU women seek top MVC seed
Defense and rebounding are the staples of Teri Moren’s fourth Indiana State team, a squad that hits the road trying to defend and rebound its way to a regular-season conference title. The Sycamores women’s basketball can clinch the No. 1 seed in the Missouri Valley Conference with wins tonight against Drake and Saturday against Northern Iowa.
ISU reserve Smith earns two MVC honors
Indiana State sophomore Khristian Smith has been named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Bench and Most Improved Teams, according to an announcement by the league office Wednesday.
Two Sycamores with Scott during Saturday incident
A Vigo County’s Sheriff’s case report of Brenton Scott’s arrest last Saturday indicated that Scott, an Indiana State basketball player, tried to pass himself off as his twin brother and that two of his teammates were with him at the time of the incident.
Metro Sports: Sycamores to be represented at NCAA indoors
Three members of the Indiana State track and field team will compete in the 2014 NCAA indoor championships March 14-15 at Albuquerque, N.M. Senior Greggmar Swift will represent the men, while sophomore Katie Wise and senior Mary Theisen will represent the women.
Odum, Smith, Arop recognized by MVC
Indiana State point guard Jake Odum doesn’t play baseball, but he did go 4-for-4 in his Sycamore career.
His 4-for-4 performance came in regards to his All-Missouri Valley Conference selections. Odum has been named to the all-MVC team in each of his four seasons, and for the second time in a year, Odum was named to the MVC’s first team.
Teammate Khristian Smith also received a major individual honor. Smith, a sophomore, earned the MVC’s Sixth Man Award. Senior Manny Arop also was named as an All-MVC honorable-mention selection.
ISU’s Odum earns first-team All-MVC honors
ST. LOUIS —Indiana State guard Jake Odum earned a spot on the 2014 All-Missouri Valley Conference first team, which was announced today as the Sycamores prepare for this week’s MVC men’s basketball tournament.
Metro: No ISU baseball today; home opener now Friday
Indiana State’s baseball home opener that was to be played today has been pushed back, according to Sycamore head coach Mitch Hannahs.
ISU's Scott booked for OWI, possession
Indiana State men's basketball player Brenton Scott was booked into the Vigo County Jail on Saturday for operating while intoxicated, possession of marijuana/hash, possession of paraphenalia and false reporting/informing.
Senior Day Success
Indiana State shot just 35 percent from the field Sunday in Hulman Center compared with 46 percent for the visiting Bradley women, but that was almost a good thing.
ISU teams sweep titles in indoor track
Indiana State’s track teams swept the Missouri Valley Conference Indoor Championships on Sunday at Northern Iowa, the men leading all the way and the women surviving a three-way battle.
Odum can't get roll on game-winning attempt on Senior Day
The storybook was ready to be opened at Hulman Center on Saturday.
Down two with 4.5 seconds to go, Indiana State rebounded a free throw miss by Northern Iowa’s Seth Tuttle. ISU senior point guard Odum timed his dash perfectly up the floor. He released his shot from just behind the 3-point line at just the right second. The shot was true and online.
TODD GOLDEN: Lansing's belief in his team has not wavered
In the wake of Indiana State’s 71-69 loss to Northern Iowa on Saturday, and the three-game losing streak that comes with it, ISU coach Greg Lansing wanted to get one point across crystal clear in his postgame press conference.
Red-hot ISU baseball wins eighth straight game
Indiana State broke away from a tight ballgame with four runs in the fifth inning and went on to post their eighth-straight victory of the 2014 campaign with a 10-3 triumph over New Orleans Saturday.
David Stagg (3-0) was the winning pitcher for the Sycamores as he went seven innings. He allowed two runs, scattered nine hits and struck out eight.
ISU men’s track leading in MVC indoor championships
Indiana State’s men’s track and field team took the lead Saturday after the first day of the Missouri Valley Conference indoor championships Saturday at Northern Iowa, while the Sycamore women were second.
Seeking their second straight championship, the Sycamore men have 64 points to 37 for Illinois State. Indiana State’s women are just two points behind Southern Illinois, 50-48.
Rolling along: Third straight victory helps Sycamores tie for second in MVC
Aside from Teri Moren sticking with her pink Chuck Taylor shoes on the sideline for superstitious reasons, Indiana State’s three-game winning streak can be explained by strong play in nearly every aspect of the game.
- More Indiana State University Headlines
- ISU win streak at 12