BLOOMINGTON – Fred Glass did not come to Indiana to wait on success, and as athletic director, he doesn't have to. So status quo is out, new ideas are in, and if the inevitable glitch arises, well, it's on to the next thing.
When it comes to football, that next thing can't arrive soon enough. So Glass pushes to give coach Bill Lynch the “tools” he needs to win while initiating a series of facility and game-day changes to boost interest, attendance and revenue.
“We want to create an atmosphere to make people want to come to games,” Glass said. “Some of these things will fall off the table. Some you'll say, What were you thinking? Some will be flops. But I'd much rather have some flops than not do things that will make a difference.”
Difference makers are huge, given Indiana's abysmal attendance, both last year in the wake of a 3-9 season (31,782 average, less than half the Big Ten average) and for nearly 20 years overall.
“We want to win,” Glass said. “We expect to win.
“Last season was very disappointing, and no one was more disappointed than Coach Lynch. There are a whole lot of reasons why (the 3-9 record). The performance was not what we're looking for. Coach Lynch understands we want improvement. I want improvement.”
Glass said he meets with Lynch every week, “So he has all the tools he needs.” IU has 35 upperclassmen, 16 returning starters, a player-driven emphasis on accountability, a recruiting surge (20 oral commitments, five three-star players) and, in essence, a new stadium, which is why Glass said, “I'm very optimistic moving forward.”
Glass committed $3 million to upgrade Memorial Stadium in addition to $40-million-plus needed for the North End Zone facility. Improvements include painting, power washing, hanging banners, installation of a new sound system and a new wrought iron fence, and the remodeling of the press box.
He's paying for this with “aggressive fundraising, eliminating some positions, not filling others, no salary increases.” The athletic department is projecting a surplus of nearly $200,000, mostly because of revenue generated by the Big Ten Network.
Glass also has created what he calls “Knothole Park” in the south end zone. Children and teenagers will be allowed to play in the area, which will be supervised by IU athletes such as basketball players, soccer players and wrestlers. Fraternities and student organizations will be allowed to put banners and flags there. Lynch also talked with fraternities and sororities about attending games.
“We'll let the band do some wacky stuff and get the cheerleaders involved,” Glass said. “We're trying to create a Little 500 atmosphere.”
IU will offer $5 single-game tickets for any college student regardless of school. School officials have worked with local and state police, plus state transportation officials, to improve traffic flow around Memorial Stadium and traffic congestion from Indianapolis to Bloomington.
Yes, Indiana is known as a basketball school, but football, Glass said, is crucial for overall success.
“I'm focused on football because it drives everything. The reason Indiana is last in the Big Ten in terms of how much we spend per sport is because we don't fill Memorial Stadium. Getting that right is not only important for football, but for the entire department.
“I'm not dumb enough to not understand that the best thing for attendance is winning. I'm also not going to accept we can't do anything to drive attendance.
“Nothing succeeds like success.”