By Nathan Brown
The Herald Bulletin
INDIANAPOLIS — Tables filled up in Lucas Oil Stadium Tuesday evening as fans and boosters came to celebrate the Big Ten and NCAA tournament success of four of IU’s most promising athletic programs and hear what the coaches had in store for the upcoming season.
The occasion was what IU calls the Tailgate Tour.
Some of the latest buzz centered around the football team’s release of their new uniforms, which will include a rotation of five new helmet designs, including a retro design of a block “I,” one with a candy stripe design and one that includes the Indiana state seal.
IU football coach Kevin Wilson said the program looked at several schools and their helmet designs to find a few that he hoped would both energize his players as they begin off-season workouts as well as attract prospective recruits.
“To put the state seal for the state is kind of cool,” Wilson said. “The University of Indiana is representing our state…we’re bigger than ourselves, more than just one, more than our program, more than our team.”
And with the new helmets came an interesting promise from the design company, he said.
“We were told there’s a guarantee that we’ll tackle better, block better, score more points and win more games or we’ll get our money back, so it was a good deal,” Wilson said.
But some of the biggest buzz surrounds the IU team that had the highest hopes last season, yet came up short.
As former Hoosiers Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo prepared to workout for the Phoenix Suns, who have the fifth pick in the draft, on Wednesday, IU Coach Tom Crean said that he and the remaining players from his squad that made a second-straight Sweet 16 appearance last season have already started working to replace the production they lost in the offseason.
Along with Zeller and Oladipo, Crean lost three seniors to graduation, and he lost Maurice Creek and Remy Abel due to transfers. Collectively, Crean said the Hoosiers lost 67 percent of the team’s minutes from last year, along with more than 70 percent of their points and free throws, and with the few remaining guys and the six freshman coming in, no minutes will be just given to anyone.
“You’ve got to go earn it,” Crean said. “I think that’s what we’re looking forward to, the competitiveness of this.”
Even though the Hoosiers’ schedule for next season hasn’t been finalized yet, with only non-conference games against Syracuse and Notre Dame along with participation in the 2K Sports Classic in New York City, Crean said he has noticed that many of IU’s opponents next season will have an advantage with experience.
Yet, Crean said he feels confident that this team has the potential his teams that made the Sweet 16 the last two seasons had.
“How quick can they learn and how competitive can they be and how quick and athletic can they play, those are the things I’m excited to see how we shape up with that,” Crean said. “We may not be as good…but we are going to have an opportunity to have a deeper team.”