Monday, June 13, 2011

Big Ten Memories - Indiana

Staying in the Hoosier State takes us south to Bloomington. And a few of my better memories aren't in Memorial Stadium, rather in Assembly Hall. It was here that I saw the last game played by Chris Street prior to his tragic death. My family and I were traveling after the holiday season and wanted to experience the Bob Knight basketball atmosphere. Aside from what could be his 600th victory, it was our first time to see a game in what resembled a theatre setting, more than a basketball court.

The banners hung behind the basket, and we were one of the few wearing colors other than red and white. I opened the program to find a bank ad which placed Coach Knight at the center of the $1 bill, with the caption, "Just a thought." The band played the IU fight song, which sounded much different inside than it did out--fans and students clapped louder and sang stronger than I had ever heard in the football venue.

As in any Big Ten arenas, some of the visiting fans sit near their team's bench while others are sent to other, more remote seats. That would be us. Last row of the second deck, and we couldn't see the raised center court scoreboard. We had one fellow Iowa fan close to the aisle in charge of walking down the stairs with updates on the score and time.

But the excitement wasn't the actual game, which was a very good Big Ten basketball game won by the hometown Hoosiers, but the walk the IU coach would take from the locker room to the bench. All eyes were locked on the doorway which connected the Assembly Hall floor to its locker rooms, and the cheers got louder with every step "The General" took as he emerged from the hallway. And because of him it was an historical night as he won his 600th game, one of many.

But it is football that this column should be about and it is the hotel most teams used to stay is very memorable. A resort on a southern Bloomington's Lake Monroe was miles away from anywhere. We used to joke that you could "hear the banjos" as we drove through narrow two lane roads in our charter coach buses. Our notes from travel coordinator John Streif reminded us to "Not Feed the Bears." The first couple of years I made the trip, the resort had a special feeling as the scenery featured the changing trees, and lobby fireplace was a cozy place to be on a cool November evening. But over time the resort became a little run down, and the fall November evenings were replaced with warmer October nights. We eventually moved into hotels closer to campus, and away from the starved bears.

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