TERRE HAUTE —
Dreams are dreams until someone has the wherewithal to make them come true. When it comes to success and the Indiana State football program, dreams are about all anyone’s had for the last decade or more.
But Saturday, a group of ex-football players took a much-needed and long-overdue step to make the dream of ISU football success become a reality. Eleven former Sycamores, representing seven different decades, had a morning meeting with ISU President Dr. Daniel J. Bradley, ISU Director of Athletics Ron Prettyman and members of the ISU Foundation.
The goal? To clear the air about the future of the ISU football program and get on the same page about its future.
The ex-players, led by former ISU offensive lineman David Allen, had a pre-arranged agenda they presented to the administration regarding their thoughts and their commitment to the future of ISU football. The agenda is ambitious — including a proposal to change the out-of-state residency requirement for athletes to one year, a competitive advantage ISU’s opponents in Missouri Valley Football Conference have that ISU doesn’t have.
But what the players really wanted to hear was a commitment on the part of university officials that football is here to stay. And in that respect, they deemed the day a success.
“To us we felt like we heard everything we wanted to hear. It was very positive, it was very collaborative. We’re extremely confident in going back to our fellow players and delivering the positive support of the university. It was very exciting. There wasn’t a guy there who didn’t walk away feeling very, very good,” said Allen, who attended Saturday night’s Blue-White Game. “We all have a common ground which is to make this football program work.”
If getting on the same page sounds like an easy exercise, it isn’t. Communication between the various factions ... and the factions within the factions ... and the factions within those factions — ex-players, administrators, coaches, etc. — that influence the future of ISU football has been scant at best and nonexistent at worst since the late 1980s, which is the most agreed upon time that fortunes began to change.
And whenever there’s an absence of information on any topic, the vacuum is filled by rumors, innuendoes and half-truths that are too often treated as fact.
For years, many former football players (and fans) have doubted whether the administration had a commitment to football, despite no official comment that suggested otherwise. Additionally, recriminations have been rampant about who was responsible for getting the football to the low state its been in for the last decade-plus.
Past is always prelude, but pointing fingers about who was responsible for the past doesn’t really solve a darn thing. It was in that spirit that the ex-players, whether they verbalized it this way or not, wanted to bury any hatchets and stand united for football’s future if the administration was with them.
“One of the goals was that if we’re going to do this, all parties were going to walk out with a consensus. We needed a group hug. We had to tell each other, ‘Of course we want this to work.’” said Allen, who is the CEO and General Counsel of Strategic Benefits Consultants, Inc. in Lombard, Ill. “So much of this is about communication. When you don’t have communication, you have polarization.”
Prettyman conceded that it was important for the players to hear straight from the horse’s mouth that the university was committed to the sport.
“Our commitment to football has been unwavering,” Prettyman said. “But I think it was important for those guys to hear a verbal commitment in addition to seeing what we’re doing with the facility.”
The summit between the ex-players and administration is vital because the ISU Foundation is about to launch a capital campaign for the benefit of the football program.
According to Darian Westerfield, ISU Foundation Director of Development For Athletics, the campaign’s goal is to raise approximately $250,000 per year. The money would be used to help fund the football practice facility that is near approval, to enhance the football program’s operating budget and to better fund summer school programs and travel for the program.
Of course, all parties would like to exceed the stated goal. Allen, who would like to see low to mid six-figure dollars amounts raised, thinks that with the ex-players in the university’s corner, it will be a much easier challenge for the Foundation to meet.
“The numbers are so realistic, I’d be shocked if we’re not able to raise it. We don’t think it’s asking too much, even in this economic climate,” said Allen, referring to commitment from the ex-players. “If we don’t [get this done], shame on us. We’ve been given the opportunity and we have the support. It’s time for us to step up.”
Allen said that since the university has met face-to-face with them and made the same commitment to football that the ex-players desire, now it’s incumbent upon the ex-players to deliver on their promise to help make the Foundation’s campaign successful and to be a voice in ISU’s football future to nurture it to the successful state they all want it to be in.
“Both sides wanted to know that we were all committed. It’s a double-edged thing. They wanted to know that we were willing to help and we wanted to know that they were there for us,” Allen said. “There’s a lot of work ahead, but it’s something we know is very accomplishable. The players can do our part to make it happen.”
If the ISU football program gets to the day where it is playing in the Football Championship Series, if the football program gets to the point where it is consistently drawing crowds and is an integral part of the fabric of the university and Terre Haute community then Aug. 21, 2010 is a day everyone should look back as one of the most important days in program history.
“What’s past is past, however we got here, it’s done, it’s behind us. It’s the dawn of a new day,” Allen said.
Todd Golden is sports editor of the Terre Haute Tribune-Star. He can be reached at (812) 231-4272 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out Golden’s blog at blogs.tribstar.com/downinthevalley.