When Indiana president Myles Brand fired Bob Knight in 2000, the Hoosier tradition was strong: the striped pants, the fight song, the deafening Assembly Hall crowd. IU was "happening."
In the Mike Davis and Kelvin Sampson eras, however, what made Indiana, well, Indiana went missing. The tradition? Gone. The mystique? AWOL.
Sure, the Hoosiers won games after Knight. In fact, Davis took IU to the 2002 NCAA championship game.
Nonetheless, Assembly Hall didn't have that special buzz.
The students, most of whom simply rooted for IU because they attended the school, continued to support the Hoosiers with vigor. But the "old guard"—those Indiana fans who bled cream and crimson—seemed disinterested.
Duke, Kansas and Kentucky remained tradition-rich programs—as always—but IU became just another Big Ten school. Nothing more, nothing less.
When former Marquette coach Tom Crean arrived in 2008, critics and fans alike applauded the hiring; he was a solid person and coach. But that's not what sold Hoosier Nation on Crean.
When asked why he accepted the IU head coaching position, Crean simply said, "It's Indiana."
Since Coach C landed in Bloomington, the Hoosiers have gone 6-25, 10-21 and, currently, 11-10.
Forget the records.
Last night's 52-49 victory over ranked Illinois, in which Jordan Hulls clearly established himself as Indiana's leader and go-to guy, brought the mystique back to B-Town.
Since 2008, the passionate Crean has become beloved, building a program and fans, new and old, despite the losing streaks and lack of postseason play.
In 2011, Indiana is back, as witnessed by the insane crowd and emotional nail-biting W over the Illini.
True, the Hoosiers could still occupy the Big Ten cellar and yet again finish below .500 this season.
But with Hulls' leadership, IU's once-missing mystique certainly restored and recruits who now favor Indiana over Purdue, the "old" Hoosiers that fought for Big Ten championships annually will soon be back.
"It's Indiana" is once again apropos.
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