Monday, April 07, 2008

Welcome to the Big Ten

Dear Tom,

Welcome to the Big Ten. Given your recent proximity and past ties, you should have a good feel for the league. You should be able to manage your transition from the Big East to the Big Ten fairly well. Yes, we have the reputation of being a physical, grind-it-out defensive league, but with so many fresh faces on the sidelines, we are constantly evolving.

You will find recruiting to be a challenge, with Painter and company building momentum to your north, Izzo maintaining a strong program a bit further up the road, and Matta and his NIT champions working toward building a consistant leading program to your east. To your west, you will find passionate fans (not-so) patiently waiting for in-state talent to show up in Champaign that will be able to close out the games they just missed against your new team this past season. And don't forget that your old neighbor Bo has consistently been at the top of this tough league.

But your biggest challenge will be the state of affairs in Bloomington. Just in case you missed it, the school has had a couple coaches with less-than-sterling reputations. Your predecessor is leaving you a tangled mess of violations, a late-season collapse and the hole left by a draft-bound leading scorer. Your new fan base has sky-high expectations, thanks to the reign of ESPN's newest basketball analyst. And they want to win -- no matter what.

I must say I was a bit surprised you took this job, but you say this was a decision of the heart. You will need heart to survive the year ahead, and avoid finding yourself in a situation similar to former Big Ten coach Munson. I just ask that you add respectability to the conference as a whole.

I would wish you well as you take on this new position, but you need to know that the rivarly between IU and U of I is intense, a bit heated even, so I just can't bring myself to go that far. We will see you next winter at Assembly Hall (either one), and we look forward to welcoming you to the league much the same way we welcomed Tubby this past season.

Alma Mater


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