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My alma mater finally goes bowling

Casper's CornerJeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Bring up the word bowl in Bloomington, Ind., and it’s usually in reference to the sport that puts to use a hard, round ball and wooden pins.But not this year, and I couldn’t be more ecstatic. My alma mater, Indiana University, is more than likely going to a football bowl game for the first time since 1993. The Hoosiers have been to a basketball Final Four or two since then, but the football-starved school isn’t known for its prowess on the gridiron, so this is a big deal – even if they did finish the year at just 7-5 and needed some cushy pre-conference scheduling against MAC schools to get there.Now, just one question remains: Will they be playing in the desert or Motown? And how am I going to get off work to be there?I’ve suffered through many an agonizing season of Indiana football. Sure, great players passed through Bloomington during my college years – Antwaan Randle El, Adewale Ogunleye, Jeremi Johnson, to name a few – but never a great team. Ironically, I even had bowling class (yes, I took bowling) with Johnson. Sadly, that’s the only taste of bowling he ever had as a Hoosier football standout. I would have taken just one win over a highly ranked school back then. To rush the field has always been a dream of mine. I remember Randle El and the Hoosiers teasing us with near-upsets from time to time, but the school without much in the way of football tradition could never finish.On Saturday against arch-rival Purdue, Indiana finished. Austin Starr’s 49-yard field goal in the final minute raised the program’s bar just a little, and hammered home the legacy of the late Terry Hoeppner, who directed the Hoosiers for two years before passing on due to complications resulting from brain tumors prior to this season.You may know Hoeppner from his days as head coach at Miami (Ohio) University, where he mentored current Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. To other, more storied programs, going 7-5 and landing a spot in a lower-level bowl – the Hoosiers are likely headed to the Insight Bowl (Tempe, Az.) or the Motor City Bowl (Detroit) – wouldn’t mean much, but to Indiana football fans it means the world. And it’s a fitting way to honor the Hoosiers’ late coach, who dreamed big when taking over the reins in Bloomington. He appeared on his way to making something of this basketball school’s football program.He dubbed Memorial Stadium, the Hoosiers’ home, “The Rock” and even had a three-ton limestone boulder placed outside the entrance. Hoeppner also came up with “The Walk,” a game-day ritual in which players and fans marched through a parking lot of tailgaters.Those little things go a long way, just as Indiana’s winning record – its first since 1994 – and resulting bowl bid could very well breed something much bigger in years to come.

In my column last week, I wrote about the Canadian Football League, but failed to clarify one little point. The CFL was officially founded in 1958, though its roots trace back to the 1860s. As America’s National Football League took a while to adopt its current-day form, so did the CFL, which began as rugby football nearly a century and a half ago.Contact Jeff Caspersen: 384-9123jcaspersen@postindependent.com


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