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Indiana College Sports Landscape is Shifting

A major shift is underway in college athletics, and much of it centers around the Big Ten Conference, the home of in-state university’s Indiana University and Purdue University.  The University of Colorado has already left the Big 12 Conference for the Pac-10 Conference, setting off what promises a seismic change in the composition of the major conferences.

It’s been rumored the Nebraska Cornhuskers will be joining the Big Ten, but there’s been no official word.  Texas and Texas A&M have also been bantered about, with the Pac-10, the Big Ten, and the SEC all being linked as possible destinations. The University of  Notre Dame, located in South Bend, Indiana, is being hotly pursued by the Big Ten, but they’re playing it coy for now.  No matter what ends up transpiring, it’s sure to change college sports as we know them.

There are coaching changes aplenty as well, and none bigger than the news that Tom Izzo is considering leaving his cushy job at Michigan State for a more lucrative position in the NBA.  He’s scheduled to meet with the Cleveland Cavaliers about replacing former Indiana Pacers assistant Mike Brown as the team’s head coach.  Izzo met with his team earlier this week to inform them he’d been in contacts with Cavs, but no decision has been reached as of yet.  Izzo did say, “It’s not gonna be forever, that’s for sure” when asked about a timetable, so expect an announcement within the next week.

If Izzo, who’s led Michigan State to six Final Four appearances in 12 years, leaves for the NBA, it would certainly alter the Big Ten basketball landscape, and it could hit closer to home than many Indianapolis sports fans realize.

Tom Crean, currently the head man of the still struggling IU Hoosiers, got his first break in college coaching when Izzo, then an assistant at Michigan State, recommended him for a position on the staff.  He stuck around East Lansing for a few seasons before taking a job at Western Kentucky.  After a stop in Pittsburgh, Crean returned to MSU when Izzo, who by then was one of his closest friends, was named head coach in 1995.

The two actually lived together, with Crean working first as a recruiting coordinator, and then as lead assistant.  Though he left to take the head position at Marquette University in 1999, Crean was presented with a National Championship ring when the Spartans won the title in 2000 because of the impact he had on the players when he was there.  Oh, and did I mention he was born in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, a scant 60 miles from East Lansing? Crean has green and white in his blood, there’s no denying that.  And with the traumatized state of the IU basketball program, there’s been loud whispers concerning the possibility of Crean moving on to greener pastures.  Pun intended.

They’re still whispers at this point, but if Izzo decides to leave, the whispers will become shrieks almost immediately.  Brace yourself.