HAMPSTEAD, MD — I had expected the taunting texts from friends in the Indiana press corps, the ones remarking about the coincidence that as soon as I left the beat, news started happening. In my final days as the sports editor of The Herald-Times, Peter Jurkin committed to join the class of 2012. A few days later, Ron Patterson said he’d join the same class. James Blackmon Jr., one of the better players right now in the class of 2014, came a while later.
There’d been a spell of weeks without news. And while that sometimes means you don’t have to work as many hours in a week, it generally leaves reporters antsy.
A few of the Indiana fans I’d gotten to know during my four years in Bloomington had a different thought. They linked my leaving with the lifting of a curse. I’d covered, of course, all of the events that decimated the Indiana basketball program, as well as the death of football coach Terry Hoeppner and even the backslide of the men’s soccer team into mere above average-ness.
And maybe Tom Crean thought I was something of a jinx, too, as he mentioned to me that a few dominoes fell in conjunction with my departure.
So I’m sorry to say it, but I’m back. Sort of.
Here’s the thing: It’s hard enough to leave any beat you’ve covered thoroughly, even if the stories you wrote were fairly standard. It’s not that when you dive into a world and try to explain it to readers you become a part of it. You don’t. Not if you’re a journalist. But you do everything you can to understand all the people you’re dealing with — the administrators and coaches and players and recruits and fans. You’ve got to report about what happens, sure. But the best reporters and columnists explain what it means. They work to put things in context and assure people that those in power are doing what they say they’re doing.
As with many jobs, you invest a lot of yourself. So it’s never easy to let that go.
Imagine, then, covering Indiana athletics from the span of summer 2006 to summer 2010.
When I arrived, Kelvin Sampson had swept into town to bring Indiana basketball back to its rightful spot among the nation’s elite. Terry Hoeppner had proven himself to be as charismatic as any football coach in the school’s history, and that approach toward fixing IU’s century-long problem in that sport appeared to be working. Athletic Director Rick Greenspan was a shrewd businessman who’d balanced the budget. The then-university president, Adam Herbert, was as sports-friendly as could be.
You know what happened next. Sampson’s original sanctions were stricter than most — including those who approved his hire — had anticipated, and proved to be too difficult for him to abide by. The brain surgery Hoeppner had undergone — and dubbed a success — after his first year ended up extending his life for too short a time. Greenspan mishandled the Sampson mess and had to step down. Herbert slipped away without ever explaining to anyone why he was so enamored with bringing a coach who’d had compliance troubles to Indiana, of all places.
I was there, too, for the first days of Bill Lynch’s turn as head football coach. And I remember so clearly that night we crowded outside the Monroe County Airport and waited for Crean to drop from the sky.
Less than a month into my new job at The Baltimore Sun, where I’m a sports content editor, I know that I can’t just walk away from how I spent that last four years of my life.
Luckily, I was privileged enough to get to know Mr. Bozich pretty well during that time. (And, yeah, I’m pretty well-acquainted with the Ginger, too.) So I asked Alex if I could scribble here every now and then, and he was amiable to the idea. So that’s what I’ll do. My goal is to write weekly, but I imagine there will be times I do more than that and times I do less.
There were legitimate reasons for me to leave Bloomington, not the least of which was the opportunity to grow as a journalist. I could not pass that up.
But I also can’t let this story go, not with where it stands now. There’s still too much to say. Like anybody else, I want to see how it progresses.
Now I’m lucky enough to have a place to offer my thoughts as it does.