Indiana football has a culture of losing. Nine bowl appearances in the entirety of their football history. A whopping two Big Ten championships since 1896. None since 1967. In their rivalry game, Indiana has been thoroughly dominated by Purdue in the battle for the Old Oaken Bucket. In fact, no coach since the first term of Harry Truman’s administration has posted a career winning record at Indiana.
That’s how bad things are in Bloomington.
Recent times haven’t been much better. Three straight finishes in the Big Ten cellar at 1-7 in conference play. One .500 or better finish since 1994 and only one bowl appearance (2007) since 1993. So, you will have to forgive new Indiana Head Coach Kevin Wilson if his first priority is changing the culture of losing that has hung over the Indiana football program since, well… forever.
To his credit, Wilson is taking steps towards that accomplishment before his Hoosiers even play a snap. The stunning capture of five star quarterback Gunner Kiel can be one of those culture-changing, program defining moments. Beginning next year, Kiel will give Wilson and Indiana football someone to build around.
Wilson made a radio appearance in Indianapolis today on the Zakk & Jack show on 1260 WNDE radio (Jack is actually former Illini QB Jack Tredeau and Zakk is radio host Dominic Zacagnini) to talk about his beginnings as the new IU coach. The lead-in to the interview consisted of taking a couple jabs at IU football and flippantly playing the IU fight song.
The awkwardness ensued when Wilson came on the air and immediately seemed chafed by the antics of Zakk & Jack. (See how clever it is that those names rhyme! Ah, the magic of talk radio.) What followed was a terse exchange that got heated and then turned into a viral blow-up. The full audio is here at the link in case you want to give a listen. The best quotes are below after the jump as well as why this is the best thing to happen to both Wilson and the radio station…
Wilson as he is welcomed to the show: “Not doin’ as good as you guys, you guys got a lot of jokes, what’s happening?”
Trudeau: “You’re not referring to us, are you coach?”
Wilson: “I’ve got some things to do, what do you guys need… I don’t have time to listen to guys talk about fight songs and Indiana having no tradition. The tradition of 2011 is we’re working hard and getting ready to roll…”
Trudeau: “We were joking around simply because we’re talking about a program that’s not been very good… so to come on and have an attitude with us isn’t very fair, coach.”
Wilson: “Every year’s a different year… past successes and past failures have nothing to do with the future… I just don’t like being on one of those gotcha crackin jokes kind of programs.”
Trudeau: “I don’t appreciate your attitude really, we do have a radio show and we do have to entertain and if you don’t understand that then I’m a little disappointed in a school that needs to have some good publicity go your way. I’m a little surprised at your attitude coach.”
Trudeau: “To come on our show and have an attitude, I’m shocked.”
And just like that, Zakk and Jack cut off Kevin Wilson and go on a several minute rant ripping the Indiana coach. It’s ironic that Jack Trudeau talks about Indiana needing good publicity when this is the best publicity IU football is going to receive in a long time.
Wilson is completely in the right here. It’s about time coaches started to stand up for themselves at schools like Indiana and elsewhere. The Hoosiers aren’t going anywhere if their new coach is going to allow himself to get kicked around by a couple local radio blockheads. In fact, Kevin Wilson gained himself plenty of new fans for himself and IU football by those couple minutes of conversation. Now, one confrontation on sports talk radio won’t make the program a winner obviously, but at least it shows that the attitude is there to change the culture.
On the other end, looking at this from the media perspective, Jack Trudeau comes off as a giant, sanctimonious, steaming pile of manure. You’re now ashamed that your kids go to Indiana? Give me a break! I’ve never seen a bigger example of someone taking their microphone and going home. Having said that, there is a catch… this is also a huge win for the station and the show. Do you think Crystal Ball Run or any other national blog/website/Twitter account that talks college football has even heard of these guys before today? Of course not! The station knows they struck gold as the confrontational audio is the feature story on the main page. They can milk this story, create a rivalry or feud with Wilson and Indiana, and drive ratings for the show.
I don’t blame Trudeau and his co-host for first standing up to Wilson when he criticized their hijinx. Jokes and bits like that are the core of sports talk radio. If I interviewed Pam Ward, I wouldn’t expect roses and sunshine. If anything, it was bad radio to hang up on Wilson so succinctly and go on a diatribe about how mean and nasty he was and how he bullied the poor, innocent media people. Why not let that fight go for a few more minutes? That was the major mistake in this whole episode – Zakk and Jack look like whiny children when they dismiss Wilson and then go on to rip him on the air without any chance for a response.
But in the end, both the station and Wilson are winners professionally. Certainly, Wilson comes out on top personally (just view the comments page here as proof) and can now be seen as not backing down from a fight. Finally, Hoosier fans have someone that will stand up for their program. But, this story is what sports talk radio is all about. Radio is built on the backs of shock jocks willingly acting like jackasses to get ratings and buzz. How do you think Colin Cowherd still has a job…
Follow Crystal Ball Run on Twitter @CrystalBallRun.