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Hoosiers off-court issues raising serious questions about Tom Crean’s leadership

One player making a mistake, that’s an isolated incident. Two players in a matter of months? Kids will be kids. Four or five incidents off the court in less than a year for the same issue? Now you’ve got a problem.

Such is the case in Bloomington, Ind. as last night Indiana Hoosiers head coach Tom Crean announced the suspension of three basketball players. Those three players, Troy Williams, Stanford Robinson and Emmitt Holt will all miss the two exhibition games and first two regular season games.

Naturally, those suspensions end as the Hoosiers take on an SMU squad that is highly rated heading in to the 2014-15 season. Funny how that coincidence happens, huh? But, I digress…

According to Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star, Williams and Robinson are suspended due to failing drug tests. Meanwhile, Holt is suspended due to an underaged DUI and being the driver of a car that struck teammate Devin Davis this past weekend and has left him in the hospital.

While all of these could be taken as isolated incidents of kids being morons, all have had opportunities to

Ferrell's supposed to be a leader, time to lead by example?

Ferrell’s supposed to be a leader, time to lead by example?

learn from the many mistakes made by other players. Even star point guard Yogi Ferrell has had his run in with the law, making one wonder if there really is an issue with leadership from the top down.

While the suspensions for drugs and the underage DUI are bad, they are just the latest example of a team with a major issue with alcohol and drugs. Robinson was cited alongside Ferrell in April for underage drinking and owning a fake ID, and last February Hanner Mosquera-Perera was suspended after being arrested for operating while intoxicated.

All of that is happening with the backdrop of a basketball program that isn’t winning championships despite some of the top recruiting classes in the country over the past few years.

Add it all up and fans have begun to turn on Crean, openly questioning his leadership ability on Monday night during the call-in portion of Crean’s weekly radio show.

I’m not sure that’s the right reaction, because the ultimate responsibility lies with the individual making the poor choices, but said individuals can be helped by a culture of responsibility and a leader that makes accountability a priority.

Athletic director Fred Glass, who matters most in hiring/firing Crean, see’s him as part of the solution and not the problem with the program.

“There was some real vitriolic stuff (on the radio show),” Glass told The Indianapolis Star of the call-in portion of Monday’s show. “But still, people are upset about it. I’m upset about it. I understand it. I’m upset about it. I don’t like it. Tom doesn’t like it. But I’m confident Tom is the solution, not even part of the problem.”

Crean seems to be talking the talk after these suspensions:

“You get to make your own choices, but you don’t get to pick your consequences,” Crean said. “Nothing is worse than having to prepare a family for what I was a part of the other night, so I don’t have trouble laying down discipline.”

Too bad his players aren’t getting the message, otherwise they wouldn’t keep screwing up. It’s that issue where I agree with the outrage some fans have towards Crean the program they love so much.

But how do you get a message across to a group of men (sorry, you’re 18 and up and that makes you a man) who seem to not be taking said message very seriously?

Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star floated the idea that Indiana athletic director Fred Glass needs to sit the entire team down and lay down the law — one more drug or alcohol related arrest or incident and Tom Crean is fired.

In Doyel’s mind it would be the ultimate motivator of a team full of players who love their oh-so-lovable head coach. True, the players chose the program and therefore one can assume they have love for their head coach. Yet, it’s hard to shake the fact that they have had a funny way of showing love to their head coach at Indiana

Trust me, I get that sometimes it takes a lot to get you to stop stupid behavior, because I’ve experienced that myself. I’m not one to preach here, but the reality is Yogi Ferrell, Stanford Robinson and the rest of the players who’ve been arrested or failed drug tests clearly don’t get it.

[quote_left]”We’ve got to get our team to understand that there is nothing normal about being a college athlete. We had a couple guys make bad choices.”[/quote_left]

At some point something has to click internally with the players, and clearly the fear of the wrath of Tom Crean isn’t getting the job done.

I have another solution in mind — the fear of losing one’s scholarship. While the Big Ten is keen on guaranteeing four-year scholarships, surely getting arrested for underage drinking, doing drugs and driving while drunk are ways the program can get out of said scholarship commitment.

Sometimes you’ve got to show some tough love and send a message that people will get. In the case of Stanford Robinson, it would be a great message to the rest of the team to pull his scholarship. He’s gotten a second chance to do the right thing and in less than eight months has had a drinking incident and a suspension for drugs.

Pull that scholarship and show the rest of the team that no one, including a potential starter, is above the best interests of the program. Screw up more than once and you’re gone should be the simple message.

Is it harsh? While some may have cavalier attitudes towards drinking and drugs on a college campus, basketball players signed up to not be a normal student. So excuse me if I don’t have a lot of sympathy for someone who has been busted for both (and in the case of a drug-related suspension, probably multiple times already) within the last eight months.

Crean and Glass are talking a big game about turning things around, but there’s little doubt this fanbase won’t (and shouldn’t) tolerate another incident from these guys. The time for talk is gone, it’s now on this group of 15 players to prove they are over behaving badly.

Andy Coppens is the Founder and Publisher of Talking10. He’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA) and has been covering college sports in some capacity since 2008. You can follow him on Twitter @AndyOnFootball

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