Corporatism, college basketball experience, and Illinois State vs. Green Bay

Last night I drove 45 minutes (each way) to watch Illinois State beat Green Bay in an NIT basketball game.
In the first half, ISU got off to a 10-2 lead but then started taking bad shots (GB was in man to man). Also ISU stayed in a zone and frequently rested their big, shot blocking center (who had some turnovers on offense), hence GB got some inside scoring.

At the half, it was 31-24 Green Bay, though Green Bay shot 16.7 percent from the free throw line! That was to cost them; ISU was shooting 20 percent from the field.

The second half started with a 13-2 run by ISU; they made some changes to their zone and their big center made life miserable for GB’s post players; he had 6 blocked shots to go with 8 rebounds and 15 points; ISU’s small guard got 18 points and their star had 17 and a small forward had 14; it was a very balanced effort.

Though ISU outscored GB 45-25 in the second half, it was only 57-51 with 3 minutes to play when GB had to take risks. Those backfired and ISU went up 65-51 with just over a minute to go, ISU cleared the bench. GB promptly hit a 3, got a turn over and two free throws; suddenly it is 65-56 and the starters went right back in. They eventually game out again and the final was 69-56.

Overall, though I am a Bradley fan and not an ISU fan, it was a very fun game to watch; the building was full of energy. The 10,000 seat arena was half full (turnstile count was just under 5000) and LOUD, and yes, ISU has a lot of gray haired fans just like Bradley does (BTW, I am 55 and was probably the youngest one on the early shuttle; that wasn’t the case on the return shuttle).

They featured a neat park and ride shuttle service from a lot that is perhaps 3/4 of a mile way; had I known it was that close I just would have walked. Concession prices were reasonable (3 dollar hot dogs) by modern standards.

Given that I am not a fan of either team but was there as a fan of basketball, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the experience. Mentally, I made the mistake of comparing it to the usual Bradley basketball experience instead of comparing it to the two EIEIO tournament games I went to in 2013 (which I enjoyed as well).

I was directed to a ISU basketball fan board and many ISU fans also remarked on the atmosphere.


1. They said that many of the long time season ticket holder seats and corporate seats were sold to others; hence some of the more passionate fans who were normally upper bowl fans were lower.
2. The fans weren’t quite as spread out (due to the “purchase for this game only” selling) which contributed to the noise.
3. There weren’t the usual dreary “at every frigging time out” sponsor stunts and promotions; there was more band and less canned music.

But one can say the same about the two Bradley EIEIO games I went to 2 years ago, though these were played at the much smaller on-campus arena rather than at the larger Carver Center.

So…it is my conjecture that increasing corporatism is really hurting the “live” college experience. BUT: programs need money and can’t win without it. And athletic programs such as ISU have subsidies much larger than what Bradley can sustain..and they have a football program to generate at least some revenue. Illinois State athletics gets a 12.7 million dollar subsidy from their school (scroll down to 122).

So, what are you going to do? I have no answers.

Now, Bradley has hired a new athletic director (highly credentialed and a Peoria native; he was previously the deputy AD at Northwestern) and right now he is everyone’s “golden boy/savior”.

Personally: I am interested in seeing how he handles the budget issues and how well he does at the PR end of things. Remember that fans are a fairly sensitive bunch. Example: when the previous AD pointed out that the lower crowds at games weren’t the main drivers in the revenue losses by pointing out that the cheaper, upper bowl tickets really don’t bring in that much money, he was accused of disrespecting the fans who bought cheaper tickets. (Note: at a place like Bradley, the first half of the arena is usually filled by expensive seats; what makes a sell out is the cheaper tickets being sold; hence the average marginal revenue drops when the crowd gets larger)

As far as the on-the-court performance, well things could hardly get much worse than they currently on (BU finished 10 out of 10 this year). But if one looks at the previous two coaches:

1991–92 Bradley 7–23 3–15 9th
1992–93 Bradley 11–16 7–11 7th
1993–94 Bradley 23–8 14–4 2nd NIT Quarterfinals
1994–95 Bradley 20–10 12–6 4th NIT Second Round
1995–96 Bradley 22–8 15–3 1st NCAA First Round
1996–97 Bradley 17–13 12–6 2nd NIT Second Round
1997–98 Bradley 15–14 9–9 5th
1998–99 Bradley 17–12 11–7 2nd NIT First Round
1999–00 Bradley 14–16 10–8 5th
2000–01 Bradley 19–12 12–6 2nd NIT First Round
2001–02 Bradley 9–20 5–13 8th
Bradley: 174–152 (.534) 110–88 (.556)

2002-03 Bradley 12–18 8–10 T–5th
2003–04 Bradley 15–16 7–11 T–6th
2004–05 Bradley 13–15 6–12 8th
2005–06 Bradley 22–11 11–7 T–5th NCAA Sweet 16
2006–07 Bradley 22–13 10–8 4th NIT 2nd Round
2007–08 Bradley 21–17 9–9 T–5th CBI Finals
2008–09 Bradley 21–15 10–8 4th CIT Finals
2009–10 Bradley 16–15 9–9 5th
2010–11 Bradley 12–20 4–14 T–9th
Bradley: 154–140 (.524) 74–88 (.457)

Not much difference in the overall records or in the post season record; the previous coach had a better conference record.
Note: Tulsa (who made some Sweet 16s) was a member of the conference; similar to Wichita State right now.

People don’t want to hear this, but the first coach (Jim Mollinary) probably got Bradley to its ceiling. Yes, he played a deliberate type of basketball (very defense oriented) and his religiosity was a bit off putting to me. But his players graduated, there weren’t scandals that I was aware of and I’d be thrilled with those on-the-court results.

At the time, I thought that he was fired prematurely.

Well, it will be interesting.


March 19, 2015 - Posted by | basketball | , , , ,

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