INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana coach Tom Crean questioned his team’s leadership and challenged his players to make better decisions on and off the court Thursday.
Failing to meet those expectations could have more serious ramifications.
In his first public comments since Indiana’s most recent legal embarrassment, the frustrated coach apologized to fans for having another legal run-in play out in public and insisted his top priority between now and November’s season opener will be getting the program righted.
“We’ve got to get a team, guys that understand that they play for Indiana and not at Indiana,” Crean said. “Even some of our Indiana guys have got to understand that. Ultimately, I’m responsible but our internal leadership has been less than poor for the last two years, and it’s got to get better.”
Or Crean will get tougher.
The Hoosiers have been dealing with these sorts of problems since former player Hanner Mosquera-Perea was arrested on an OWI charge in February 2014. Mosquera-Perea was booted off the team in May, after a teammate, Devin Davis, was cited for marijuana possession. While Mosquera-Perea was not cited, he was with Davis, who also was dismissed.
Crean said Thursday he should have booted Mosquera-Perea after the arrest 18 months ago.
Since then, Crean has attempted to get his players’ attention with suspensions and internal discipline.
But the problems have not dissipated.
In November, Davis sustained a serious brain injury after he was hit by a car driven by teammate Emmitt Holt. Police determined Holt was not at fault because Davis jumped in front of the vehicle. According to the police report, both players had been drinking even though they were under age.
Last weekend, Holt, a sophomore, and freshman Thomas Bryant were cited by Indiana State Excise Police for illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage. Police said each was found with a bottle of vodka in a parked car and that neither was in the driver’s seat - not far from where the November accident occurred.
No punishments have been announced yet, and athletic director Fred Glass said he doesn’t expect that to happen until next week.
The latest run-in has reignited concern among fans and former players about what’s happening inside the program and what can be done to fix it.
They’re not the only ones upset.
According to excerpts from Tuesday’s all-staff meeting, Indiana University President Michael McRobbie told the coaches he didn’t want to read about any more repeated misbehavior in the athletic program. Glass echoed that sentiment then and again Thursday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
“He feels like I do - we’ve had it with it,” Glass said. “But neither of us is into a zero tolerance policy. We’ve got to take each one individually because they’re not all the same.”
Crean also understands McRobbie wasn’t just delivering a message in his words - he was identifying a department-wide mission.
“I know where the responsibility sits with me, I know where the responsibility sits with my coaching staff, I know where Fred thinks the responsibility sits in terms of this team and I was listening loud and clear when President McRobbie said what he did the other day,” Crean said. “Hurt? That’s not the emotion I feel right now.”
Glass said the athletic department has made a concerted effort by regularly bringing in speakers and educating them about the school’s code of conduct. Now they’re looking at tougher penalties, too.
“Frankly, we have to have substantial consequences,” Glass said.
Crean isn’t the only coach on campus who has been dealing these problems.
Football coach Kevin Wilson declined to say Thursday whether defensive lineman Ralph Green III would play in the Sept. 5 season opener against Southern Illinois. Green was suspended in April after being arrested for allegedly slapping a 20-year-old woman on the cheek. He has returned to practice.,
Safety Antonio Allen, Indiana’s leading tackler last season, also was kicked off the team in June after an arrest on drug-dealing charges.
But as the leader of the school’s signature athletic program, basketball has come under the most scrutiny - and Crean is promising changes.
“I understand, I really do, and I think our entire staff does. We are responsible ultimately for their behavior,” Crean said. “We are not responsible for the choices they make and when they make those choices, we are responsible for the consequences.”
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