Bloomington – As odd as this might sound, IU Athletics Director Fred Glass wants Purdue's football program to succeed.
So does Indiana Coach Bill Lynch, whose team was drubbed by the Boilermakers 62-10 a season ago at Ross-Ade Stadium.
Admittedly they don't want Coach Danny Hope's team to enjoy the same level of success as the Hoosier program, but in their minds, both teams stand to benefit from the other's level of success.
How can Indiana's accomplishments benefit Purdue and vice versa? It's the Bucket Game. While the annual regular season finale has long been a huge game for the teams and the football fans around the state, the better the two teams are, the brighter the spotlight will be when the two teams meet in late November.
"While I think the rivalry is still really intense, I think we can take it up a notch," Glass said Tuesday. "If we're going to keep the best high school football players in Indiana, IN Indiana – going to IU, going to Purdue – then we need to have the Bucket game rise to the level of being a real showcase for those two programs.
"I hope Purdue football grows and gets back to being successful. I want our program to be that so that the Bucket Game is a really big deal."
This year's match-up doesn't rise to that level. While there will be more than 20 seniors on each side itching to close out their college careers with a win, there's no bowl game or national ranking on the line. Both teams saw their hopes of the postseason come to an end last weekend, as Indiana lost to Penn State 31-20 and Purdue fell to Michigan State 40-37.
Those setbacks dropped each team to 4-7 overall and out of contention for a .500 record and a postseason invitation. This marks the second straight season where both teams' seasons will come to a close at the game's conclusion, win or lose.
Despite the disappointing overall records, both teams have positives at which to point. With the exception of a 47-7 loss at Virginia, Indiana has been competitive in every game it's played this season. While they've been unable to finish games, they've taken fourth quarter leads into games at Michigan, at Northwestern and at Iowa, and it fell to No. 24 Wisconsin by a field goal.
Purdue, meanwhile, has its own laundry list of tough losses. The Boilermakers have suffered five setbacks by seven points or less, including a two-point loss at Oregon and a last-second, three-point loss to Notre Dame. They were the only Big Ten team to knock off conference champion Ohio State this season, and it converted a sweep of the traditional Big Ten powers by winning at Michigan 38-36 two weeks ago for the program's first win at the Big House since 1966.
"I think it's two football teams that are very good football teams where the records don't show it," Lynch said.
Glass appears to agree. The Hoosier athletic director said as much earlier this season when he made it clear that Lynch would be back at the helm of the program next fall. He said he has seen significant progress from a season ago when Indiana finished 3-9 and suffered a handful of blowout losses, including the 62-10 embarrassment in West Lafayette.
"Other than the game at Virginia, we've been in every game including a lot of games where we weren't expected to be in them," Glass said. "We had some really tough defeats and came back with a vengeance and a gusto and had some real success at home. I think the success and the fighting spirit of the team is a big part why people are continuing to turn out."
Glass is hoping they'll continue to show up on Saturday when the two rivals meet. Glass announced that IU has already sold more than 40,000 tickets for the game, and he's upped the allotment of student tickets from 8,100 to 12,500 for this weekend's contest. He said the student tickets are being bought up quickly, and suspects they'll be sold out in a matter of days.
Thanks to the early ticket sales, Indiana is also already assured of finishing the season with an average attendance of 40,000 and an average student attendance of 10,000-plus, the first time the program could say that since 1992.
Glass credits those strong numbers to not only the play of this year's team, but also the opening of the new north end zone facility as well as the slew of promotional projects that have been launched. But both he and Lynch know that as the team moves forward, success on the field will be a driving factor in attendance, and a win over Purdue on Saturday would be huge heading into the off-season for that and many other reasons.
"It's really big (to get a win over Purdue)," Lynch said. "One, if you're not going to play in a bowl game, your seniors end with a positive feeling, and that good feeling in the locker room. They leave with good memories. Obviously it heads you into the off-season with a little momentum. There's a little different bounce in their step when they head back into the weight room after Thanksgiving. It certainly helps."
Lynch, Glass Want Bigger, Better Bucket Game
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