We went to the Auburn A-Day game this weekend and enjoyed the game with over 63,000 of our closest friends. I was reading this morning how the Indiana University version of the same game (the Cream & Crimson game) had a record turn-out, which is awesome for our football program. The kind of sobering detail is that Indiana’s record crowd was just over 5,300 fans. That is an amazing difference in scale. An order-of-magnitude more fans showed up for the Auburn practice game. I can’t imagine the uphill battle that the Indiana staff has when it comes to recruiting players. When you’re up against a conference that brings in over 60,000 for practice games (Alabama had over 92,000), you are at a serious disadvantage. Even within the same conference, I’m sure other Big Ten teams draw larger crowds than Indiana for their spring games. I hope that the Hoosier fans realize how their lack of support for their football team impacts the football program not only for now but in the long term recruiting picture. We really can’t expect top-name talent to glance the direction of Indiana while the football program is hidden in the shadow of the basketball program.
When I was in college, a group of us at Indiana University (Go Hoosiers!) interviewed with American Management Systems (AMS) to live the exciting lives of IT consultants. At the time, I thought all of us were interviewing to go to the company hub of Fairfax, VA, where we’d all continue our college lives in a new location. One of the group, Tim Lockyear, interviewed and accepted a position in Birmingham, AL. I remember running into him at Lindley Hall (where all of us Computer Science majors lived in the labs our senior year) and having him tell me that he was going to Birmingham. I tried my best to understand his reasoning for such a decision because the rest of us were going to Fairfax. His rationale was that he could start out doing Smalltalk, a language that he learned while at an internship. I was saddened that our classmate was not joining us in Fairfax but he had his reasons and I couldn’t argue with that.
Fast forward 6 or so months (June 1995) to me being in Fairfax, VA. When I had joined AMS, the company asked me to start a day earlier than expected so I could go through an Object-Oriented Analysis & Design course. That track had no relationship to coding in COBOL at all, which was what most projects were using in Fairfax at the time. I was a little baffled as to why I was chosen to take the class but I enjoyed learning about object-oriented development. After floating along going to various classes and still not being on a project, I got word in July that I was going to be sent to Birmingham, AL (of all places) to participate in a Smalltalk Immersion course. The class was 7 weeks with no return trips to Fairfax until the class ended. I thought “what in the world was I doing going to Birmingham?” By that time, I had forgotten that Tim had chosen Birmingham. I went to Birmingham and had my class and expected to return to Fairfax and do something cool with my newfound knowledge. On one of the last days I was in Birmingham, I received a call from a staffing person in Fairfax that gave me a choice. He said I could stay in Birmingham and do Smalltalk (the language I just learned all about and fell in love with) or I could go to Hartford, CT to join a COBOL project. The choice was not a hard one.
It wasn’t until years later that I looked back and realized that I was acting just like Jonah. God had me run into Tim to introduce me to the idea of Birmingham and I turned tail and ran, following my own selfish desires. Once in Birmingham, I tried my best to still run from being here but God presented me with another option that, at the time, was so bad that I jumped at the opportunity of staying in Birmingham. Little did I know that God had a plan for me in Birmingham and it involved becoming good friends with Tim, meeting my wife and starting a family.