Wednesday, March 2, 2011
IU New Coach, Living in A Van in Memorial Stadium
This article from Indiana Daily Student is Awesome. Fodor find some pictures!
IDSnews.com | Ekeler’s arrival from Nebraska has him ‘living in a van down by the river’
For the last two months, through snow and ice and arctic winds, IU’s new co-defensive coordinator lived and slept inside an RV parked just beyond the south end zone of Memorial Stadium.
Every morning before dawn, Mike Ekeler emerged from his Holiday Rambler Navigator and clicked the remote to lock his temporary motorhome.
Determined to arrive in the weight room before his players, Ekeler would wake early and walk 100 yards along the FieldTurf to work.
He arrived in Bloomington on Jan. 4. Since then, he has been hustling from 5 a.m. to midnight, launching into a mission many would call impossible: Turning a team that has spent the last three years in the basement of the Big Ten into a powerhouse.
The grind of Big Ten football comes with sacrifices. New IU coach Kevin Wilson and his staff left successful programs to come to Bloomington, a program known mainly for its losses. Most coaches are separated from their families while they scramble to recruit and coach a team, while living out of temporary residences. They are all trying to settle into their new lives.
Ekeler, 39, traded his Cornhuskers red for the traditional IU crimson when he left his job at Nebraska, the latest in a line of stops at powerhouse programs — Oklahoma (’03-’04), LSU (’05-’07) and Nebraska (’08-’10) — to join IU.
IU hasn’t been ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 in 22 years. Nor have they won, or even shared, a Big Ten crown in 43 years. In fact, the Hoosiers won one Big Ten game in each of the last three seasons.
Ekeler’s rise to coaching success took just seven years, but after the 2010 Big 12 Championship game, the 39-year-old said he knew he needed a change.
In fall 2010, he told the Lincoln Journal Star that Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David, a kid who came from junior college ball, was the best linebacker in America.
He felt comfortable.
“If I had stayed, I would have become as big as my linebackers,” Ekeler said. “Instead of coaching, I would have gained 300 pounds. I’d’ve ate eight hot dogs and smoked two packs of Marlboro’s on game day because I would have nothing to coach. There was no challenge.”
A guy who once had a pet piranha, he likes life outside the comfort zone. So he left Nebraska for a program full of challenges.
Wilson said the team should perform at a successful level in the 2011 season.
“Then again talk is cheap,” Wilson said. “So the way we practice and prepare over time will show how we can be in the Big Ten.”
IU Athletics Director Fred Glass said Ekeler hasn’t even watched game tapes on his guys. He’s waiting to judge their on-field talents when spring ball starts at the end of March. Ekeler said he will work from 5 a.m. until midnight. He wants to change the program that has seen only eight bowl games in its 126-year history.
Ekeler said there’s no doubt in his mind that IU will turn it around.
“No, it’s going to happen,” Ekeler said. “The change starts this coming fall.”
A yellow electric cord wound from the left side of Ekeler’s Navigator to Memorial Stadium, giving the motorhome its power. He said he was a little disappointed he couldn’t hook up the sewage too.
“Oh, that uh, that there’s an RV ... it’s a good-looking vehicle, ain’t it?” Ekeler quoted from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation when discussing the Navigator.
But unlike a Chevy Chase character, he’s not embarrassed by his RV — a Mother’s Day gift for his wife. On the University of Nebraska’s website, Ekeler said the Navigator is his third RV and it drives like his F150. The Navigator, white with champagne trim, is 45 feet long. Its MSRP lists at $592,649.
Dirk Ochs, Ekeler’s former K-State teammate, laughed when he heard Ekeler is living in his RV at Memorial Stadium. But he said he takes seriously Ekeler’s guarantee that the new coaching staff will change IU football into an elite program.
“When you go to a program that hasn’t had success and then you have success, there’s something to be said for that,” Ochs said. “We’ve done that before. That’s why all of us went to K-State — to build up a program that was never very good.”
Tom Osborne, Nebraska’s athletic director, said Ekeler would always boast with confidence before games against good teams.
“He’d think we were gonna win 50-0,” Osborne said. “It always made me feel good to talk to him, but it didn’t always turn out that well. However, I’d rather be around someone who is optimistic then always negative. Mike sees the glass half full.”
The comedy and charisma Ekeler used at K-State has never left him.
His new IU linebackers are already playing jokes on him, so he said the fun will continue. It’s who he is, it makes him happy and so does living in that RV.
“And I live in a van down by the river ... I’m going to live down by the river eating governmental cheese.”
“I’m a comedic coach,” Ekeler said after quoting a classic Chris Farley skit from “Saturday Night Live.”
According to Ekeler, a linebacker won’t amount to anything unless he laughs at his jokes.
“I kept a linebacker from playing for three games because he wouldn’t laugh at my jokes during a meeting,” Ekeler said about a former Nebraska player. “He just needed to figure it out. Now, the guy’s a linebacker for the New York Giants.”
The cherry wood of his new desk gleams with the morning sun. The back glass wall of his office gives Ekeler a view of the North End Zone. He hasn’t called the off-white rectangle his work space for more than a month, but already his four children, J.J., 10, Cameryn, 9, Abigail, 7, and Bella, 3, added a family touch.
On their first trip to their dad’s new office, they started to turn the place into home.
“I <3 you. You rock,” written in red marker, accompanied by a red smiley face with green eyes remained untouched in 3-week-old dry erase ink.
Eventually, the drawing will be replaced with names of players, opponents or the other work of a 5 a.m.-to-midnight job. Eventually, IU will become home. And Ekeler said he hopes eventually IU will turn into a championship team.
A video of a recruit played on an LG flat screen as Ekeler slightly reclined in his chair. Although the weather outside said 28 degrees, he said it feels tropical and those winds are nothing like the ones in Nebraska, or to Ekeler, “N-Alaska.”
As nice as the RV might be, the south end zone wasn’t a permanent location. Ekeler and his wife, Barbie, have already found a home near College Mall. Ekeler’s last night sleeping beside the football field in his Navigator was Sunday. He, Barbie and the kids moved into the new house Monday.
Even though his walk will increase from 100 yards and his home will no longer be powered by IU Athletics, Ekeler is determined to give his all to IU.
“We’re going to do it,” Ekeler said. “We have the right players and leaders. The staff really doesn’t care what happened in the past.”
Then with another laugh he added, “I’m an optimist. A three-quarters full kind of guy.”
Luckily he's not like this guy