FORT WAYNE – Indiana athletic director Fred Glass is pleased with the buzz around his department as the IU Tailgate Tour begins.
And that energy was palpable at the tour's first stop in Fort Wayne on Tuesday.
"Whether it's volunteer leadership, fundraising, recruiting, fan base, ticket sales, Fort Wayne has been a really critical part of Indiana University athletics, and I think it's growing," Glass said. "We're going to try to nurture that."
The Hoosiers have had an easy time finding support, so far, in the Fort Wayne area and others.
IU earned its first outright Big Ten baseball title in 81 years last Friday and enters Big Ten Tournament play today.
The basketball team, despite a loss in the NCAA tournament's Sweet 16, is priming itself for another strong year.
Men's soccer will look for a ninth national title with most of its roster intact from last year's championship.
And many of the rest of the programs, Glass said, are on an uptick as the college athletic schedule comes full circle for the 2013-14 seasons.
"Everywhere I go, there's a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for where athletics is going across the board," Glass said. "I think it's probably heightened because the years before now were challenging years for Hoosier fans. I think people take a lot of pride in not only getting there athletically but doing it the right way."
His first day on the job, Glass talked about fostering a new "Golden Age of IU athletics." It was a lofty and vague goal, especially with the masthead of Hoosier sports, men's basketball, in the midst of NCAA violation-induced turmoil.
But now, he said, people are starting to understand what that Golden Age could look like.
There is momentum throughout the athletic department, and more importantly, results.
The Hoosiers aren't there yet, he said. But they could be a football bowl game and sustained success in a few other sports away from that pinnacle.
"I think we're really getting there," Glass said. "Across the board, we're either getting to or laying the foundation to get to a championship-caliber team. While I'm not ready to declare a new golden age now, I think we're getting really close."
Todd Yeagley, Glass' first hire and the coach of the national title-winning men's soccer team, agreed. As a coach whose program has benefited from a strong presence in Fort Wayne, he said IU has relied on the region for some of its surge in prominence.
"We have a lot of alumni that have come from Fort Wayne, that have developed here," Yeagley said. "They develop top kids, not only for our program, but for others."
The next big name on Glass' hiring list, football coach Kevin Wilson, is also pleased with the development of his program, which lists some Fort Wayne names on the roster.
He wants that partnership to continue and said the fruits of his rebuilding project – in its third year this season – will help foster that relationship.
"We got eight home games, a lot of guys back, so we need to take the next step," Wilson said. "We haven't had overwhelming success as far as wins yet. … Year three, I think we're in position with a good foundation to take the next step and even have a more positive year."
That would be a big step for Wilson and for the department. Glass would like to see it happen.
"We're on our way, and I feel like we're starting to rack up some credentials to say we're getting close to a new Golden Age of Indiana University athletics," Glass said. "People feel it. They clearly feel it in Bloomington. They feel it around the state."