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IPFW: Infant Program is Fife’s Work-in-progress

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Toledo 85
IPFW 65

TOLEDO — During the 1978-79 season, senior star Stan Joplin led his Toledo Rockets all the way to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

During the 1978-79 season, Dane Fife was a fetus.

Somehow the two coached against each other Wednesday night in UT’s Savage Hall. Fife, the youngest NCAA Division I head coach at 26 years, brought his young and inexperienced Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne to the Glass City and were outmatched by Joplin’s more athletic Toledo Rocket squad.

Despite a 14-point deficit, IPFW battled back to within 7 points of the Rockets, but Joplin and the home crowd pulled away to an even 20-point advantage.

And although the IPFW Mastodons out-rebounded UT 39-33, the young ‘Dons turned the ball over 31 times. 31. Thirty-one! They had 10 fewer field goals than that.

But I was looking forward to watching Fife coach in action.

When the teams took the court, I initially saw a young guy in a suit come out of the visiting locker room. “That must be Dane Fife,” I tell my dad.

Then five more young guys in suits come out. “OK, never mind.” Turns out their alpha male was the tallest and blondest of the bunch.

Fife played for the esteemed Indiana Hoosiers, and received a taste of both Bobby Knight’s and Mike Davis’s tutelage. He took another spoonful of knowledge from Davis as one of his assistant coaches for the past two years, and in March was named IPFW’s head coach.

And the young’un did his Bob Knight impression in the second half. Fife was given a technical foul, because you know how kids are these days. No chairs were harmed.

But even though I grew up on UT basketball, I felt for the other team. (Dare I say … cheered?) IPFW is one of 10 D-I teams without a conference affiliation, and of their 28 regular season games, they play more than half — 16 — on the road at places like Michigan State, Purdue, Penn State, Northwestern and Kent State. They also play Notre Dame at home, for some strange reason.

But they’re kind of in a conference. They’re in a class with all the other vagabond programs. They play 11 games against other conferenceless D-I teams. which means ungodly road trips to:

  • Greeley, Colorado (Northern Colorado)
  • Corpus Christi, Texas (Texas A&M-Corpus Christi)
  • Brookings, South Dakota (South Dakota State University)
  • Fargo North Dakota (North Dakota State University … so there’s that)
  • Edinburg, Texas (Texas-Pan American
  • Farmburg, Virginia (Longwood)

Oh, and none of their 13 players is a senior. So they get to travel to all those hot spots again next year!

Godspeed, young Mastodons. And remember: your coach, while he may look like the rest of you, is the tall, blond one in the suit.

IPFW‘s basketball schedule:

11/19 Loyola-Chicago
11/21 at Southeast Missouri State (W 65-64)
11/23 Valparaiso (L 74-68)
11/27 at Michigan State (L 84-73)
11/30 at Toledo (L 85-65)
12/03 Marygrove
12/06 at Illinois State
12/08 at Kent State
12/18 Notre Dame
12/20 at Purdue
12/22 Weber State
12/28 at Penn State
12/31 at Air Force
01/02 at Indiana State
01/05 Longwood
01/09 Tri-State University
01/11 at Valparaiso
01/19 at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
01/21 at Texas-Pan American
01/30 at Longwood
02/04 at North Dakota State
02/06 at South Dakota State

02/11 at Northwestern
02/15 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
02/20 at Northern Colorado
02/22 South Dakota State
02/26 North Dakota State
03/01 Texas-Pan American

BREAKING NEWS UPDATE I have been informed to let you all know that my girlfriend attends IPFW. Continue business as usual.

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