INDIANAPOLIS – The past achievements by the Butler's men's basketball program are tied to any future accomplishments by sharing the same place of origin – in Barry Collier's mind.
What 23 years of history have taught the followers of Butler athletics is that if you simply listen to what Collier has planned, all will be fine in Bulldog Nation. Collier once again asked fans, alumni and students to place their confidence in his judgment and share in his dreams for the university, as he announced Wednesday that the university would leave the Horizon League and join the more prominent Atlantic 10 Conference in July 2013.
“The great thing about this is the challenge, competitively, that we believe our student-athletes and coaches would step to in what amounts to a significant challenge,” Collier said. “We like that.”
Collier likes a challenge as much as he likes dreaming. He is, if nothing else, a visionary. After all, this is a guy who believed he could build a basketball power in the middle of Nebraska, and he did everything in his power to try and accomplish that monumental task.
He made an impact on the Butler campus as a student-athlete in the 1970s, but his true legacy in Bulldogs lore will be based on Wednesday's decision.
Based on social media outlets, the “we” that Collier spoke of is the overwhelming majority of Butler fans. But that isn't really surprising. Since he returned home to coach the Bulldogs in 1989, Collier has done nothing but convince those around him to follow his leadership and believe in his decision-making.
“If we didn't have the leadership that we have,” Butler men's basketball coach Brad Stevens said, “I'd probably have been very nervous over the past few weeks. But I know when we do this we are going to do this right. We are going to continue to commit that our student-athletes are supported the best way possible.”
Collier was a little-known assistant coach at Stanford University in the late 1980s begging for an opportunity to lead his former team, and his involvement in the interview process to replace Joe Sexson was viewed by some as a token gesture to the former Bulldog. Indiana assistant Joby Wright was penciled in for the position, as that is what Hoosiers coach Bob Knight had advised then-Butler President Geoffrey Bannister to do.
Neither Knight nor Bannister realized what Collier brought to the table – and few often do.
He showed up with rings of pages explaining in minute detail just how he intended to make Butler basketball great, a laughable task by many college basketball experts.
Bannister didn't laugh, and the rest is Bulldogs history.
Everything Butler has achieved in the past 23 years is directly related to the belief that Collier has in this university. The NCAA Tournaments, the players getting drafted into the NBA, the Bulldogs becoming (by far) the most successful college basketball program in the state, the hiring of Brad Stevens to lead the program, Bulldog student-athletes gracing the pages of every major sports publication throughout the country and now preparing itself to compete in a nationally renowned conference – all of that is part of Collier's vision.
“This is a big-picture decision,” Stevens said. “I am all on board with what our leaders think is best for this university. I feel very comfortable with that.”
Stevens is no dummy, and he, too, likes to dream just as his boss does. Both guys acknowledged that there will be growing pains along the way. Facilities need to be improved, budgets need boosted, schedules need altered, recruiting needs tweaked – all among the many implementations needed to compete at the highest level of the A10.
“We anticipate that if you are competitor, you want to be in those (type of) situations and challenge yourself,” Collier said. “We see that as a big benefit.”
If Collier “sees” it, you better believe that it is the right path to follow.