IU basketball coach Archie Miller had to go


In the end, due to the largess of a disappointed, anonymous fan with disposable income, Indiana University wiggled out of its contract with Archie Miller.

Faced with the unseemly image of paying a guy about $10.3 million not to work but desperate for a divorce settlement, the athletic department was rescued from its dilemma Monday.

After four years of marriage, the partnership between the IU basketball team and Miller dissolved because of irreconcilable differences: The Hoosiers demanded victories, the coach couldn’t provide them.

The 2020-21 season ended 12-15 with six losses in a row, not a prayer of winning the Big Ten Conference tournament and not a sniff of consideration from the NCAA tournament. That turned Miller into a dead man walking with three years left on his original seven-year deal.

Regarded as college basketball royalty with a long and proud history of excellence, the Hoosiers did not even live up to the standard of mediocrity. The Miller era results produced grimaces, not gratefulness.

It was not as if extenuating circumstances led to this season’s weak showing and that when everyone got well, the same Hoosiers would be poised to show everyone their real selves.

Rather, things appeared gloomier than they had at any time since Miller arrived from his success at Dayton. Only last year when the Hoosiers finished 20-12, though tied for 10th in the Big Ten, did IU show any glimpse of a possible breakthrough. Then the 2020 postseason was wiped out by the coronavirus.

There are no IU NCAA appearances on Miller’s résumé, and this being the first losing season in 11 years, fans were ready to mutiny.

No matter how much it cost — and Miller owes his agent a free turkey dinner at Bob Evans or something for negotiating a contract with such a valuable insurance policy — IU had to find some way to eat the remaining years.

When a public institution is involved, it becomes a rather testy subject if a personnel mistake foists a huge bill on the taxpayer. No, that wouldn’t do at all. But IU found a sugar daddy to pay off Miller and make him go away.

In announcing Miller’s departure, Scott Dolson, IU vice president and athletic director, said “private philanthropic funding has been obtained” for the buyout. He made it sound as if this was an act of charitable giving, like a donor providing cash for a new library or science laboratory.

Which in a way. it was. Heck, if Miller had been on the ballot in Bloomington. he would have been recalled. If the community was asked for contributions in nickels from schoolchildren, the school might have raised the $10 mil.

That’s the way it goes when you coach at a program that not only values high-level success but craves it, considers winning a birthright, not a mere tradition. If the coach is paid millions of dollars to win, the cold shoulder and harsh response to the record always accompany losses.

Miller’s 2017 contract called for $24 million in salary, plus bonuses. If his Hoosiers won an NCAA crown, he would receive $250,000. Didn’t happen. For reaching the Final Four, he would get $125,000 extra. Nope. For advancing to the Elite Eight, the bonus would be $50,000. Didn’t happen. Oh yeah, for every season Miller’s Hoosiers made it into the NCAA tournament, he would get $25,000.

For those counting, Miller received zero in such bonus money prospects. Nada. At a time when the poor, old NIT has diminished in stature, the Hoosiers played in that event twice. The IU athletic department does not hand out bonuses for NIT invitations.

As an aside, it cost Indiana $500,000 to buy out Dayton when Miller came to Bloomington. The Hoosiers only wish they got off so cheaply this time. The cost of doing business ballooned in between. And this was very much about business.

Now, Indiana has got to go out and do it all over again. The Hoosiers have to hire someone fresh and exciting, the latest flavor-of-the-month coaching winner and overpay him, too.

Just maybe, though, this time, the millions invested will pay off with a multi-million-dollar return in NCAA appearances.

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