Dan Dakich’s voice is an important one in the realm of Indiana basketball.
- He grew up in the state.
- He played at Indiana.
- He coached under Bob Knight.
- He coached under Kelvin Sampson.
- He spent some time as head coach during one of the most tumultuous periods in program history.
- He is the color commentator on many important IU games.
- He now hosts a midday radio show in Indianapolis that features a lot of Indiana basketball talk.
And, of course, this happened, which to this day continues to mean a lot to a lot of people.
Like him or loathe him, Dan Dakich has a lot to say about Indiana basketball, and the vast majority of it is worth listening to and considering. He’s earned that level of authority, even if it must be given begrudgingly at times.
Personally, I enjoy his IU hoops talk most of the time — especially when he and Fisch start reminiscing about the Knight days. For me, and for many lifelong IU fans, that is sports talk radio gold.
Having said that (to borrow his oft-used transition line), just because Dan Dakich’s voice is an important one doesn’t mean it will always necessarily be a fair one or even a reasonable one.
And sometimes the unfairness and unreasonableness hits a little close to home, as it did on his show earlier today and yesterday.
To sum it up briefly, Dakich insinuated that The Assembly Call is simply an uninformed fanboy site that is just trying to make a buck off IU hoops. He mentioned something about us charging for our pick ’em contest, which of course we don’t. (We are, however, offering a generous prize to the winner.)
I quickly sent Dakich a series of tweets explaining his mistakes. I have to assume he didn’t get them, because he blocked our @AssemblyCall account long ago. (Update: we are no longer blocked.)
Many of you, who actually do understand what The Assembly Call is and is about, came to our defense in the aftermath of Dakich’s comments. I appreciated this greatly. Perhaps he saw a few of those tweets because, ostensibly after reading one or a few of them, he said something on air to the effect of: “I don’t know what Assembly Call stands for, but if it’s something good, then so be it.”
I had to tune out for a bit soon thereafter, but at the end of the show he apparently retracted his negative words toward us. Perhaps he had us mixed up with someone else. Regardless, I appreciate that he did that.
Still, I had planned on sending Dan an email explaining what we stand for, because it is good, and frankly because I found myself looking forward to the exercise of codifying it in words.
And then I realized it might be useful to put this out there for everyone to read instead of sending it to Dan privately.
It’s never a bad thing to publicly state what you stand for, because it helps hold you accountable to it.
I hope we always hold ourselves accountable to what I’ve written below.
And I hope you hold us accountable to it too.
So here is my open letter to Dan Dakich, and also to everyone who supports what we do, explaining what The Assembly Call stands for …
Nearly four years ago, sometime not long before the 2011-12 Indiana season started, with Indiana having lost 66 games over the previous three seasons (of which I watched them all), a thought popped into my head:
What if we created an online postgame show for IU basketball games?
There wasn’t one out there yet. There were just message boards where fans could go after games to cheer, celebrate, vent, commiserate, whatever. I had a gut feeling there would be an audience for an IU postgame show, if it was done well and done consistently.
I’d had some experience launching a successful sports blog and hosting a podcast, so I thought I would be able to do an okay job of hosting the show and get better with time.
I hoped that what I might lack in advanced basketball knowledge, I could make up for with professionalism, enthusiasm, love for the program, and a deep knowledge of IU’s history and traditions (having grown up in Bloomington as the son of an IU football coach).
Plus, it just so happened that I had done some work with a couple other IU grads, Andy Bottoms and Ryan Phillips, who were already accomplished writers and analysts and who would add a significant level of expertise to our content.
Andy, for example, has been the most successful of all of the many “bracketologists” out there at predicting the NCAA Tournament field — he’s literally #1 according to Bracket Matrix. That’s why FoxSports.com featured his bracket for years. Andy knows college basketball inside and out.
And Ryan is a graduate of IU’s journalism program who has written for some of the biggest sports sites on the web, in addition to running his own properties. He also played high level basketball in high school. He knows the game. They both do.
Plus, they were each just crazy enough to commit to co-hosting the show with me after every single game.
So we launched The Assembly Call.
And then nine games into that first season, Christian Watford hit The Shot that beat Kentucky. It was all the momentum we needed to solidify our commitment to this new show idea and begin building our audience.
As we sit here today, in the middle of February 2015, now our fourth season doing the show, there have only been a small handful of non-conference games against nondescript foes that we didn’t produce a show for.
Midday Sunday games. Late-night weekday games (with an early alarm clock set for the following morning). Stretches of four games in ten days. Doesn’t matter. We show up and broadcast, and then work for hours after to publish the podcast and get the postgame email analysis ready.
And we do it because we love it.
We certainly don’t do it for money. Although, I should say that I don’t see any reason why it would be a negative if we did do it for some money.
In fact, we’d love to build an audience so large and loyal that it creates revenue streams for the site. Who wouldn’t? That would be amazing!
And we have tried a few strategies here and there to bring in a few bucks to pay for expenses like the cost of our domain and web hosting.
For example, earlier this year, around Christmastime, I sent some affiliate links out to our email list and Twitter followers. These links were for significant deals on IU merchandise (25-50% discounts) that I was privy to as part of the ShareASale program. When someone clicked on the links and made a purchase, we made a few bucks as a commission. This brought in a few hundred dollars of revenue.
I have already reinvested this revenue back into the site, the majority of which was used to fund an idea one of our student interns came up with.
I should mention this, the internship program. Because it’s become a big part of what we stand for.
This is the second year that we have had IU student interns working for the show. Last year we had one. This year we have three.
Our goal for the internship program is to give IU students valuable experience in new media creation, social media marketing, and content marketing strategy. I am the VP of Marketing for Copyblogger Media, one of the world’s leading authorities about online marketing. Teaching these concepts to people who do work online is what our company does. So I have some experience in this area.
I want our interns to gain knowledge and skills that any young person would benefit from in our ever-digital world, especially if they are interested in a career in media, broadcasting, or journalism.
A few weeks ago, one of our interns, Taylor, had what I thought was a brilliant idea to distribute wristbands with “Hoosier 4 Life” on them as a way of promoting The Assembly Call on campus. I wanted to empower her to run with the idea. So I spent nearly as much as we made from our holiday affiliate sales to have wristbands printed and shipped to her and our other two interns, Walter and Will.
They are now coming up with the strategy to distribute the wristbands while incorporating social media to spread the word, and executing on it. I can’t wait to see what they come up with, and to see what they lessons they learn (and I learn) from the experience.
I explain all of this to make a simple point: some people give back to their university by donating money. (My fiancee, for example, donated enough to her alma mater, Texas A&M, that they just sent her a plaque.) I have chosen, as have Andy and Ryan, to give back to Indiana in a different way.
We donate our time, our energy, and our passion to creating a show that people seem to really like and to cultivating the worldwide community that has grown around it.
I say “worldwide” because already just this season I have received emails from three different people, who live in different parts of the world, expressing their gratitude for our show because it helps them feel connected to the university and program they are otherwise so far away from.
And our show’s growth has given us the opportunity to give back even more by opening up this internship program that offers opportunities for real-world experience for IU students.
Damn it makes me proud to type that. 🙂
Hopefully, all of this explains a bit more about what we stand for.
There is one other element of our show that I believe is also important to mention, because it’s at the heart of what we do: we stand for celebrating and supporting IU’s players and coaches, not denigrating or defaming them.
The reason I begin every show with a “Banner Moment” is to make sure we always start with a positive.
And the reason I get into tiffs on Twitter with people who cast personal aspersions on our players and coaches is because I just don’t believe there is any place for that in the dialogue.
We will criticize a player’s actions and we will criticize Coach Crean’s decisions … but I firmly believe that if you asked our audience what we stand for, they would tell you that we stand for fostering a fair, supportive, and respectful dialogue about Indiana basketball that never loses sight of the fact these are real people and never stops appreciating the efforts they put in to improve and win.
I’m the son of a coach. I remember what it was like.
That empathy is, I believe, what makes our show special and why people appreciate it.
That empathy, for the human beings who wear the Cream and Crimson, is an essential part of what we stand for.
In closing, I just want to say that we take a lot of pride in The Assembly Call someday becoming a small piece of the special fabric of Indiana basketball — perhaps like a postgame “Martha the Mop Lady” for this new era of Indiana basketball. We realize that doing so requires the humility to show up and be prepared, when and where people expect us, every single time that final buzzer sounds.
We are serving an audience and celebrating a basketball program and university that we love, and it’s both a privilege and a responsibility — one we don’t ever take for granted or lightly.
And we feel so fortunate to have an ever-growing audience that reciprocates our commitment by showing up for the live show, listening to the replay on our podcast, and subscribing to our newsletter.
My guess, Dan, is that you feel the same way about your audience that we do. You can’t build one like you have without taking that privilege and responsibility to heart.
And hey, who knows, someday The Assembly Call might actually have opportunities to make legitimate revenue, the same way you do, because we are in possession of a media property that has earned a consistent audience. It’s not the ultimate goal, but it’s certainly not something we’d avoid either. That would be silly.
But the revenue would be a byproduct of a large group of people, one by one, choosing to buy into what we stand for. And that’s a really pleasant thought to me and to our team, because we’re proud of what we stand for.
Because we think that what we stand for is in the spirit of what Indiana basketball stands for.
And deep down, Dan, I know you stand for something similar because I know you love Indiana University in your own way. I know how special it has been to you, even if your feelings now are more conflicted than they once were.
So in a few important ways, I don’t think you and I are very different, even if we are in many others.
But having said that (to again borrow your line), from one Hoosier to another, I hope this helped to paint a picture of what The Assembly Call stands for, why our show exists, and what we want our little spot in Hoosier Nation to mean.
Basically: This is Indiana. We love it. And we just want to do our part.
Jerod, Ryan, and Andy