MICHAEL MAROT, AP Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — The roof literally caved in on Indiana.
The Hoosiers’ game against No. 15 Iowa was postponed Tuesday night after an 8-foot long, 50-pound piece of metal inside Assembly Hall fell from the ceiling into some empty seats in the northwest corner of the arena.
No makeup date was announced and parts of the building’s four corners were roped off as engineers inspected the metal plates around the rest of the building.
Three hours after announcing the postponement, athletic director Fred Glass said the teams could have played the game, but only if fans were kept out. The Hoosiers also briefly considered moving the game to Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis later this week.
Glass said he was told that the harsh winter was the culprit.
“The preliminary assessment is that with the snow and ice, it settled at the lowest point in that curve at such a magnitude that it basically popped that bottom plate off,” Glass said. “I’m also advised that the plating is actually ornamental and it serves no structural purpose. So what we may do is just remove all that plating.”
For Indiana (14-11, 4-8 Big Ten), it’s another strange twist in a season that has seemingly gotten rougher by the day.
The defending league champs are stuck in 10th place and are trying to rebound from what has been their worst month of the season.
Since upsetting then No. 10 Michigan on Feb. 2, the Hoosiers have lost three straight — blowing a 6-point halftime lead at Minnesota, a late double digit lead against Penn State, and then when they couldn’t inbound the ball before getting blown out Saturday at archrival Purdue.
Now the Hoosiers are dealing with a scare inside one of college basketball’s iconic arenas, which seats more than 17,000.
Glass said the Hoosiers asked engineers and outside experts to inspect the premises after the 14-inch wide piece crashed into the seats about six hours before tip-off.
Engineers quickly advised school officials not to host any events until a cause could be determined.
Later, during an early evening news conference, Glass said Wednesday night’s women’s game against Michigan will be played as scheduled because fans could be kept out of the affected seats.
As for the men’s team, the Hoosiers have 72 hours to come up with a makeup plan before Big Ten officials will get involved. Indiana remains hopeful its final two home games, March 2 against Ohio State and March 5 against Nebraska, will go on as scheduled. In fact, Indiana coach Tom Crean would have been content using the building on Tuesday.
“I think we would feel fine doing that tonight, to be honest with you. It’s very isolated,” he said. “Our guys would have been comfortable playing anywhere today. They were ready to go.”
Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said his team was reluctantly heading home, and that he would work with Glass and Big Ten officials to come up with a new game date, and possibly a different venue for the Hoosiers and third-place Hawkeyes (19-6, 8-4).
“Obviously, we are disappointed tonight’s game had to be cancelled,” Barta said. “(Coach) Fran (McCaffrey) and his team are in contention for a Big Ten title and were looking forward to the opportunity to getting back on the court. The most important part of this equation is safety.
“We are in full support of Indiana’s decision to postpone the game based on the issues with Assembly Hall.”
Indiana officials knew the building, which first opened in 1971-72, needed work. Last month, they announced Cindy Simon Skjodt was donating $40 million to help renovate the facility, which will be renamed the Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall. Among the planned changes are a new entryway, remodeled bathrooms and concession stands, and a big, new video scoreboard along with box seats above the south baseline bleachers.
But none of the proposed renovations involved the metal plates, and Glass doesn’t believe it is necessary now.
“Early on we got the all clear from the engineer that the floor was fine,” Glass said. “We could have practice on the floor. We could have had a game there if there were no fans there. So the floor area is in really good shape.
“The fact that the roof itself is almost, well, it’s new within three years, and it had been inspected recently, gives us a great deal of comfort there.”
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