It had been nearly four months since the University of Indianapolis football team last played on the gridiron at Key Stadium. Since its loss to the William Jewell College Cardinals that took away a 2014 playoff bid in mid-November, the Greyhounds had spent the past winter awaiting the opportunity to throw on the shoulder pads again and begin preparations for the 2015 season. That opportunity arrived on March 17, with the start of spring football, and throughout the four weeks that followed, the Greyhounds held 14 practices to start building the team that will take the field this fall.
At the end of the four-week period, UIndy took the field one last time before it hanged up the pads for the summer, as it hosted the annual spring game at home on April 11. In front of a crowd of 1,019 people, the 2015 edition of the Greyhounds displayed its players in a game featuring two teams split by black and white jerseys. After four 12-minute quarters of play, the black team emerged victorious, 21-14, following a rushing touchdown by junior running back Aaron Bruning that came within the last minute of play in the fourth quarter.
Prior to the spring game, with the conclusion of one season and the start of another, the Greyhounds lost some starters at different positions heading into this year, and sought to help fill those positions during the short amount of time the team had together this past month. One position that UIndy did not need to worry about filling, however, was the quarterback position, which will be helmed again this year by senior quarterback Connor Barthel. Going into his second full year starting at the position for the Greyhounds, Barthel said that he is prepared to make his last season at UIndy his best.
“Going in [towards the fall of 2015] and thinking about my last season, I want to make everything I can out of it,” he said. “I love every guy on this team, so I want to work as hard as I can to make sure that I give our team the best chance we have to go as far as we can into the playoffs and go further than we ever have before.”
As mentioned earlier, the Greyhounds season came to an end at home to William Jewell last fall, and with that loss, UIndy missed the playoffs for the first time since the 2011 season and suffered its first loss in conference play since joining the Great Lakes Valley Conference in 2012. According to Barthel, that loss has made this year’s team motivated to come back this season and get the program back to where they feel it belongs.
“One thing we focused on this offseason, is that last year didn’t end the way we wanted it to, and so this year we are focusing on not taking anything for granted,” he said. “We have a lot of great teams on our schedule and we have no room to overestimate anyone. We are going to respect everyone that we play, we are going to get back to our gritty attitude that we had a couple of years ago, and we are going to outwork everyone that we play and come out on top no matter what it takes.”
Returning for his sixth season as the head football coach of the Greyhounds, Bob Bartolomeo, like Barthel, said that the main lesson the team has taken away from the loss to William Jewell is that they should never take anything for granted, and that included everyone from the coaches to the players. Bartolomeo also said that the loss was a gut check and a indication that the GLVC was not what it appeared to be when it first debuted in 2012.
“For a team like William Jewell to come in here [to Key Stadium]—and we don’t lose at home very often—[and] to beat us at home, [that means] that the league is getting better,” he said. “There are enough good athletes [in the GLVC] now, that if you don’t bring your A-game every week, the apple cart is going to get upturned a little bit.”
“You can’t take anybody for granted. That’s what the biggest thing is,” he said. “There are no sure wins in this league anymore. I think three years ago there might have been, but not anymore.”
With spring football now wrapped up, Bartolomeo said that the players will take a few weeks off now to work on completing remaining tasks for their classes and to prepare for final exams. After that brief period away from football, however, he said that the players would take the entire summer to improve from a physical standpoint.
“On May 4, we start our summer program. Each kid has been given a manual by our strength [and conditioning] coach, Steve Barrick, and it is a five day a week, all summer long, 12-week program, until we report [back for preseason] August 13,” said Bartolomeo.
Although the coaching staff is not allowed to work with the student-athletes over the summer, Bartolomeo said that the players are allowed to work with Barrick, which is an option, according to the head coach, that many have selected to stay on campus after the end of this semester and pursue.
“We have 60-plus guys out of the 80-something returning that are going to stay this summer,” he said. “It’s unbelievable. We have more guys staying than we have had in the past. Steve has done a good job of encouraging that. Kids are buying in and making it a total year-round commitment.”
The Greyhounds will return to action this fall for its season-opener at home on Sept. 3 against the Saginaw Valley State University Cardinals. The in-region matchup is set to kick off from Key Stadium at 7 p.m.