When Indiana University men's and women's basketball coaches Mike Woodson and Teri Moren walk into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall and look high above the court, they see symbols of success they and other Hoosiers have achieved.
Thirteen large red-and-white banners honor great IU basketball teams. At the north end are five for each of IU's NCAA men's championship teams. At the south end are eight that honor men's and women's Final Four teams, the 1975 men's squad that was undefeated in the regular season, and men's and women's Big Ten Conference and NIT champions.
"I feel a tremendous amount of pride," Woodson said of the banners, including the one that includes the team Woodson actually played for as a student: the 1980 Big Ten champs. "Each day I try to achieve a standard in what I do and how I can impact others to get the best out of themselves."
Moren was part of the most recent banner raising, which honored the women's 2018 WNIT champions during Hoosier Hysteria the following season. Moren said the commemoration is representative of a goal set when she took over as the women's coach in 2014: to create a tradition that gets people talking about IU basketball to include the women in that conversation.
"You have a lot of memories as a coach, but certainly it will go down as one of my favorite moments to be standing there with our team and president and athletic director, and watch that banner unfold," said Moren, who guided IU to the Elite Eight last season.
The banners also have great meaning for diehard IU fans -- iconic symbols of eras and teams, and a program they hold dear. For example, the banners have been a popular request to be used as the backdrop for wedding photos, said Chuck Crabb, IU's longtime public address announcer and senior assistant athletic director for facilities, who retired Jan. 31.
"People are highly connected to them," Crabb said. "They are a physical and visual representation of Indiana athletics and team accomplishments. You don't see retired jerseys of individuals; you see teams recognized. People feel very strongly about the teams and relate to them."
Banners weren't part of the atmosphere when Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall opened for the 1971-72 season -- then known just as Assembly Hall. They didn't appear until the 1973-74 campaign. Men's basketball coach Bob Knight, Athletic Director Bill Orwig and Assistant Athletic Director Bob Dro approved adding banners to commemorate championships and achievements of national importance, Crabb said. Because winning the Big Ten was always the first goal, honoring those championships wasn't viewed the same as a national achievement, he added.
So, banners honoring the 1940 and 1953 national champs, and Knight's '73 Final Four squad, were raised first. As IU won three more national championships -- '76, '81 and '87 -- banners were added in honor of each squad. A banner also was added to honor IU's 1974 Collegiate Commissioners Association championship team, Crabb said.
Some exceptions were made along the way though. The '75 squad that went undefeated in the regular season and was voted UPI national champs, despite losing in the NCAA tournament, is honored. So, too, was the '83 squad that won the Big Ten, for which Knight had "The People's Banner" raised in honor of the tremendous fan support.
"Ted Kitchel had been hurt in a game at Michigan, and we had our final three games at home with teams that were in the conference title hunt," said Kit Klingelhoffer, IU's longtime sports information director who retired in 2012. "Coach Knight said through the media that we needed fan support like never before for the next three games. In succession we beat Purdue, Illinois and Ohio State decisively to win the Big Ten. The crowd, the three games and the noise level were unbelievable."
After Knight's departure from IU in 2000, then-Athletic Director Clarence Doninger decided to honor IU's conference champions with banners. Doninger, a member of the '57 Big Ten champs, felt passionately that banners that listed and honored Big Ten championship teams should be displayed in addition to national championship banners.
"Clarence had strong feelings about the entire history of IU basketball and how important those Big Ten championships were to the players and fans," Crabb said.
More additions and changes have occurred since then. A banner was raised to honor the 2012-13 Big Ten champs and the fans who stuck with the program after a tumultuous period, and the women's 1973 Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women Final Four team was honored with a banner-raising in 2014.
When Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall was dedicated in the fall of 2016, then-Athletic Director Fred Glass decided that individual banners for the 1983 and 2013 Big Ten champs would be removed and those squads honored with their names added to the banners with all the other Big Ten champions.
Longtime banner maker
As new banners have been added and old sets have been replaced, one thing has remained constant since 1983: the company making the banners, Indianapolis-based Flag & Banner Co.
IU's first banners were made by New Jersey-based flag maker Annin and Co., but when Karen Bush started Flag & Banner in 1979, she became a vendor for Annin. Eventually, it was easier for IU to work directly with the nearby Flag & Banner.
The cream and crimson banners -- officially Old Glory red with varsity cream lettering -- and made of Nyl-Glo, a lightweight type of nylon with a reflective sheen. Each is 7 1/2 feet wide and 15 feet tall, and has pockets at the top and bottom in which bars are placed. The top bar connects to a staging truss, and the bottom pulls the banner tight.
Bush and her employees used to make each banner by hand, but now they use machines. It takes a week to make one banner, from order to mockup to approval to creation. The banner measurements and locations of letters have been recorded by Bush to make the process easier and accurate.
Flag & Banner's relationship with IU has grown over the years. It makes banners not only for basketball but for other sports such as swimming and diving, soccer and cheerleading. The company also makes the graduation banners for all indoor and outdoor ceremonies for IU's Bloomington and regional campuses, Bush said.
"It is exciting," Bush said. "We have a retail show room and gift shop where people can see the banners we make. Some people are so excited they pose for pictures with us working on them. It says a lot about how important the university is to the people around us."
Emotions and memories
The emotions that the banners stir run the gamut for fans, parents of recruits, players and opposing teams. When Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall hosted early-round men's NCAA tournament games in March 2021, then-Texas Tech coach Chris Beard spent the beginning moments of the team's first practice touring Assembly Hall, Crabb said. Beard knew about the history of IU basketball from his time as an assistant under Knight at Texas Tech. So, he took his team onto the court to look at the banners and understand what had been accomplished.
Moren said that when parents come to Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, they walk in with this look of awe on their faces because they've seen this sacred place filled with passionate fans on TV.
"I think there is this wow factor when people walk into the hall, and the banners make the hall what it is, when you can look down there and look at the championships," Moren said. "At that point, it doesn't matter if it's men or women, it's national championship banners that are hanging up in a place where their daughter or their son could potentially play and practice."
Tyra Buss, a senior on the 2018 WNIT championship team and IU's women's career scoring leader, said that when she was deciding where to play in college, she wanted to go where she could make an impact and help elevate a program. When she walks into Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall, she looks up at the banners first, and she's filled with pride and memories, and the desire to be on the court playing again.
"I remember that WNIT championship day, running out on the court for the last time in front of 13,000-plus fans," Buss said of the game played on her home court. "That's the memory that I get every time I look up at the banner. To be able to win a championship in front of them and all the confetti coming down and us being able to raise a trophy and cutting down nets -- that day, in particular, is one that I will really never forget."
“Celebrating 50 Years at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall” is a collection of stories resulting from a collaborative effort between IU Studios and IU Athletics to pay homage to one of college basketball’s most iconic venues and its importance to Indiana basketball.