Blair Hrovat steps in as ISU football coach serves suspension

Jason Svoboda

The Bird Level
Administrator
By David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State’s football game against Southeast Missouri State this Saturday isn’t the season opener.

It obviously isn’t the home opener.

It isn’t a Gateway Football Conference matchup.

It isn’t against a longtime rival or a nationally known opponent.

That’s not to say it isn’t important. But for various reasons, this is the contest Indiana State’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics selected for coach Lou West to serve his NCAA-mandated one-game suspension.

The NCAA issued the suspension in December after finding West’s program guilty of inadvertently allowing an ineligible player to participate in three games last season. Indiana State had reported the violation to the NCAA once the university became aware of it.

In addition to the West suspension, the NCAA ordered ISU to pay a $1,500 fine.

Offensive coordinator/associate head coach Blair Hrovat will fill in for West at SEMO.

In his second season at ISU, Hrovat previously served as head coach at Allegheny (Pa.) College for four seasons (1999-2002), posting a 26-14 record.

West will be allowed to travel with the team to Cape Girardeau, Mo., but he must separate from the players and other coaches when they arrive at Houck Stadium.

The third-year head coach told the Tribune-Star that he’s permitted to watch the game away from his team, then he can rejoin it afterward.

“Once I get off the bus, that’s it, until after the game,” West said Wednesday. “I can’t make any suggestions or adjustments [during the game].”

A pressbox seat is one option for West, but he isn’t sure if that’s what he wants. “I’ll find a seat somewhere,” he said.

Still preparing the team in practices at Memorial Stadium as usual this week, West admits Saturday will present one of the most difficult situations he’s faced in his 31-year coaching career.

The Sycamores will enter with a 0-2 record, while Southeast Missouri State is 1-1. Despite the unique circumstances, West feels confident Hrovat — with help from defensive coordinator Steve Barrows — can guide the Sycamores to their first victory of the season.

“I think those guys working together can get this thing done,” West mentioned.

Hrovat said he isn’t worried about the pressure of being in charge.

“Coach Barrows has been a head coach before,” he pointed out. “I’ve been a head coach. Between Steve and myself, I don’t think there will be any problems.

“My job is to do things how coach West would do them… The big thing on Game Day is to make fourth-down coaching decisions.”

Hrovat hopes for an offensive explosion by the Sycamores after they’ve posted a total of three touchdowns in their first two games, losses to Indiana and Austin Peay.

“We just need to get better at the fundamentals,” he explained. “We still need to run the ball better. As we run the ball better, our passing game will improve.”
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