This is part of a series of sports history articles celebrating the best in 1987 sports. This piece asks the question of which geographic fan base had the best year in ’87.
The year that was 1987 sports sees us return to the same fan market that he honored in 1976—but with a little different twist. In both years, it’s Indiana University and Bob Knight’s basketball program that’s at the heart. The 1987 Indiana basketball team won Knight’s third national title and they keynoted the success for 1987’s top fan market, just as was the case in 1976.
But the 1976 fan base was specifically targeted to those who live near the Ohio border in Indiana and would default to the Cincinnati Reds as their favorite baseball team. The Reds rolled to a World Series title and a 7-0 sweep of the postseason. In 1987, we keep everything exclusively in the Hoosier State—no matter where you live, so long as it’s IU—not Purdue or Notre Dame—that get your loyalty—you were riding the wave.
No fan base really had a dominant year in 1987, so it’s the supporting cast grinding out seasons that could be significant to the faithful that would make the difference. That’s what happened here. Indiana’s football coach, Bill Mallory, was getting that program onto the map and he knocked off both Michigan and Ohio State—the first time IU had ever accomplished the feat—en route to a Peach Bowl bid.
The NFL had just come to Indianapolis prior to the 1984 season and the Colts had yet to make any real mark. In spite of a strike, and subsequent use of replacement players for three games, Indianapolis found their stride late in the year and won the old AFC East (the four current teams plus Indy). It was the franchise’s first trip to the playoffs in their Midwestern home.
1987 was a year to be “Back Home Again In Indiana”, as is sung every Memorial Day Sunday at the Indianapolis 500. The team the state cares the most about won a championship and two supporting teams made a splash.
Read more about the 1987 Indiana basketball team
Read more about the 1987 Indiana football team
Read more about the 1987 Indianapolis Colts