March 21, 2013
Theobald will be thrilled if Sunday matchup is IU vs. Temple
By Mike Leonard
March 21, 2013
At this time last year, Neil Theobald was senior vice president and chief financial officer for Indiana University.
Now he lives in Philadelphia, where he's president of Temple University.
If IU wins its opening game against James Madison in the NCAA men's basketball tournament Friday, and Temple wins its contest against North Carolina State, the two storied programs will meet in third-round action Sunday in Dayton, Ohio.
"There is only one team in the country that I would not root against if they were playing IU -- and that would be us," Theobald said this week, the excitement in his voice palpable. "I sure hope I'll be watching the Owls playing the Hoosiers on Sunday."
Any conflicted feelings about playing the school where you worked for two decades?
"None whatsoever," Theobald said. "Just the chance to play against IU is awesome. And I have to say, I don't think the Hoosiers have played anybody who plays quite the style that coach Fran Dunphy brings to our squad.
"That being said, IU is my pick in all the brackets. They're the best team I've seen, and the Big Ten was so tough this year. If you were down for any reason, you were playing a good team that could knock you off."
It's not like the former IU faculty member and administrator went from a basketball powerhouse to a school that doesn't care. Like IU, Temple has a richer history in basketball than football, and just this season, Temple became the sixth team in NCAA history to reach 1,800 wins, joining Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Duke and Syracuse in that exclusive club.
"(Former coach) John Chaney came in to see me this week, and we talked about the games when he played IU over the years," Theobald said. "He was close with coach (Bob) Knight. They had a game in Bloomington in the late-'90s where IU beat them on a last-second shot. There are people here who remember that game very well."
The first-year Temple president said it's been fun to be in a place that reveres its basketball and where the campus community is excited in the same way students in Bloomington would be. "There are three teams here in Philadelphia who made the tourney, and we beat Villanova and LaSalle, so we're the city choice," he said. "If any team's going to do well in the tournament, it's Temple."
Theobald said in addition to Temple's style of play, the Hoosiers could have trouble handling Temple star Khalif Wyatt, who averages nearly 20 points a game. "He reminds me a lot of a Damon Bailey style of player. He's smart on the floor and he draws fouls," Theobald said.
The former IU CFO said the transition from Bloomington to Philadelphia has been even more enjoyable than he'd hoped. "It's certainly a very different atmosphere here than in Bloomington. It's a big city -- much more of a place of neighborhoods and ethnic food and lots of great restaurants. But I can't get over how friendly people have been.
"It's not like I was expecting people to push me off the sidewalk or anything, but I've really been taken by how nice people are," he said.
Theobald said he and his wife, Sheona Mackenzie, will team teach a class for incoming freshmen next fall. She was a school psychologist with the Monroe County Community School Corp.'s Adult Education Program.
"It's been an ideal transition for both of us," Theobald said. "She's never been the wife of a university president before, obviously, but she just blends right in. The students have really taken to her, which is no surprise to me, but is still very gratifying."