BLOOMINGTON – The “#9WINDIANA” movement began on a Saturday night in late June, with three men at an outside picnic table at the Triton Tap bar in the Broad Ripple neighborhood of Indianapolis.
By the end of November, it reached the field at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette.
Following Indiana's double-overtime victory over Purdue, a win that gave the Hoosiers the Old Oaken Bucket and their eighth win of the season, tight end Turon Ivy Jr. and safety Khalil Bryant sought out a video camera.
They shared the same message.
“NINE WINDIANA,” they screamed.
To understand what #9WINDIANA is, you must return to that Broad Ripple bar.
Kyle Robbins has been a contributor and site manager for Indiana's SB Nation team community, Crimson Quarry, for the past five years.
He was drinking beers that night with Chris Schutte, a fellow SB Nation blogger, and Connor Hitchcock, who operates the college clothing brand Homefield Apparel.
All three are long-suffering Indiana football fans.
Robbins is from Bedford and spent his formative years dressed in an Antwaan Randle-El jersey.
Schutte, 24, has been going to Indiana games since he was in elementary school.
Hitchcock graduated from Indiana in 2016, and remembers Indiana teams “stepping on every rake imaginable” while he was a student.
In an attempt to self-generate excitement for the upcoming season, and following three or four beers, Robbins began ranting about how the Hoosiers would win nine games in 2019.
“Everybody can empathize with rambling on and on about how this is the year for Indiana football,” he said.
Spontaneously, Schutte dubbed the concept #9WINDIANA, a phrase Robbins quickly tweeted.
“We all were kind of laughing about it, half believing it,” Hitchcock said. “I definitely thought it was a bit at first, but the whole time it's been a bit, right?”
By the next Monday morning, Robbins had published a Crimson Quarry blog post explaining the #9WINDIANA concept, complete with absurd references to San Francisco International Airport, music artist Nelly Furtado and past Indiana football shortcomings.
It was an irreverent article substituting on-field analysis for off-the-wall humor, something Crimson Quarry, which has more than 10,600 Twitter followers, is known for.
“Crimson Quarry exists in this unique space where they can kind of be the IU football fans without some of the traditional limitations that media has,” Schutte said. “They can kind of be out there, be weird, be funny.”
As word of #9WINDIANA spread online, Hitchcock created a Homefield shirt to mark the movement.
Hitchock has sold hundreds of the shirt since its June debut.
“It was an inside joke among three guys, we didn't think anyone in their right mind would purchase that thing,” Robbins said.
For all the optimism, Indiana's past football fortunes stuck with the trio, even as the Hoosiers kept winning.
“You're waiting for the other shoe to drop the entire time,” Robbins said. “That's how this story has always gone, until it didn't.”
One of the movement's crescendos came when Crimson Quarry and Homefield partnered with Banner Society, a popular college football website, to host a #9WINDIANA tailgate before Indiana's home finale against Michigan.
“I think Indiana football fans inherently are just searching for something to root for and believe in,” Schutte said.
A likely postseason landing spot for the Hoosiers is Music City Bowl, in Nashville, Tennessee, a location conducive for Hitchcock, Robbins and Schutte to potentially witness their prophecy come true.
“If that ninth win does go down I'll probably get a picture on the field and it will probably be the last thing I ever tweet or post from Crimson Quarry,” Robbins said.
On the business front, Hitchcock doesn't plan to release any new #9WINDIANA merchandise.
Like everyone else, he's just along for the ride.
“The one thing about the #9WINDIANA movement is that it's been a lot of just pure joy,” Hitchcock said. “It's been the most fun I've ever had watching football in my life.”