- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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Barring an unexpected impasse, Ball State and IUPUI head coach Ron Hunter are expected to agree on a contract that would make him the new Cardinals coach.
Hunter is the top candidate to replace Ronny Thompson, multiple sources said over the weekend. Thompson abruptly resigned July 13 after one season as Ball State coach after an internal investigation found that he and his staff violated NCAA rules in 2006 and last May by attending voluntary offseason team workouts. The coaches lied about their involvement in the May infraction, the school has said.
Hunter is expected to talk to high-ranking Ball State and IUPUI officials later Monday before an official contract offer is submitted, likely by Tuesday morning. If terms are agreed upon, then Hunter's hiring would be announced as early as Wednesday.
Hunter has strong ties in Indiana, which Thompson and his coaches did not have. Hunter took IUPUI to the NCAA Tournament in 2003 and knows the MAC. He earned a degree from Miami of Ohio in 1986.
Ball State athletic director Tom Collins was looking for a replacement with head coaching experience and connections in the state. There was interest in former Ball State and Houston coach Ray McCallum, now an Indiana assistant, former Western Michigan and South Florida coach Robert McCullum, former Saint Louis coach Brad Soderberg, former Akron coach Dan Hipsher and IPFW coach Dane Fife.
IUPUI has made an attempt to keep Hunter, but if Ball State's contract offer is competitive, expect Hunter to accept the move up to the MAC. Hiring Hunter, who is African-American, would do wonders for Ball State's image in the state and within the black community in light of the racist letters Thompson said were slipped under his office door in late June following the revelation that Ball State was investigating secondary violations committed by Thompson's staff.
This was the second time in as many springs that Thompson's staff was found to have worked out players during a time period that wasn't allowed. Thompson and his staff were required to attend an NCAA rules seminar in Florida as part of their self-imposed violations. The NCAA still hasn't officially weighed in on the case.
Senior writer Andy Katz covers men's college basketball for ESPN.com.