There are many reasonable criticisms of Bill Lynch, but I really hate hearing about how he lacks passion on the sideline. There are great coaches who have a stoic demeanor. There are bad coaches who are fiery on the sideline. Still, when I contrast the indifference with which this result seemed to transpire on the sideline, compared to Terry Hoeppner's exhortation of the Hoosiers in the 2006 comeback at Illinois, it's hard not to buy into those criticisms for a moment. As poorly as the team played, the most pathetic moment of this most pathetic game was with 2:49 remaining in the first half, when IU, facing 4th and goal from the 9, kicked a 27 yard field goal to "narrow" the deficit to 34-3. This was the first half. More than half of the game remained. Against a fellow 3-8, 1-6 team that happens to be a rival. That was the first time in the game that IU had been closer to the end zone than the Purdue 35. I realize, of course, that IU's odds of winning were low at that point. But any IU comeback, however improbable, required a touchdown on that possession. For whatever reason, Lynch was happy to get on the scoreboard and essentially waved the white flag before halftime.
There hasn't been any media groundswell about Lynch's performance, and so I suspect that he will be back for 2009. In his various postseason comments, Lynch has noted the need to go back to work, etc., but I don't see any outward sign of serious introspection.
A review of IU's Big Ten performance confirms this. In the eight Big Ten games, IU scored only 116 points and allowed 328. In other words, IU was outscored by 212 points in Big Ten play and the average score of a Big Ten game was 41-15. Here are the Big Ten point differentials for other bad seasons since the eight game schedule was introduced in 1971 (although the Big Ten did play a nine game schedule in 1983 and 1984):
2008: -212In other words, this was IU's least competitive Big Ten season since the advent of the eight game schedule.
I don't know what is going to happen to Lynch. As I said above, I expect that he will be back for 2009, and if so, I sincerely hope that he proves me wrong and wins a bunch of games. Still, by the numbers, Lynch's first season is most comparable to Cam Cameron's first season and Gerry Dinardo's first two seasons. The only rationale for hiring Lynch, as opposed to opening up a search and finding someone who didn't lose 21 in a row at Ball State, was to avoid the negative aspects of a coaching change. Instead, IU produced a season that was comparable to recent transition seasons, and quite arguably worse. Rick Greenspan was under quite a bit of pressure last year, from the media and from old guard program guys like Bill Mallory and Harold Mauro, to give Lynch the job. Certainly, it would have been odd to see IU preparing for its first bowl game in 14 seasons with a lame duck coach. Still, the facts have not vindicated the decision to hire Lynch, and actually undercut the only reason for hiring him. Calling the 2008 season a setback doesn't quite capture it.