Via Twitter, Terry Hutchens of the Indianapolis Star reports that Kevin Wilson, offensive coordinator of the Big 12 champion Oklahoma Sooners, will be named the new head football coach at Indiana University at a 4 p.m. press conference tomorrow. Wilson, who in 2008 won the Frank Broyles Award, given to the nation's top assistant coach, has been at Oklahoma since 2002, where he served as co-offensive coordinator from 2002-2005 and as the offensive coordinator from 2006 to present. Before going to OU, Wilson worked for the late Randy Walker as offensive coordinator at Northwestern (1998-2001) and Miami of Ohio (1992-1997). That means Wilson has a wealth of experience as an offensive coordinator or co-coordinator (19 consecutive seasons). Also, note that Wilson's time at Miami overlapped with that of Terry Hoeppner, who stayed in Oxford as head coach when Walker and Wilson went to Northwestern.
I'm very happy with this hire. Of course, the ideal hire for IU or any Big Ten school would be an experienced head coach who has won consistently in a major conference. Such coaches are difficult to find, particularly for IU (although IU did find one when hiring Bill Mallory, who had won a Big 8 title at Colorado). Absent that, the obvious candidates are head coaches from lower tier programs and coordinators from major programs. Coaches from both categories have succeeded; coaches from both categories have failed. Until he is in the job, it will not be clear whether Wilson can succeed as a head coach, but such questions exist concerning experienced head coaches as well. For instance, Minnesota's new coach, Jerry Kill of Northern Illinois, has been very successful at the I-AA and MAC levels, but it will be a while before anyone knows how that will translate to the highest levels of college football.
What do I like about Wilson's resume?
- The Oklahoma years. Wilson has spent the last nine seasons working closely with Bob Stoops, one of the two or three finest coaches of his generation. Stoops (who also had no head coaching experience before taking the OU job) almost immediately turned OU back into a winner. Stoops is from the Hayden Fry/Bill Snyder coaching trees, as are the likes of Mike Stoops, Barry Alvarez, Bret Bielema, Mike Leach, Mark Mangino (the latter two were Wilson's predecessors as OU's OC), and others. During his time at OU, Wilson coached two Heisman Trophy winners, Jason White and Sam Bradford, and one of the finest running backs in recent college football history, Adrian Peterson. While he won't have the same talent at his disposal at IU, he has been highly successful.
Northwestern and Miami of Ohio. While not as glamorous as Oklahoma, the two stops for Wilson prior to OU are key to his attractiveness for this job. At Northwestern, Wilson's offense propelled the Wildcats to a share of the 2000 Big Ten title. As I noted a couple of days ago, NU had the Rose Bowl in its grasp before losing in the second-to-last week of the season to 3-9 Iowa and setting the stage for Purdue's trip to Pasadena. Still, that was an excellent Wildcat team. I'm sure that many of you remember Northwestern's epic 54-51 win over Michigan that season (back when scoring 54 points against Michigan meant something), because the game crops up on ESPN Classic or the BTN's Greatest Games with regularity. That was Kevin Wilson's offense. Both the NU and Miami ties indicate that Wilson is familiar with the Midwest and enjoyed it enough to come back. His work at NU, in particular, is encouraging because he was a part of some successful teams that did not have top tier talent.
Again, any coaching hire is a risk. Absent an introduction of Nick Saban or Bob Stoops himself, there always will be questions. And of course, it's important that IU be willing to pay for the top tier assistants that Wilson will want. Still, of the pool of candidates without head coaching experience, Wilson has one of the most impressive resumes in the country. The IU football job is a tough one, but here's hoping that success lies ahead for the Hoosiers under the leadership of Kevin Wilson. Welcome to Indiana, Coach!