Kevin Wilson’s revolving door: concern for the Indiana Hoosiers’ coaching staff?

 

For the most part, Kevin Wilson’s short tenure as Indiana University’s football coach has been met with good reviews.  His resume as Oklahoma’s offensive coordinator spoke for itself, he was great at the opening press conference, he mostly held together a recruiting class compiled by the former staff, and, most significantly, assembled an impressive coaching staff.  The composition of the coaching, staff, of course, is the subject of this post, because since early January, IU has had an unusual run of coaching resignations.  The world of assistant coaches always is volatile, and short tenures are an inescapable part of the profession, but IU lost four different coaches before any had coached a single game at IU.  That’s unusual, and warrants a closer look. Here are the coaches who left:

 



Brent Pease, offensive coordinator
Hired: December 30
Resigned: January 10
Former position: Wide receivers coach, Boise State
Post-IU position: Offensive coordinator, Boise State

Pease was officially on IU’s staff for eleven days, but after Texas hired former Boise OC Bryan Harsin on January 7, it appeared that this move would be likely.   

Corey Raymond, cornerbacks
Hired: December 22
Resigned: approximately February 2
Former position: Cornerbacks coach, Utah State
Post-IU position: Secondary coach, Nebraska

Raymond spurned the Hoosiers on signing day to take a similar position at Nebraska.  Before coaching at Utah State, Raymond worked for Nebraska coach Bo Pelini when he was the defensive coordinator at LSU.  

Jerry Montgomery, defensive tackles
Hired: January 15
Resigned: approximately February 2
Former position: defensive line coach, Wyoming
Post-IU position: defensive line coach, Michigan

Montgomery, who played at Iowa from 1998-2001, had no obvious ties to new Michigan coach Brady Hoke.  

Jemal Singleton, running backs
Hired: February 7
Resigned: February 10
Former position: running backs coach, Air Force
Post-IU position: assistant coach, Oklahoma State

Singleton is an Air Force alum and had coached only there before taking the IU job.  He attended high school in San Antonio.  

So, what can we glean from a case-by-case review of these departures?  First, Pease’s decision to return to Boise State is a no-brainer.  Pease obviously had not yet moved his family, according to his Boise bio he has a wife and two teenage children, and Boise has been a fixture in the BCS and in the national spotlight for the better part of a decade.  He would have been a fine hire, but this was a pretty obvious decision.

The Raymond decision strikes me as pretty similar.  Although Raymond had no direct ties to Nebraska, he worked for Bo Pelini at LSU, and as far as I can tell from the press releases, he will have more responsibility at Nebraska, where he will be coaching the entire secondary, than at IU, where he would have been the cornerbacks coach.  Finally, it’s impossible to escape the different positions that IU and NU hold in the college football world.  The odds of success and future promotion are higher at NU.

The Montgomery decision is less obvious.  Like Raymond, it appears that he will have somewhat more authority at his new school.  He will coach the defensive line at Michigan while he was listed as the defensive tackles coach at IU.  Unlike Pease and Raymond, there are no obvious ties to the head coach or to the school, but again, despite a few down years, Michigan is Michigan.  It is a higher profile job.  

Perhaps the strangest move was the one by Jemal Singleton.  Singleton had been coaching at his alma mater for eight years before taking the IU job, but moved on again within three days.  Still, Oklahoma State has been a strong program for the past several years, and Singleton’s background is in the Big 12 region.

To make a long story short, I think that each of these moves, viewed in isolation, makes sense.  Pease took a job at a nationally prominent program where he had coached for five years.  Raymond and Montgomery took lateral or perhaps slightly higher-up positions at programs that rate in the top 10 of the historical elite of college football.  Singleton moved to a program that is more closely tied to his home region and that, while not a top shelf program, has been more successful than IU recently.   The talent level, the facilities, and the new coaching staff lead to lots of optimism surrounding IU football right now.  As happy as IU fans are with the landscape, however, the harsh reality is that over the last 15 years, IU has been among the least successful major conference programs.  

I think these departures are a function of a couple of things.  First, as I noted when the hires were made, Wilson has hired coaches with almost uniformly excellent resumes.  Nearly all of them have been associated with winning major programs and successful head coaches.  Wilson managed to hire the sorts of coaches that schools like Nebraska and Michigan also want to hire.  It’s better to keep them, but many of the coaches who have remained have pedigrees at least as good as those of the assistants who have left.  Second, Wilson has never been a head coach before.  Unlike Terry Hoeppner and other coaches that IU has hired from the MAC, Wilson did not have a ready made staff ready to move with him in large part.  This perhaps limits the amount of personal loyalty that the new assistants might feel for Wilson.  The advantage, of course, is that IU doesn’t have a MAC-level staff.  

Of course, it’s one thing to defend each move on its own merits, but I can’t deny to some pangs of concern about the large number of defections in a single offseason.  The Wilson transition has been smooth but not seamless.  There was a minor flap about his using profanity in the presence of McNutt RA’s.  Some former IU recruits were encouraged to go elsewhere, which some construed as a violation of Fred Glass’s commitment to "honor" all verbal commitments.  Overall, Wilson has a no-nonsense demeanor, and based on everything I have read about him from his prior stops, it seems likely that he is extremely demanding both as a boss and as a coach.  Still, it’s worth noting that two of the assistants who left went to work for Bo Pelini and Mike Gundy, neither of whom seems like a shrinking violet.  I can’t rule out the possibility of some internal problem, given the unusually high number of quick resignations.  But none of the decisions to leave strikes me as unusual standing on its own.  If assistants were leaving to take jobs at Vanderbilt or UAB, I would be more concerned. Fred Glass has acknowledged how it looks, but claims that his investigation has revealed nothing other than better opportunities or more money.  As unusual as this is, that still strikes me as the most likely explanation.
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