Listen, I know Indiana football, in the context of their history, should be ecstatic with 6 wins and bowl appearance this year. However, do we want to dwell on the past or focus on the future. Indiana's past football transgressions can't be changed. They're always going to be bad. There's nothing Kevin Wilson, Tre Roberson or Kofi Hughes can do about that. Every university in the nation with a football team can always point and laugh at our ineptitude and I'm sure every fan has accepted that. It is fact. But what we can control is what should be expected in the future.
I started to wonder if we could be on the verge of turning one of those corners and becoming something with actual value on the football field starting this year. There are plenty of examples in a bevy of sports where a thoroughly unimpressive program turned into a power player in a few short years. Look at Louisville, outside of a small Lee Corso hiccup in the early 70s they were a non-factor on the college football stage. Then in the 90s under Howard Schnellenberger (Indiana native of St. Meinrad) they go and win a Fiesta Bowl. You want to know how long it took for Schnellenberger to build that Louisville program up to a 6+ win season? 4 years. 2, 3, 3, were his win totals in the first three years before winning 8 in year four and beating a formidable Miami in a Fiesta Bowl in year 6. Since then they've only had 4 sub .500 seasons.
So, can Indiana be the Louisville of the late 80s/early 90s. Geographically they're the same, they're similar sized universities and they both had a long history of not being good. I'd like to think the potential is there. Kevin Wilson has the program in a position where a lot of people are feeling good about it at least for this year. Watching the ESPNU coverage of Big Ten media day the pundits suggested Indiana is a dark horse to make some noise in the conference this year. In fact, not just on ESPNU but on several programs across the network pundits have suggested that something may be brewing in Bloomington.
Of course, the IU fan boy in me wants to believe everything positive they say. If Indiana can churn up a 7 to 8 win season, perhaps they can buck the yoke of ineptitude. A lot of program failings in many sports come with bad perceptions. It's a mental game and if the Indiana football program can start winning the mental war, then the battle on the field will be much easier.
I get the sense that the Hoosiers are doing that. Kevin Wilson has been honest to a fault in his first two years at Indiana. His harsh up-front nature has a lot of the media hating him (when they should love the soundbites he gives). He's been brutally honest in the media when discussing his players and I want to believe Indiana is better for it.
Last week was the first time that I've heard Kevin Wilson sound genuinely excited about what is going on here at IU. No, it wasn't just the typical upbeat, "we're going to give it our best shot," excitement of a new season. There was a genuine belief in his tone that they think they have the program up to steam. The players have provided similar soundbites as well. The 2013 Hoosiers are bigger and more talented at more positions than they ever have been in the recent past. 6 wins would be nice, but I think we should start raising the bar as fans. Fan confidence is the biggest driver in attendance numbers and a large group of confident fans with an exciting possibility of team that can play the underdog role effectively should make this season much more enjoyable than any we've seen in the past.