Once the shocking news broke that Kevin Wilson and Indiana University would be parting ways, there was a lot of speculation as to the reasons why. But one thing there was not speculation about was who would be the head coach next season. After all, there was still so much to digest yesterday about how Wilson and the Hoosiers could possibly go their separate ways, still a bowl game to play, still an entire offseason to jump on the coaching carousel and find the next guy.
But just a couple minutes into the press conference at the Henke Hall of Champions last night, Indiana Vice President and Director of Athletics Fred Glass announced that Tom Allen had agreed to become the next permanent head coach of Indiana football.
Glass came to a simple conclusion quickly and easily: there’s no need to look for a new guy when you’ve already got the right guy.
The Allen hire will undoubtedly be met with some hesitation and doubt. As one CQ contributor put it yesterday, “imagine a school similar to Indiana hires a guy to be their DC and he leads a massive one-year turnaround with roughly the same players from the previous year, turning a 100+ unit into a top-40 unit: do you really think that guy has proven himself qualified to be a head coach at Indiana?”
No. But that guy would be qualified to be the head coach at that school. And Tom Allen is qualified to be the head coach at Indiana.
There will be questions about Allen’s coaching pedigree, which includes stops at Ben Davis High School, Wabash College, Lambuth University, Arkansas State, Ole Miss, and South Florida, with USF being the only stop prior to Indiana where he headed up his own unit.
There will be those who think at Indiana, you can have either an offense or a defense, and not both. And most who think that will say you need an offense.
And there will be those who will find any other reasons to doubt this man and this program.
Me? I was sold on Tom Allen before Glass’s announcement.
Indiana football is headed back to a bowl game for the second consecutive year for the first time in 25 years. The program has shown real progress for the first time since the death of Terry Hoeppner. And the only goal in replacing Wilson during this tough situation has to be sustaining and building upon that success.
How do you do that? You don’t need a a head coach with a particular persuasion toward one side of the ball or the other. You don’t need a splashy hire. You don’t need the hottest coordinator or mid-major coach out there. You need steadiness and enthusiasm. That’s Tom Allen.
Steadiness is important for keeping current players, as well as recruits, on board. Individuals from both groups have already taken to Twitter to show their approval for the hire (even if they were disappointed in Wilson’s departure).
Coach Allen is the perfect fit, I believe and trust in him 100%. @Tom_Allen44— Juan Harris™ (@The_JH76_) December 1, 2016
Congrats to Coach Allen, you deserve this opportunity so much! We are all behind you! And I can't wait to get back on the field! #LEO— Rashard Ahmad Fant (@RashardFant2) December 1, 2016
One recruit was particularly happy.
You want steady, at least in the short term? You got it. And anyone who has watched the Hoosiers this season knows that Allen brings a contagious enthusiasm, grit, and determination to the sideline. Those characteristics showed from the get-go when he was introduced as head coach yesterday.
Allen did not beat around the bush about what the culture of his program will be like, saying:
Our goal as coaches is to capture the hearts and minds of our players. You do that by earning their trust, investing in their lives, caring about them way more as a person than as a player. That takes time, energy, and effort. You want to maximize every young man's talent. We're going to push them. As I will tell them: I will push you, but I can't pull you, because if I have to pull you, that means you're resisting.
He also added what he expects of the product on the field:
I'm excited about the future of our program. Offensively we've been one of the best in the Big Ten since 2012. My challenge to them in the bowl game is to protect the football. It's precious. Run the football, that's how you win. Score in the red zone, that's my challenge.
Defensively, it ain't going to change. We've established a standard. We're only going to get better.
Special teams must improve. I was special teams coordinator at Ole Miss for three years. I fully understand the importance of that phase of the game.
My goal for this program is to break through in 2017. We've been close. I joked about it in my last press conference. I'm tired of getting text messages from my buddies telling me how hard we play, how close we are. Those things are true. It's time to break through.
Who know’s what a Tom Allen-led Indiana football team will look like. Maybe it will look like a better version of this year’s club, with an even better defense, an offense that takes care of the ball and scores. Maybe it will look like a past-decade Pat Fitzgerald Northwestern team where the defense has to do the dirty work and we see a lot of 13-7 games in Bloomington. Or maybe it will be something new altogether, something that we can’t imagine right now.
I’m confident, however, that it won’t look like Indiana football of the past. It won’t look like a Cam Cameron team that can’t get out of its own way even with more athletic ability of the field than any of the opponents. It won’t look like a Bill Lynch team going through the motions and waiting for the inevitable.
That’s what this hire was about — building on what the program is today, keeping guys on board, and making sure that Indiana football never returns to a level where losing is perpetual and the Big Ten basement feels like home again. And it’s hard to imagine that a guy as talented and as infectious as Tom Allen won’t get that done.