When the 2017 Indiana football schedule was released, many people put a circle around the season opener against Ohio State as one of the biggest games of the year.
Indiana has played the Buckeyes close the past couple of years and a big environment like a night game and a season opener can create an atmosphere that could put the Hoosiers over the top. Throw in the fact that this could be the best IU team in recent memory, and you have all the ingredients for a stunning win on the opening night of the college football season.
Then Kevin Wilson became the offensive coordinator at Ohio State.
Wilson’s move to Columbus just ratchets the importance of this game up a notch. The former IU head coach who, after leaving under a cloud of player mistreatment allegations, joined one of Indiana’s Big Ten rivals and one of the standards for success in college football. Ohio State is the kind of program that Indiana aspires to be, and losing their head coach to that program isn’t going to help them get there.
That being said, Indiana football is not going to fade into the dark ages just because they lost their head coach. New coach Tom Allen is already familiar with the program, having been the defensive coordinator this past season. He turned the IU defense from one that could be carved apart at will into a stout, tough unit that was extremely difficult to score on. Allen, along with new offensive coordinator Mike DeBord, will look to make sure that IU’s football program will remain in good hands.
However, as good of a coach that Tom Allen might be, he will not be the story going in to August 31. Wilson is going to be the main story, and his first visit to Bloomington since his firing will be heavily scrutinized. After his unceremonious exit from Indiana, Wilson has become somewhat of a polarizing figure among Indiana fans. Some believe he should be thanked for how far he brought the program, while others say he should be reviled for his actions throughout his tenure at IU
The fan reaction for Wilson’s return to Memorial Stadium will be an interesting aspect of the game. There will be some boos, but I’m sure Wilson will receive a fair share of cheers from the Hoosier faithful. If anything, he should be the one applauding the fans. IU gave Wilson his first shot as a head coach when they hired him to replace Bill Lynch in November of 2010. Wilson, by all accounts, did a very solid job in his six years at Indiana, leading the Hoosiers from college football obscurity to back-to-back bowl seasons in 2015 and 2016. He signed a six year, $15.3 million extension after the end of the 2015 season, and looked primed to be the head man in Bloomington for years to come.
However, all of that went south after the end of the 2016 season, when Wilson was accused by multiple players of mistreatment, specifically with the handling of injuries. Because of this, Wilson and athletic director Fred Glass made the decision to mutually part ways on December 1, 2016. With the combination of the bad circumstances surrounding Wilson’s resignation, and his decision to move to one of Indiana’s competitors in Ohio State, he has certainly given IU fans a reason to boo when he returns on August 31.