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Curt Cignetti hire, NIL push show Indiana is investing in football

The Hoosiers are putting their money where their mouth would be.

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Syndication: The Herald-Times Rich Janzaruk/Herald-Times / USA TODAY NETWORK

Indiana, historically, is not known as some football power.

It’s known for being a hoops school in a hoops state. But does that need to be the case? Will football always be second fiddle?

Look around. Kansas has improved drastically under Lance Leipold. Duke just had a dream season with Mike Elko. UNC has been doing things in the football realm for a while.

Now broaden your view. Landmark television deals, broadcast dollars pouring into big conferences and the beginning of the Name, Image and Likeness era. College football is king, the highest-grossing sport in America.

The Hoosiers didn’t have to be at the bottom or miss the bus. So they’re taking the right steps to follow the current rather than be left behind.

Firing Tom Allen wasn’t cheap, even if the buyout was negotiated down. $15 million was still a substantial price to pay to move on no matter who ended up cutting the check. Then you add in the likely staff buyouts.

Then came the War Chest.

Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star reported that Indiana’s impending hire at head coach would have the luxury of $3 million in NIL spending at their disposal. As a starting baseline. With room to grow.

That, based on Osterman’s reporting, would be competitive with the typical postseason bowl field.

Hoosiers for Good and Hoosiers Connect, official partnered collectives of Indiana Athletics, have increased fundraising efforts as of late with the InForIndiana/#IN4IN campaign. The collectives are focused on NIL across the department from football to women’s basketball and more.

Then, the hire.

Curt Cignetti of James Madison has never had a losing season as a head coach, having led three different programs since 2011. He’s taken all three to the postseason and led year-one turnarounds at every stop.

JMU in particular was a success story. The Dukes were the class of the FCS with multiple national semifinal appearances to their name prior to a leap to FBS. There, Cignetti’s program dominated the Sun Belt and became the talk of the nation.

He’s won everywhere he’s been. That can now include Indiana.

The Hoosiers look to have made a steep second offer based on at least one report. They’d found their man and were apparently more than willing to do what it took to get a deal in place.

We’ll find out the exact numbers eventually, Cignetti’s contract will be available as a public employee. Whatever the matter is, Indiana was willing to find the money for a new football coach, its first outside hire in over a decade.

After the hire was made official, Hoosiers Connect announced a new “Back the Rock” campaign to raise even more NIL funds for the football program.

“We are excited to welcome Coach Cignetti to the Hoosier family and can’t wait to pack the rock with him and the Hoosiers next season,” Tyler Harris, executive director of Hoosiers Connect, said in a release. “Hoosiers Connect is committed to ensuring that IU’s Football program has the NIL opportunities it needs to be successful.”

Donations through the Back the Rock campaign will be earmarked specifically for the football program. An anonymous donor will match all contributions to the campaign through the end of the calendar year, as happened with the prior #IN4IN drive.

For the fans who have been calling for the department to invest in football, it appears your requests have been answered.