BOZICH | Strange days for Indiana football: Wilson out, Allen in
Kevin Wilson was Indiana's most successful football coach since Bill Mallory but he resigned Thursday and was replaced by defensive coordinator Tom Allen.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Last Saturday, the Indiana University football program beat Purdue for the fourth straight time for the first time since 1947. IU also qualified for postseason play in consecutive seasons.
If you know IU football history, you know that should be time for confetti, ice cream sundaes and a parade.
Kill the band. Hold the whipped cream.
All Indiana had to talk about Thursday night was another bewildering moment: Kevin Wilson will not be back next season or even coach the Hoosiers in their bowl game.
Don't break out the word "interim." Less than a year after arriving from Willie Taggart's staff at South Florida, defensive coordinator Tom Allen raced directly past GO to full-time head coach.
Allen did not get the Mike Davis "interim," tag -- even though 2016 was only his second season as a full-time co-ordinator at the FBS level.
That's another column, but I'll return to Allen after finishing with Wilson, who was also a first-time head coach when he arrived from Oklahoma to replace Bill Lynch after the 2010 season.
Wilson’s departure was announced at a 6 p.m. press conference.
Athletic Director Fred Glass said that Wilson resigned “based upon philosophical differences in leadership of the football program."
“There was a lack of confidence by me that we could stay on the same page," Glass continued.
Did Wilson pressure guys to play with injuries or return to practice before they were ready as several media outlets and social media platforms reported?
You didn't have to be Woodward or Bernstein to find posts suggesting that on social media.
Glass said that was not the reason IU decided to part with a coach who beat Michigan State, Maryland, Rutgers and Purdue in the Big Ten this season.
For Wilson to be dismissed five days after a Old Oaken Bucket victory and three days before IU discovers its official bowl destination, strange and unpleasant things must be driving the transaction. The information will trickle out.
You know the things you typically hear when unexpected firings shake down:
Player mistreatment. Clashes with the administration. A coach frustrated by the obstacles he needs to overcome to speed a rebuild that has been unfolding for six seasons.
Are those the primary reasons things that drove Indiana to part with Wilson after he backed up last season’s 6-7 finish by splitting a dozen games and winning four Big Ten games in 2016?
It had to be something substantial, because this is a coach that Glass signed to a six-year contract extension that nearly doubled his pay to an average of $2.55 million per year after the 2015 season.
I'll try to translate. Wilson did something that greatly perturbed Glass, likely meriting a firing. The coach agreed to leave. Indiana convinced him to take a relative pittance (less than $550,000) without staining his reputation -- and Glass hired a replacement that some believe is a better (but certainly less experienced) coach.
With Wilson apparently out, it’s a public relations mess for Indiana, which had a similarly ugly divorce with women’s basketball coach Curt Miller several years ago.
Indiana is one of the five most difficult jobs among Power Five schools. Indiana just did the impossible: The job became more difficult.
It was no secret around IU that Wilson was frustrated by the pace of his rebuild and inquired about other college opportunities. Empty seats disappointed him. Crowds were disappointed by his play calling as well as his pattern of losing games the Hoosiers could have won. Nobody went for it and whiffed on fourth down more than Wilson.
Wilson would not be the first Indiana coach frustrated by the suffocating popularity of IU basketball and the Indianapolis Colts.
Make a note of this: The best coach at IU this season was not Wilson, who ran the offense. The best coach at Indiana this season was Allen, an assistant coach who ran the defense. It was the best defense — and some would argue the only defense — IU played during the six seasons since Wilson arrived from Boomer Sooner University flashing his offensive pedigree and ties to Sam Bradford.
But the plunge in Indiana’s offensive efficiency compared to the improvement in the Hoosiers’ defensive performance does not explain why Indiana organized a press conference to explain what was going on with the football program.
It could, however, explain why Glass named Allen the permanent -- not interim -- head coach during Thursday's press conference, effective immediately.
No investigating the availability of Jeff Brohm, Charlie Strong, Les Miles or anybody else?
Allen has strong high school ties in Indiana, Florida and Georgia. He also coached at Ole Miss. IU has already put together a solid recruiting class, with seven Indiana high school players. Purdue has not named its replacement for Darrell Hazell. No need to dawdle and open the in-state door for the Boilermakers.
On Thursday Allen solid himself with emotion -- just as he did to his defense last season.
“I’m tired of getting text messages from buddies talking about how hard we play, and how close we are," Allen said. "We need to break through."
Indiana has invested more of its revenue from the Big Ten Network into facilities, coaches’ salaries and the game day experience.
It will be a a daunting assignment for Allen, the New Castle, Ind., native, because you’re parked in the same Big Ten East Division with Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State — and those three Top 10 programs have no plans to back track.
Now the job Allen inherits is more difficult today than it was yesterday.
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