CRAWFORD | Kevin Wilson out, Tom Allen in, speculation rampant around Indiana football
Kevin WIlson is out, mysteriously, as head football coach at Indiana, and Tom Allen has been hired to replace him, according to Indiana athletic director Fred Glass.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) —I’ve been to a lot of press conferences where football coaches were fired. I’ve been to many where new coaches were introduced. I don’t think I’ve ever been to one like the one Indiana University athletic director Fred Glass held on Thursday.
Kevin Wilson has, officially, resigned as Indiana University football coach. No one is saying why, specifically. His defensive coordinator, Tom Allen, thought he was headed out on the road recruiting Thursday night, and instead found himself addressing the assembled media in Memorial Stadium as the new IU head coach — not on an interim basis, but as the new coach of a Big Ten football program about to go to a second straight bowl game.
Wilson was invited to fall on his sword for reasons we don’t know, and that, apparently, are not new.
“There’s no smoking gun or single precipitating event that led to where we are today,” Glass said. “I think it’s really a realization by myself and Kevin that we’re just not on the same page about some — what I view as key ways the program needs to be led.”
It was a deft piece of administration by Glass. How it will hold up over time might be another story.
Here’s what the situation is, as best I can describe it.
Glass and Wilson have parted ways because of what the AD described as “philosophical differences over leadership.” Apparently Wilson was more Freudian in approach and Glass prefers Jung. Or was that a Hegel vs. Schopenhaurer split? Doesn’t matter. Glass wouldn’t say what the differences were, and perhaps couldn’t say. He did say they’d been around for a while.
Wilson just signed a six-year contract extension in January that would pay him $15.3 million through the 2021 season, plus bonuses. Glass said that when that deal was struck, he thought any differences he might have with the coach had been put to rest. He said he learned “toward the end of November” that they weren’t.
“This morning was the first time he and I had talked about it in this latest go-round,” Glass said of his Thursday morning discussion with Wilson. “. . . Kevin was very open an accessible and honest and I think he and I just concluded that it had been a pretty good run, that tremendous progress had been made, we talked about back-to-back bowl games, but we wanted to get further than that. . . . Having said that I think he and I concluded that we weren’t on the same page on some things, and that’s not necessarily to say who’s right, but as the athletic director, that’s a judgment I have to make. And I’m an IU guy. I grew up in Indiana. I went to school at Indiana. My mom went to school at Indiana. My kids went to school at Indiana. I have a senior here at Indiana. And my focus is Indiana. So what might be OK at other places, what might be OK in an industry, isn’t necessarily OK here.”
We don’t know what it was, but we know whatever was going on with WIlson wasn’t OK with Glass. Maybe he didn’t treat people around him the way Glass thought was right, maybe it was his players, maybe something else. Maybe he was just a jerk — which might not put him in a minority among college football coaches, but goes over better some places than others. With salaries this high and jobs this public, it’s hard to keep those issues under the table. But Glass, and presumably Wilson, are trying.
An outside law firm, Taft Stettinius & Hollister out of Indianapolis, was retained by IU to look into “issues” with the football coach. The issues had nothing to do with NCAA compliance, the school said in a statement. Glass deflected some reports (and former player Tweets) during the day Thursday suggesting that Wilson might have been pressuring players to return early from injuries, or otherwise mistreating players.
Glass may have dropped a hint as to the nature of his differences with Wilson when he introduced Allen as being “demanding, but not demeaning.” But there was little else to tip his hand. And in fact, he said that the quality of medical care, as determined by any reviews the university did, “was not compromised at all.”
When repeatedly pressed over what the “philosophical differences” were, Glass repeatedly declined to elaborate. Glass said “Kevin Wilson deserves great credit” for Indiana’s accomplishments on the field, and that he feels the program is going in the right direction. He told reporters, “I understand that philosophical differences may be an unsatisfying meal, full of empty calories, perhaps, but I think from the institution’s perspective and football team’s perspective and Kevin Wilson’s perspective and ability to move forward, to have agreed mutual separation based on his resignation is highly desirable, and frankly I’m pleased that we were able to get that accomplished today.”
And then there was this: Glass said that Wilson has agreed to walk away from that new contract with only one year’s base salary coming to him — $542,000, to be paid to him on his regular paydays over the next season. That means Wilson walks away from about $12.6 million, not to mention bonuses, one of which was $200,000 coming as a result of this year’s bowl bid.
The deal was this hastily put together: Allen’s contract hasn’t been finalized. Glass said it would be “a six-year contract, at a competitive pay level in the Big Ten.” He was offered the job at 10 a.m. Thursday morning. He had no idea until that moment that he would get a promotion on Thursday.
Allen, 46, has deep ties to football in the state of Indiana. A native of New Castle, Ind., his last stop before beginning his college coaching career was as head coach at Indianapolis Ben Davis High School. He has been defensive coordinator at Indiana this past season, after working the 2015 season under Willie Taggert at South Florida.
He addressed the media emotionally after being introduced as head coach, his wife and daughter, along with his parents, in attendance. He said he’ll retain the current staff through the bowl game, and that recruiting assignments will change little, with minimal shifting around as the team prepares for whatever bowl bid it receives.
“I was raised a Hoosier,” Allen said. “It’s hard to believe. This day has been an absolute whirlwind.”
Allen’s hiring was greeted by positive reviews from players on Twitter, most notably from safety Tegray Scales, the team’s leading tackler and top defensive player, who Tweeted: “Huge congrats to Tom Allen. The team is all in.”
Allen said he was charged with changing the culture of the defense, and did so.
“These players believed,” he said. “They play with amazing passion and toughness, and the’re relentless. I was so proud of how they competed every, single week, against a very difficult schedule.”
Allen said he hoped to establish a program marked by, “a culture of accountability, toughness and love. I believe in positive, connection-driven leadership, and the power of belief. My goal for this program is to break through in 2017. We’re very close.”
And given what Glass was willing to say — and reading between the lines of things he wouldn’t say — Glass feels like the program is closer Thursday night than it was Thursday morning.
“I woke up this morning knowing what I was gong to say to Kevin at 8:30,” Glass said. “I didn’t know what Tom Allen was going to say to me at 10. I didn’t sleep very well last night. . . . I was glad that we were able to come to agreement, and I was glad to be able to go down and talk to the football team, because I wanted them to hear from me that we were able to in addition to sharing the hard news — and I encouraged them to support Kevin and to grieve . . . — but I was glad I was able to introduce the next person, and also that the next person is someone who had been highly respected by them. It was a tough day, tough circumstances, but I think because of the maturity of Kevin Wilson and Tom Allen and other people in this process, it has probably gone as well as it could.”
Glass knew how the day would start. He wasn’t sure how it would end. That’s more or less where we are with the Indiana football program at the moment.
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