LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Honk if you’ve heard the first direct shot that skeptics take at the football coaching staff at Indiana University:
The Hoosiers think they can win with a head man who made his name as a high school coach.
Well, yes, they do.
Actually, yes, they did last season, ringing up eight victories for the first time since 1993.
And, yes, Indiana should keep working that niche.
Yes, IU and head coach Tom Allen have doubled down on that strategy by adding another assistant coach with terrific high school credentials.
Perhaps you remember the name: Kevin Wright.
Worked one season (1999) at Trinity High School before he returned to Indianapolis, where his family name resonates.
“(Indiana) is an area I grew up in, and I did spend a year in Louisville on the east side in St. Matthews,” Wright said. “That was a good experience. Every time you move some place you make connections.”
Wright is the son of Bud Wright, the winningest coach in Indiana high school football history, a guy about to start his 53rd season at Sheridan High School, about 30 miles north of Indianapolis. In January, Allen recruited Wright from a high school job in Florida (more on that in a bit) to coach the IU tight ends.
The novel coronavirus pandemic made the move challenging. But Wright will settle in Bloomington soon with his wife (an IU grad), his daughter (who will be an IU freshman) and son (a high school freshman likely to attend Bloomington South High School).
When Allen was doing big things on the west side of Indianapolis at Ben Davis High School (from 1998-2006), Wright was the guy to beat on the east side. In fact, Wright won back-to-back-to-back state championships from 2003 to 2005.
“There’s been a mutual respect and admiration,” Wright said.
Indiana football has been a challenging job. It requires coaches who understand and embrace that. Allen and Wright do. They’re both sons of former Indiana high school coaches. They’re both guys who played and coached high school football in the state.
And now, they’re guys committed to drive Indiana to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 26 years. Maybe they can throw in a bowl victory, too.
“You kind of get a feel for what programs are like and what you can be a part of and what might draw you to make that move,” Wright said. “I just really felt like with Coach Allen and also knowing some other guys on the staff ... if I was going to leave the situation I was in, it would have to be a situation where the culture and what they’re trying to build was going to be something special.
“I hear coach Allen talk about growing up in the state of Indiana and his love for the state of Indiana and I’m the same way.”
Understand one thing about Wright: He’s more than your basic former high school football coach Much more.
In addition to his resume around Indianapolis and one season at Trinity, Wright called plays for David Elson for two seasons at Western Kentucky University when the Hilltoppers transitioned to FBS status.
The last five years, Wright went 44-2 as the head coach at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
That is the powerhouse private school that was described as the “Ground Zero” of national recruiting several seasons ago when Wright had eight Top-100 prospects, including former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson and Alabama running back Bo Scarbrough, on his roster.
Wright said Nick Saban, Ed Orgeron, Jim Harbaugh and other college football kingpins made recruiting stops at IMG. So did Allen. Wright liked what he saw and heard from Allen.
“He’s doing it the right way,” Wright said.
Recruiting is about relationships. It can’t hurt Wright to have connections to IMG as well as to coaches in Indiana’s most populated and powerful high school football market.
To survive and eventually succeed in the same division with Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan, Indiana must uncover and exploit inefficiencies. Maybe building a coaching staff with deep roots in Indiana high school football can do that. It’s got to be a better strategy than hiring a former Southeastern Conference coach on the rebound (like Gerry DiNardo) or a former IU player (Cam Cameron) who was coaching quarterbacks in the NFL.
Allen has already won more games in one season than DiNardo, Cameron, Kevin Wilson or Bill Lynch won at Indiana. Lee Corso won eight games once in 10 season in Bloomington.
Wright said he is convinced Allen is the guy.
“I was just blessed to have the opportunity to see how other people were doing itn and I think there is something a little bit different about how coach is trying to do it at IU,” Wright said.
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