The best course of action any athletic department can take for their fan base is to provide a set of reasonable expectations for their programs. Indiana Football has been mediocre at best since its inception. The Hoosiers have compiled a 3-8 record in bowl games since the program launched in 1887. This means that in the 132 year existence of Indiana Football, they have only gone to a bowl game every 12 years. When equating victories in those bowl games, Indiana has only managed to win one game every 44 years over that span. Their only Rose Bowl appearance was a loss 14-3 to USC in 1967. To put this into even more context, the last time Indiana was in a Rose Bowl, a gallon of gas cost was 33 cents and the President of the United States was Lyndon B. Johnson. It’s been that long since Indiana Football has just appeared in a meaningful bowl game, let alone won one.
Indiana’s football program has become a longstanding disappointment for alumni, fans, and observers. The reasoning for this disappointment isn’t the Hoosiers lack of success, but the projection of future success, built on false hope. Through head coaching changes, improved facilities, elevated recruiting classes, and better training methods, the results have still not been delivered upon for this program. It doesn’t help matters that this season, the Hoosiers started out 4-1, but ended their campaign losing 6 of their last 7 games. It doesn’t help matters either that Indiana has retained head coach Tom Allen after back to back under .500 seasons.
Tom Allen, a coach who athletic director Fred Glass promoted from within to become Indiana’s head coach in 2016. While Tom Allen did previously serve as the defensive coordinator for the Hoosiers, his only head coaching experience was at the high school level. If Indiana Football can only land head coaching candidates from within their existing staff, there is a major issue at work.
This major issue with Indiana Football is compounded by the fact that their program doesn’t have enough national prominence to sustain prolonged success. Even if Indiana Football could find a coach that elevates their program, he would understandably jump ship as soon as a greater opportunity came along to better position himself and his family. Had Jeff Brohm been Indiana’s coach this season, he would have most certainly left Bloomington to take the Louisville job. Why stay in Bloomington when he could coach at his alma mater, make better money, and utilize better resources available to him with Louisville’s program backing him? But the issues with Indiana Football go beyond the head coach and their performance on the field.
The final indicator for why Indiana continues to stew in mediocrity is the experienced assistant coaches that are leaving the staff. Offensive Coordinator Mike Debord retired this season, meaning 37 years of experience is gone from Indiana’s staff. Debord is one of the best offensive minds in college football, responsible for grooming Tom Brady while at Michigan. The importance of experienced assistant coaches can’t be overstated. Sometimes, assistant coaches can make up for the struggles of a head coach in a particular area. What Tony Dungy lacked in offensive ability for the Indianapolis Colts, Tom Moore more than made up for it with his knowledge. If experienced coaches like Debord are leaving Indiana, it will only further expose Tom Allen’s shortcomings, leading to yet another coaching change, thus continuing their vicious cycle of sustained disappointment.
To be fair, it’s not easy to play in the same division as schools like Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, & Penn State. These schools have historically successful programs and well established cultures to continue that prolonged success. Their resources in both recruiting and training are monumental in comparison to Indiana. But with that, Indiana University’s athletic department owes it’s supporters the courtesy of disclosing reasonable expectations given these challenges. If Indiana Football’s main focus is on providing a program that gives players an opportunity to earn a degree as a student athlete, that’s fine, if they make that clear to their fan base.
But if the goal of Indiana Football is to recruit highly-touted prospects, produce loads of NFL ready talent, and most importantly win at least 10 games year to year, the results aren’t there, and never have been for that matter. Indiana University owes fans and observers an honest set of expectations for the football program. By showing this honesty and blatant transparency, Indiana will be able to establish a program that accurately depicts their standing, instead of projecting an impossible image of false hope.
Jimmy Kennedy, who believes Indiana Football is in desperate need of reevaluating the goals of its program, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org