Through the ups and downs, Ellie Mallory never lost her affection for the IU football program.
But she enters this week a bit conflicted.
The wife of the late Bill Mallory, the winningest coach in Indiana program history, Ellie playfully said she wasn’t sure what color to wear to Friday night’s game between IU and Indiana State at Memorial Stadium.
Even after Bill was fired by Indiana in 1996, the couple continued to live in Bloomington. Ellie remained there until 2022. A year ago she led the IU football team in the singing of the fight song at fall camp, a tradition that went back to Bill’s time as head coach.
Bill and Ellie were beloved figures in Bloomington, and the Mallory-IU ties run very deep.
But for current IU coach Tom Allen, there is really no question what needs to happen this weekend.
“Ellie will be back (on Friday night),” Allen said. “She jokingly said she didn’t know what colors to wear, and obviously she needs to wear blue to support her son. Blood is thicker than water.”
Ellie’s son is Curt Mallory, the head coach of Indiana State.
Friday night will be a homecoming for Curt in a number of ways as well. He worked worked for Gary DiNardo at IU from 2002-04. His brother Mike was a graduate assistant at IU from 1986-87, and his brother Doug worked for Kevin Wilson from 2011-13, along with stints under his dad at IU in 1988 and from 1994-96.
Mike and Doug are back with the Michigan program where all three of the Mallory boys played.
Of course Ellie, their daughter Barbara, and the boys all had a close connection with IU football when their father Bill was running the program from 1984 to 1996.
Indiana had had only five winning seasons in almost 40 years before Mallory arrived. He went 69-77-3 and took Indiana to six bowls in eight years from 1986 to 1993. Indiana has played in only 13 bowl games in its history.
In 1987, Mallory became the first to win the Big Ten’s coach of the year award in consecutive years. He defeated both Michigan and Ohio State that season. Allen won the same honor in 2020, a year in which he defeated Michigan, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin. They are the only IU coaches to win the award.
Beyond their obvious connection as the IU head football coach, Bill Mallory and Tom Allen put people first. That was something Allen talked about when Bill died in 2018.
“Coach Mallory is not the greatest coach in the history of IU Football because of all the games that he won,” Allen said in 2018. “It is because of the kind of man that he was and the kind of person that he was in the hearts of his players. He did a tremendous job molding them into men. In my mind, he is and will always be what Indiana University Football is all about.”
In addition to the Mallory family, Allen has turned Friday evening into a celebration for Bill’s former IU players. Many of them are expected back in Bloomington on Friday evening.
Allen said he knows all of the Mallory boys well, and he’s thrilled to welcome Curt back to Bloomington. Allen is just one year younger than Curt and has grown especially close with him in recent years.
“I’ve always talked with Curt a lot, but during the pandemic we talked a lot,” Allen said on Monday. “Just highly respect him. When I was a high school coach, he was a college coach way back then. He and I are the same age. So just obviously close with his dad before we lost him, and then just Ellie’s relationship with this whole town and so many people here and our program.”
Curt and Allen will meet on the field on Friday evening before their teams kick off at 7 p.m. And that won’t be like any ordinary chat coaches have ahead of games.
“It will be a very warm embrace. It will be more than your typical just pregame bro hug that coaches give, kind of thing. But just so much respect.
“The Mallory family, pretty special to this program, no question.”
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