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Bill Mallory, and the Confession of an Irrational Hoosier Fan

Perspective.  It is something that can be in short supply in the mind of a 22 year old.  Full of self-righteous swagger, and light on the experience to back it up, we often let our emotions rule the day.

When I learned that former IU head football coach Bill Mallory had passed away, a flood of thoughts and memories came to mind.  I am sure that many of you have had a similar experience over the last week.

Big wins over Michigan and Ohio State, a man that stood by IU even after he was fired, and passion and energy that was second to none.  Lock. Your. Jaw.  Those were just some of the superlatives that I was reminded of.

But for me, there was also a twinge of guilt.  I couldn’t help but to remember a letter to the editor that I wrote to the Indiana Daily Student back in 1994.

Full of pride to see my name in the paper next to what was undoubtedly (in my mind) the authoritative opinion piece on the state of Indiana football, I saved that December 1, 1994 edition of the IDS.  Here is what I wrote:

To be sure, there are some elements of truth here.  That seemingly unsustainable “next level” continues to this day.  I believe we call it “break through” now.  There is nothing wrong with being unsatisfied with where you are.  In fact, it is an essential element of success.  I’m sure no one recognized that more than Coach Mallory.

It is also true that IU’s last true breakthroughs were under Mallory.  The last win over Michigan.  The last win over Ohio State.  He beat the Buckeyes in consecutive seasons.

Coincidentally, there was an article in that same IDS about Ohio State head coach John Cooper.  The central theme was the Buckeye fan’s frustration with their 7th year coach.  The story doesn’t mention it, but that frustration dated all the way back to 1988, when Bill Mallory led Indiana destroyed Ohio State 41-7.

Can you even imagine that today?  Neither can I — and that is kind of the whole point here.

Image result for ohio state indiana 1988
Credit: Phil Whitlow | Herald-Times. Former Indiana football coach Bill Mallory walks off the field after IU defeated Ohio State, 41-7, on Oct. 8, 1988,

At the time I wrote the letter, Indiana was coming off a 6-5* season that included wins over Kentucky, Iowa, Minnesota and Purdue.  Today we would call that a rousing success.  In fact, under Mallory, the Hoosiers were in the midst of an eight season run during which they compiled a record of 47-36-3 and played in six bowl games.

The Hoosiers did struggle over the next two seasons, going a combined 5-17.  I guess you could call my letter prophetic.  It wasn’t.

At the end of the 1996, Coach Mallory was fired.  In the 21 seasons since that firing, Indiana’s record is 85-162.

Former IU linebacker and current defensive line coach Mark Hagen was quoted in the Indy Star as saying this about his former coach:

“I’ve never been around a more humble person. It was never, ever about Bill Mallory. He knew he had to help young men grow into young adults.”

I sure could have used some of the humility 24 years ago.  I certainly could have used some of Coach Mallory’s guidance on my journey towards being a young adult.  I clearly wasn’t there yet.

“Mallory must be replaced”.  Sitting here today, I am not sure if I wrote that headline, or if it was someone at the Indiana Daily Student.  What I can tell you now is that it wasn’t true.  Mallory should not have been replaced when I wrote that letter 24 years ago.  It seems rather silly and obvious now, but that water is under the bridge and long gone.

It is still true today — Bill Mallory should not be replaced — in the hearts and minds of Hoosier fans.

That is why today, rather than writing some emotionally immature rant about firing a great football coach, I’m writing to suggest that Bill Mallory’s name be permanently etched in the limestone of Indiana football history.  His name is already figuratively there.  It is time to literally finish the job.

My suggestion would be “Mallory Memorial Stadium”.  I’ve heard “Mallory Field”.  Whatever it is, let’s get it done — and let’s make sure it is significant enough to truly reflect the giant of a man Coach Mallory was, both on and off the field.

“Mallory must be replaced.”  I could not have been more wrong.  Mallory must never be replaced.  His name should be permanently associated with the IU football program.  That way the next time some uninformed young guy with an opinion wants to spout off, perhaps they will have some perspective.

Rest in peace Coach.  And may you never be replaced.

 

*The record books now show a 7-4 record after Michigan State was forced to vacate its wins in that season.

 

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