Don’t hold your breath waiting for a war of words between Indiana’s Tom Allen and Purdue’s Jeff Brohm to get you fired up for this weekend’s Old Oaken Bucket game. There will be no Harbaugh-Meyer like barbs exchanged through the media.
Whatever hatred is felt by Indiana fans toward Purdue, and vice versa, that sentiment isn’t shared by the coaches towards one another.
And that is despite what seems like every opportunity for some bad blood to have been generated at some point over the last five years. Both coaches took over their respective programs for the 2017 season, both have the same amount of wins (26) and they compete for many of the same recruits.
Brohm is an offensive-minded coach, while Allen’s background is on defense. They even coached against one another in a 2015 bowl game while Brohm was at Western Kentucky and Allen at USF.
But none of that has created any tension. While Allen and Brohm may not go so far as to Love Each Other, they certainly seem to share a mutual respect.
“Well, Tom is a good person,” Brohm said this week at his media availability. “I’ve gotten a chance to know him. We’ve gone against each other every year. He’s coached high school football in the state and he’s coached at Indiana, so I know he takes a lot of pride in representing himself and his university.”
The kind words were passing up and down the Monon this week.
“Just has always been somebody that I respect, guys that do things the right way,” Allen said this week. “I think he’s one of those guys. He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy, works hard, good family guy, respect that.”
Even in the relatively short amount of time the two have been leading their respective programs, they’ve both seen their share of highs and lows along the way.
Brohm had the upper-hand early winning the first two head-to-head meetings. Both of those games were “Bucket or bust” contests that sent Purdue to a bowl game and ended Indiana’s season.
The following two campaigns saw Indiana amass a 14-7 record while Purdue floundered. Allen snagged the Bucket away from Brohm after a thrilling 44-41 overtime victory in 2019, and despite two attempts to play in 2020, the rivals didn’t meet for the first time since 1919.
Now it is Brohm who appears to have Purdue on the right track while IU has suffered through one of its most disappointing seasons in memory.
Allen and Brohm will always be compared, and to this point no clear leader has emerged. In a rivalry where both programs have rarely had success at the same time, it isn’t a stretch to think that one might ultimately drive the other out of a job one day. But for now, none of that is creating tension between the coaches.
“There is mutual respect even though it is a huge rivalry, huge game for both programs,” Allen said. “Obviously, it is an in-state team. Not every program has in-state teams. I’ve been at other places that have that type of rivalry. It’s very intense. Sometimes it’s more ugly than others in those situations.
“I do think there’s a professionalism here between both universities, especially with the staffs in football. I know for sure there’s just mutual respect.”
Purdue (7-4, 5-3) is a big favorite to give Brohm his third win head-to-head against Allen in four tries on Saturday.
But no matter how it goes, while the winning fans talk a little trash, and the winning players hoist the Bucket, look for a friendly handshake at midfield between the coaches after the game.
“We’re friendly rivals,” said Brohm of Allen. “I always wish the best for him, and I think he cares for his players and wants to win and is a good ambassador for the program. We’re looking forward to getting this rivalry back going this week and having a lot of fun playing the game.”
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