New Indiana strength coach Aaron Wellman has a fancy title. Senior Assistant Athletic Director for Football Performance, to be exact.
But it was going to take more than words on a nameplate to get Wellman to follow a path not often traveled. At least not traveled in the direction that he went.
As has been reported, Indiana ponied up significant cash to convince Wellman to come from the NFL’s New York Giants to, let’s face it, a college football program that isn’t on the top tier of destination jobs.
Wellman’s contract is just the latest in a series of investments by IU that suggest that the school and athletic department is serious about advancing the program.
Whether it has been competitive salaries or facilities improvements, the commitment from IU to football is something that head coach Tom Allen has noticed since he first arrived four years ago.
“When I came here, I sensed that (Director of Athletics) Fred Glass had a different mindset about Indiana football when I was hired as defensive coordinator in 2016, and that’s only continued to grow when he hired me as the head coach and the investment in the new facilities here and the locker room,” Allen said.
Indiana completed the Memorial Stadium north end zone project that included a state of the art weight room before Allen’s arrival, and it completed the south end zone in 2018 to fully enclose the field.
In 2019 Indiana debuted a completely new locker room under the West side stands to give virtually everything at the 60 year old stadium, save perhaps for the visiting locker room and press box, a modern feel.
The investments have extended beyond facilities, as Indiana has shown that it will selectively pursue top coaching targets with competitive salaries, and it will also attempt to do what is necessary to retain those that become attractive targets in the marketplace.
“All that we’re doing now and then going out and hiring (former offensive coordinator) Kalen DeBoer a year ago and the investment he put into Kalen and getting a guy of his caliber, and now what he was able to do (with Wellman),” Allen said. “Fred (Glass) invested in (former strength staff) Dave Ballou and Dr. Rhea and now us be able to go out and get a sitting head strength coach in the NFL, which is really a huge statement towards our commitment to helping this program continue to grow.”
The commitment is something that Allen of course has felt in his own pocketbook too.
After the most successful Hoosier season in 25 years, IU gave Allen a seven year deal that pays him an average salary of $3.9 million per year.
“They made an investment in me and our entire program by the contract they gave me and our staff,” Allen said.
The work improving the facilities isn’t complete. With BTN revenue flowing freely into Big Ten athletic departments, the arms race is ongoing. Indiana is behind in some respects, including the lack of a football only training complex that others have already constructed.
But the trend is clear. IU is investing in football like never before.
With the Athletic Director role in transition, there could have been a pause in that commitment to football. Perhaps even a change in direction going forward.
While the move from Fred Glass to Scott Dolson is currently in progress, Allen hasn’t seen any difference in IU’s willingness to invest in the program.
“To me it’s (Wellman’s salary) just a continuation of that (commitment), and also I just think about the process we went through to get that and make that happen, and Scott Dolson played a huge role in those negotiations and just his support, and now with him being named the new athletic director just continues to show that Fred Glass and our administration and now Scott Dolson in his new role understand that football is going to be performing at a high level in the Big Ten, we have to invest in this program,” Allen said.
The commitment to football that Dolson and Glass are showing seems to goes a step further than simply providing financial support.
Wellman has become one of the highest paid strength coaches in the country with a salary that is out of line with Indiana’s current standing as a football program.
Allen has said repeatedly that he believes the strength staff is of critical importance to the program, in part due to their year round access to the players.
For IU to ante up for Wellman, it had to demonstrate trust in Allen’s vision for his program, and his priortization of resources — even when comparatively speaking the investment might not line up.
“You invest in what you believe in, and they invested in me with a seven-year contract and I wanted to be able to have a person in this role, in this position, the head strength coach is the guy that spends the most time with your players of anybody else on our staff,” Allen said. “He’s with them the entire year and his staff.
“So getting that right was a very big priority for me, and I just can’t thank Fred Glass and Scott Dolson and our president and our board of trustees and all their support for allowing this to happen.
“I just really think it sends a strong message about how important football is becoming here at Indiana.”
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