In so many ways, Indiana football fans are in an unfamiliar position at this time of year.
Legitimate talk about a ninth win? Come again?
Waiting for bowl selection news and actually believing that Indiana could end up at an attractive destination? Um, okay.
Oh, and watching the annual coaching carousel and hearing your coach named as a potential candidate rather than wondering if he is on the hot seat? Yep, that is happening too.
The Florida State and Mississippi job openings are perhaps the most high profile positions that IU football head coach Tom Allen’s name has been connected to. And there have been others.
Now let’s be clear, “connected to” could be nothing more than an editor telling a writer to conjure up a list of coaching candidates. With Indiana having something of a breakthrough season, Allen is an easy name to slap on a list. Add in his Florida connections and coaching history at Ole Miss, and, well, connecting Allen to those openings would at least appear to have some legitimacy.
Let’s be clear here, Allen deserves to be considered for other jobs. At least eight wins had only happened at Indiana seven times before this season. In 135 seasons. That’s some serious outlier stuff.
Whether or not Florida State or Mississippi have expressed serious interest, Allen is no doubt on the radar of programs that historically have a much better track record than IU.
But sitting in the room with Allen after a dramatic 44-41 overtime win over Purdue, I saw a man fighting back tears while saying this:
“I just want to thank those that put me here. I want to thank President McRobbie and Fred Glass for believing in me a couple years ago and taking a chance on a small town kid from this great state of Indiana. Not many men would have done that. So, uh, living this dream has been pretty awesome.
“I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given, and I wanted this so bad for our university, for our alumni, for all of the people who supported us and invested in this program.”
When he was hired, Allen, who admired former head coach Bill Mallory from afar, said the idea of one day being head coach at IU was a “dream opportunity” for him as a young man.
Sitting there watching him realize that dream, watching his lip quiver as he talks about accomplishments that haven’t been seen in Bloomington for a generation, well, you start to realize that Allen is exactly where he wants to be.
PAY THAT MAN HIS MONEY
Every man has his limits. Even a dream job can turn into a nightmare under the wrong circumstances.
Allen’s situation is nowhere near that at Indiana, but there is now at least one pesky detail that needs to be addressed.
As of this writing, Allen is the lowest paid coach in the Big Ten — and at $1.805 million per year, it isn’t even close. In the No. 13 spot is Maryland’s Mike Locksley at $2.5 million. Rutgers, yes, Rutgers just hired Greg Schiano for $4 million per year.
In the brutal Big Ten East division, Allen has established a firm floor for the IU program above Maryland and Rutgers. The Hoosiers are 5-1 against those two programs during Allen’s three year tenure.
Lovie Smith at Illinois is making $4 million per year. Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck just got a raise and now makes nearly $5 million per year.
Bonuses have helped Allen bridge the gap somewhat. Steve Berkowtiz of USA Today reports that Allen has made $300,000 this year in connection with additional incentives under his contract. That bonus haul is good for fifth best in the country according to the report.
At the very least, IU could just give Allen their beer money. The school reported this week that it netted $200,000 from its pilot beer and wine sales program at its home football games during the 2019 season.
In all seriousness, we can have a separate discussion about whether coaches should make this much money while working for public institutions, but the reality in this context is clear — Allen is grossly underpaid relative to his Big Ten peers.
IU doesn’t need to lose its mind and pay Jeff Brohm money here, but all signs seem to point to Allen at least doubling his pay going forward.
KEEPING THE COACHING STAFF TOGETHER
While Allen isn’t likely to leave Indiana anytime soon, the same may not hold true for his coaching staff.
When he was hired at IU in January, offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer was open about the fact that he had aspirations to become a head coach. He has since repeated those sentiments. The honesty is refreshing, but the reality is that Allen is likely to have another offensive coordinator search on his hands sooner rather than later.
IU has improved from No. 51 to No. 34 in total offense, and more important, No. 87 to No. 44 in scoring offense in just one season with DeBoer running the show.
Hailing from South Dakota, DeBoer had similar success turning around offenses at Fresno State, Eastern Michigan, and Southern Illinois, and his track record as a head coach is even more impressive.
DeBoer posted a 67-3 record (.957) in five years as the head coach at his alma mater (Sioux Falls) while winning three national titles.
It should come as no surprise that DeBoer’s name is also popping up on coaching candidate lists. And in this case, Indiana fans should be a bit more concerned. Not only for head coaching jobs but also for premier offensive coordinator jobs that DeBoer will no doubt be contacted for.
Simply put, DeBoer isn’t going to be an easy man to keep around.
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