Rumors, flight trackers and buyouts, oh my!
Indiana football has entered a brave new world.
Once college football’s loveable losers, now everyone seems to want what IU’s got.
First and foremost — the coaches.
For the second straight season, success on the football field has led to the loss of a coordinator. Former offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer left to become the head coach at Fresno State after the 2019 campaign, and this week defensive coordinator Kane Wommack took the top job at South Alabama.
Now they are coming for the top dog. Or at least that is a notion Indiana fans will have to get used to hearing about.
It is officially coaching carousel season, and for as long as head coach Tom Allen continues to do what many thought was impossible at Indiana, his name is going to be mentioned in connection with high profile job openings.
The opening that is garnering the most attention this week as it relates to Allen is Auburn.
It is gone far enough that media folks in the South were circulating a Twitter post about a flight from Auburn to Bloomington.
The more likely flight passenger was an Auburn coach headed up to IU to interview for the opening left by Wommack. Auburn assistant Wesley McGriff was co-defensive coordinator on the Ole Miss staff with Allen, IU receivers coach Grant Heard, and both Wommack and his father Dave.
Whatever the case, Allen tried to make it clear where things stand on Thursday during a radio interview with Dan Dakich on The Fan in Indianapolis.
“I’m the head coach at Indiana, and this is where I want to be, Allen told Dakich.
“The bottom line is, I’m sitting here in my office, overlooking the stadium, and I love this place, and we have not accomplished our goals yet.”
The interest in Indiana coaches is about more than just more wins. Of course the other schools want that.
But they are coming for the whole thing.
When Allen spoke with the South Alabama athletic director about Wommack, that became clear.
“I talked to the A.D. at South Alabama, and he told me specifically this, they wanted what we’ve created at Indiana,” Allen told Dakich. “They want the LEO culture, they want that locker room, they want that sideline, and they want the way our kids play the game.”
But getting the whole enchilada will come at a substantial cost.
According to the Indianapolis Star, Allen’s contract has a buyout of more than $23 million today, and that figure should swell to more than $27 million after IU is awarded a bowl game this weekend.
On Tuesday Allen said he understood success would lead to interest and the media speculating about him as a candidate for high profile openings.
But he also said that he hasn’t been taking any hiring calls right now.
“Those are just mentions, but I’ve never talked to anybody about any jobs here. That’s the truth. I have not,” Allen said on Tuesday. “To me, it’s just kind of probably a natural outgrowth of the success that we’re having at a place that hasn’t had it in a long time, and everybody wants to know why. And when you’re team does well, they’re going to maybe look to the head coach to mention.
“To me, it’s an awesome thing to be able to be at a place where other people want what you’ve created,” Allen said. “And that’s what makes this special, because this wasn’t an overnight thing. This has taken a while, and it’s taken a lot of just roll your sleeves up and go to work mindset.”
The rumors aren’t going anywhere.
The perception of Indiana being a stepping stone remains, and every year there will be high profile openings.
But we believe Allen is genuinely where he wants to be. He is from Indiana and happy to be back home after uprooting his family a dozen or so times.
And IU has treated him well — believing in him just four years ago, and giving Allen a big raise after his breakthrough 2019 season. Indiana will have to continue to ensure that Allen is paid well, but he isn’t the type to make it a central issue. Allen hasn’t forgotten what it feels like to be poor, and he recognizes that he is already well into an absurd salary range relative to where he once was.
And if you just can’t wrap your mind around any of that feel good talk, then again, there is the buyout — at a time when athletic departments are facing serious financial concerns.
So get used to this part of success.
It isn’t going anywhere.
But at least for now, neither is Allen.
“This place is important to me, it’s special to me,” Allen said. “What we’re building here is a tribute to a whole lot of people.”
See also: Allen named Big Ten coach of the year
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