Tom Allen Needs to Focus More on the Indiana Defense, Not Less

Open any edition of IU football’s weekly game notes, and you’ll see this graphic:

Credit – IU Athletics

You knew the improvement was substantial, but that graphic really drives it home.  Tom Allen was a game changing hire by Kevin Wilson.

Yes, the defense took a step back in 2018, but that was in large part expected with IU only returning three starters.  And Allen still had the young defense doing flashy things like finishing in the top ten nationally in takeaways.

There is no doubting Tom Allen’s prowess as a defensive coordinator.  If Indiana made the foolish move of firing him today, he would be a defensive coordinator in a power five conference tomorrow.

That’s why we cringed when Allen said this after IU’s season ending loss to Purdue on Saturday in response to a question about him giving up the reigns as defensive coordinator and focusing just on being a head coach:

“That’s definitely something I’ve been thinking about because of all the responsibilities that fall into this position,’’ Allen said. “Now that I’ve done it for a couple years, I feel like I understand the time demands. There’s no question about it, as I’ve talked about, even last year saying there’s going to come a time when I need to do that so I can (just) be the head coach of the team.

“A big part of that is recruiting, the amount of film and time it takes to be the head coach and the (defensive coordinator position) is really, really changing. The amount of film you have to watch during a game week. I think as I continue to grow as a head coach, to be able to coach the coaches, coach the players, be able to be involved in all three phases, there’s no question that’s something that I’m thinking about, for sure.’’

The Peter Principle is an observation that the tendency in most organizational hierarchies is for every employee to rise in the hierarchy through promotion until they reach the levels of their respective incompetence.

It was documented by Canadian scholar, Dr. Laurence J. Peter, in his 1968 book titled “The Peter Principle.” Dr. Peter also stated in his book that an employee’s inability to fulfill the requirements of a given position that he is promoted to may not be the result of general incompetence on the part of the employee as much as it is due to the fact that the position simply requires different skills than those the employee actually possesses. For example, an employee who is very good at following rules or company policies may be promoted into the position of creating rules or policies, despite the fact that being a good rule follower does not mean that an individual is well-suited to be a good rule creator.

Now let’s be clear here.  We aren’t suggesting that Tom Allen is incompetent at his head coaching duties.  Far from it.  Perhaps if he kept getting promoted at IU, say to school President, then he might reach his point of incompetence.

But by the same token, when he was promoted to head coach in 2016, he just might have been pulled away from what he does best.

That’s not just our opinion.  That’s Allen’s.

At the 2018 Big Ten media day back in July, Allen faced these same questions regarding the dual coaching role.  At the time Allen noted that he got the head coaching job because he led a culture change on the defensive side of the ball.  He went on to say this:

“Often times when you walk away from your strength and just become the CEO of the program, you lose the very person that was involved with that side of the football’s turnaround.”

Sound familiar?  It’s almost like he studied the Peter Principle to reach that conclusion.

So why gravitate away from the defensive coordinator role?  The time demands that Allen referenced yesterday make perfect sense.

But the IU coaching staff has 10 coaches, including a newly permitted 10th position this year.  Why not have another coach take on some of the head coaching duties?  Surely someone else can take on a lot of the administrative stuff, some of the recruiting, and whatever else is needed to free Allen up to do what he does best.

Like all of us doing our respective jobs, there are probably head coaching duties that Allen isn’t particularly good at.  Why not give that stuff up?

Tom Allen is a great defensive coach, a great leader of men, and he plays a key role in certain aspects of recruiting.  If those are his strengths, then those are the areas that he should be focusing on.

There is really no reason to follow what everyone else does.  The job description of the head football coach doesn’t need to fit neatly into certain parameters.  What does IU have to lose by trying a different approach?

Conversely, it might be more about what they have to lose if they don’t keep Allen running the defense.

Tom Allen needs to continue to be the defensive coordinator.  Otherwise, I’m afraid he will be forced back into what he does best — leading someone else’s in a couple years.


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