It is just about time to rip up the preseason talk, throw it in the trash, and play some football.
In fact, IU football coach Tom Allen has literally already made his contribution to the circular file.
Allen begins his fifth season as the leader of the Indiana program on Saturday when his No. 17 Hoosiers take on Iowa in Iowa City, and over the course of the first four campaigns and the months leading up to year five, he has orchestrated a considerable turnaround in Bloomington.
No longer the loveable losers of the Big Ten, Allen’s Hoosiers enter the 2021 season with the program’s highest expectations in more than fifty years. And along with an improved product on the field and preseason expectations has come a great deal of recognition for the players, coaches and program in the form of watch lists and polls.
While he appreciates that the effort and improvement is being recognized, Allen knows the value of preseason honors.
“It’s just a testament to our players and our coaching staff, and how hard they’ve worked, but it doesn’t mean anything,” he said on the first edition of his weekly radio show with Don Fischer on Wednesday night.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban has dealt with the preseason hype news cycle for more than a decade in Tuscaloosa. It is something he has referred to repeatedly as “rat poison” for the minds of his players.
Sensing that he needed to do something symbolic to illustrate the danger of nibbling on the toxin, Allen tried to ceremoniously rid the program of the dangers of preseason hype.
“We’ve had 20 different preseason awards our guys have gotten, and within those one of them was the coach of the year award or whatever that means,” Allen told Fischer. “So I had us print out all 20 of those for one of our team meetings at fall camp and I started going through them.
“I said ‘we’ve got 20 guys including one for your coach for preseason awards that you’re on a watch list for,'” Allen said. “So I went through the first one and I read what the award was and who was on the watch list, and then I wadded it up, and I threw it in the trash can.
“Then I went through and I got to mine, and I read mine, ‘Coach Allen, whatever, coach of the year watch list guy,’ wadded it up, threw it in the trash. I did it for all 20 of those, and I said ‘fellas, those preseason honors, and one of them was being ranked 17th in the country, I said ‘congratulations, but it means jack.'”
Allen knows it is a double-edged sword. If Indiana keeps winning, the recognition will keep coming. And that’s great.
But if his players get too caught up in it, the on-field success can suffer the same fate as those 20 sheets of paper.
“The bottom line is I appreciate it, it’s awesome representing the program, but we’ve got to earn this and prove this every single week,” Allen said.
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