What happened to IU football’s spring game? “I don’t want them to get anything ahead of time”

After starting the 2021 season ranked in the top-20 and finishing 2-10, IU football coach Tom Allen knew offseason change was necessary.

Some of the adjustments included the coaches, as Allen fired offensive coordinator Nick Sheridan and welcomed five new position coaches/coordinators during the offseason, an amount representing half of the staff.

Indiana has also been very active in the transfer portal.  The Hoosiers have brought in 15 new players since the end of the season, and lost 27 via the portal.  Despite the discrepancy in those two figures, that change may prove to be a net positive.

But those were just some of the more obvious changes.

Tom Allen discussed lessons learned following the disappointing 2021 season at an alumni event in Borden, Ind. in May.

“We’re going to learn from it,” Allen said.  “We’ve made adjustments.  We’re accountable for our decisions.  Make decisions, make changes, and then press on.”

The Hoosiers did not have a spring game in 2020 or 2021 due to COVID-19.  The event isn’t typically well attended, but it has been the lone opportunity for diehard fans to see the team in public during the offseason, either live or on television.

In 2022, the elimination of the spring game was part of the plan to get the program back on track, and the public aspect of the game was a major reason why.

“By design, we did not have a spring game (in 2022),” Allen said.

Allen will return to calling the defense on gameday in 2022, and he hired new offensive coordinator Walt Bell to replace Sheridan.  So he enters the upcoming season with the advantage of the unknown.

For the fourth time in six years IU opens the season with a Big Ten game.  This year’s opener comes against Illinois in Bloomington.  With games against the likes of Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and others on the slate, it isn’t a stretch to say the Hoosiers have a lot on the line against the Fighting Illini.

And Allen knows if he had played a traditional spring game, Illini eyes would be watching.

“I get it, we sit here and watch every single one of them (spring games) that’s played across the country,” Allen said.  “We take notes, break them all down.

“Our first game is Sept. 2, on a Friday night, in Memorial Stadium against Illinois.  A conference opponent to start the season.

“I don’t want them to see nothing, and if we put it on the Big Ten Network, they are going to see everything.  You can’t just go run something you don’t do for a practice.  So that was the rationale for that, because I don’t want them to get anything ahead of time.”

Spring games are becoming a bit of a relic around college football.  Many programs no longer have them, while some have gotten away from tackling — not only during the game but throughout the spring.

When it appeared likely that IU was abandoning its spring game, at least in 2022, we asked Allen for his thoughts on the pros and cons of the tradition.

The spring game counts as one of the 15 practices allowed by the NCAA.  And that is an opportunity Allen wants to maximize, certainly at least with the unique variables surrounding his program this year.  So the idea of putting on a public show didn’t add up when compared to the value of getting in another closed practice.

“For me, I want us to have 15 great days of us getting better, because you can’t do that with your guys in the summer time,” Allen said in late March.  “You only have so many opportunities for that.”

Whether IU fans saw their last spring game in Bloomington back in 2019 remains to be seen.  But if Allen can engineer a turnaround in the fall, we suspect folks won’t mind too much one way or the other.

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