Sunday, November 14, 2010

Big Anger -- What’s Next For Indiana Football?

Indiana football fans are mad as heck and heads have got to roll. They want to fire coach Bill Lynch, his staff, the athletic director and anyone who disagrees with them.

An 83-20 loss to Wisconsin to cap a 0-6 Big Ten start, four straight losses, 11 consecutive conference defeats and a 2-20 conference record over the last three years is really bad for job security. This isn’t progress. Regression might be too kind a term.

The numbers from Wisconsin were staggering. It was the most points IU has ever allowed, surpassing the 69 Nebraska scored in 1979. It’s the most points Wisconsin has scored since 1915, the most points any Big Ten team has scored since 1950.

Forget the debate on whether Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema ran up the score. He did. He just might be the most ruthless coach in America when it comes to piling on points (remember the unnecessary 2-point conversion he did against Minnesota). Still, football is a tough game and if a coach wants to develop his younger players, which means running the offense and plays the Badgers will need against formidable competition, so be it.

Ohio State coach Jim Tressel, with the opportunity to put up similar numbers against IU and Purdue, chose a kinder approach.

We’re just saying.

Anyway, if IU didn’t like getting embarrassed, it should have done something about it, like manning up stopping the Badgers. That’s the attitude Lynch took in the post-game aftermath when he didn’t complain about Wisconsin scoring a couple of late TDs.

Yes, linebacker Tyler Replogle was out with an injury, and quarterback Ben Chappell was sidelined for basically the final three quarters with a battered hip. IU should still have enough talent and experience to be competitive.

That it’s not pushes the idea that Lynch must go.

Indiana athletic director Fred Glass pushes patience, which in this instant-anger, instant-gratification world is as welcome as a bout of cholera.

IU has two more games to salvage the season. It travels to Washington D.C. on Saturday to play a vulnerable Penn State team that just got waxed by Ohio State. By giving up a home game, it will get $3 million, which is much needed to keep the entire athletic department in good financial shape. Yes, some of that money could be used for a new coach, and we’ll get to that in a moment. Indiana, thanks to the Big Ten Network, is not in the economic mess so many athletic programs are these days, but neither is it mega rich. Few programs are.

An NCAA report said that of the 120 Division I-A football programs, 106 lost money in 2009. That’s why schools continue to cut sports (California cut five in September) or charge athletic fees or both.

IU has avoided cuts, and Glass wants to keep it that way. That $3 million is a big help.

Anyway, the Hoosiers can beat Penn State. They can win at Purdue in the Nov. 27 season finale. The Boilers are decimated at the quarterback position. They couldn’t score an offensive touchdown against Michigan, which has the worst defense on the planet. Even a banged-up Indiana defense would have a chance.

Sweep both games and the pressure to fire Lynch fades. It doesn’t disappear, but it fades –- a little. At least beat Purdue, the arch-rival that has won 11 of the last 13 meetings, and it gives Glass something to work with.

Glass has said he’ll wait until after the season to evaluate the program. That’s likely to take five seconds. He knows what’s going on, what the problems are and what the options will be.

Still, he wants to make a rational decision and not an emotional one. And he’s on record as saying he wants to honor Lynch’s contract, which has one more year.

That was well before the 83-20 debacle, however.

Lynch signed a four-year contract when at least five is the norm. Given IU’s history of football mediocrity, fairness would indicate giving Lynch at least the length of his contract to produce a winner.

Fairness, however, often gets overshadowed by the bottom-line realities of the profession. Glass has to factor that in, as well.

Firing Lynch would be expensive. Glass would have to pay Lynch a settlement for his final year. The search process wouldn’t be free. A new coach would get more money –- for himself and his new staff. That’s true whoever the coach is.

As far as the big-name idea, well, as we’ve said before, that won’t happen. The search shouldn’t be about getting a big name, but the right guy. That's likely to be a mid-major head coach or a BCS conference assistant.

Forget wealthy boosters agreeing to pay mega-millions to lure a high-profile coach to Bloomington. Salary is only part of the deal. A big name won’t give up a stadium that seats 80,000 to 100,000 for one that seats 52,000. A big name won’t sacrifice an annual football budget of $25 to $30 million for IU’s budget of $5 to $6 million. A big name won’t want to get anywhere near a program with such a long history of mediocrity. Big names are big because they win big.

Finally, a big name will never come to Indiana unless it’s somebody like ex-Texas Tech Mike Leach, who was fired for, well, bizarre behavior, and wants to return to coaching. And he’d only stay for as long as it took for him to get a higher paying job.

Or, given IU’s success with football coaches, to get fired.

Purdue tried the big-name rout once with ex-Texas coach Fred Akers. He went 12-31-1 in four year and got fired.

Indiana tried it with Gerry DiNardo, the ex-LSU coach. He went 8-27 in three years and, yes, got fired.

Then there’s the time it would take for a new coach with a new system to get things rolling.

Look at what’s happened at Notre Dame. A new coach doesn’t guarantee instant success, even with a roster full of top-15 recruiting classes. IU doesn’t have anything close to that.

Still, Lynch is set to bring in IU’s best recruiting class in a couple of decades. If he’s fired, who knows how many would stay. Yes, some could back out of their oral commitments (with signing day not until February, there’s plenty of time for guys to change their minds), but for now they’re still on the Cream ‘n Crimson list.

The fastest, best, least expensive way to get Indiana’s program turned around is for Lynch to do it. Can he? The odds aren’t good. They are, in fact, miserable -- especially if Chappell is done for the season.

Figure the losing will continue, the anger will grow and somebody’s head will roll.

Whose? We’ll find out soon enough.


  1. At this point I would rather take a chance on a young upcoming assistant coach from a successful program then stick with Lynch another year. There is no reason to believe given the returning talent that Lynch can deliver more than four wins next year. A young head coach with energy with be a refreshing change.

  2. Good column Pete. Being an IU diehard from the Northeast, it is good to hearabout the state of our programs.

    However, what is going on with our football team cannot be allowed to continue. Being "expensive" shouldn't factor into it at all. I would like to see a successful younger coach from a mid major come in as it would be a step up for him and I would imagine the staff he would bring in. With recruiting, yes, some Lynch recruits wouldn't stay and it might get a little worse before it gets better - but no worse than it is now.

    End the Lynch era now. Increasing revenue to add to the football budget to attract talent and high quality coaching is the job of Fred Glass - he has made a good start and needs to continue his efforts. Getting the stadium sold out on Saturdays will make Fred's job a lot easier, and he cannot do that with Lynch in charge of IU football.

  3. We can narrow it down -just a little- my head won't role - I'm just an alum who posts from Texas.

    I do remember watching an IU bball game from 76 vs Wisconsin. Bobby Knight had taken out the starters so IU only won 101-70 it could have been 125-50. I guess class is gone from sports and I hope Wisc loses its bowl game.

    Lynch isn't doing it I noted right away and perhaps was one of the first posters who was not sanguine about our football team this year.

    Hey How come there are so many people on here in Indiana named Anonymous? Here in Texas we have many Garcias and Lopezes and that's good thing, but I never see Anonymous browsing our phone books- are they all related?

  4. We don't need to look any further than Brady Hoke. Midwest guy who has turned around the San Diego State program in two years (7-3 this year).

  5. You flush the coach, you flush the recruits and start over. You lose at least two years of recruiting. Unless it is a big name (and IU is not going to pay for a big name even if you could talk them into coming to IU)the recruits fly away. The recruits (and we are still way behind the likes of Wisconsin) are what made Wisconsin appear so formidable on Saturday. Indiana is playing with mostly three star recruits with a few four star ones thrown in there. Wisconsin has multiple four star recruits with five star recruits thrown in. They are at least three deep at every position while Indiana is two deep or one deep at most positions. In case anyone noticed Wisonsin outweighed Indiana at every position by 30 or 40 points while still being as quick as Indiana. A lot of NFL teams would like to have a offensive or defensive line as big and quick as Wisonsins. Unless Indiana can find an elite coach they need to bite their lip and move on down the line.

  6. Well thought-out column. The only correction I would make is that Michigan's defense is actually the 2nd-worst in the nation. I think we know whose is worst.

  7. You have to consider a lame duck coach if Lynch is not willing to man up for I.U.. I understand it if I were him some things are hard to admit. Past history proves he has never created a winner. I.U. needs to find a Brady Hoke if he can create a winner at B.S./S.D. that says something. Lynch could not create
    that at B.S. or I.U.. You should always look for a young coach that has created a winner from nothing. Chris Thompsen/Abilene Christian University comes to mind.

  8. So is there no hope then? That's what I take away from this. Cancel the program then?

  9. I have been a Bill Lynch supporter for awhile now. Regardless of the lack of class Wisconsin showed (and the ludicrous comments on tv saying it was for BCS style points), there has to be changes made. I think Bill has done well in basically taking over for a coach who IU fans fell in love with instantly and directing a program that hasn't performed well since i was in preschool (early 90's). I've played football and coached it as well and ultimately it falls upon the head coach....however, i do feel that Lynch has some good qualities that harbors the fulfillment of his contract, on the basis that he gut out his staff. Canada at O-Coord is one of the worst play callers i have ever seen. The lack of creativity and absurdly predictable plays hurts a potentially very productive offense (that is quite good anyways, at least until it is in the redzone). And it befuddles me as to why IU has 2 D-Coords to begin with. I think Bill has done well recruiting (at IU standards that is), but the lack of depth in the defensive backfield, as well as the misuse of high profile DB recruits that we have let go or not played at all, is disturbing. If a player is good enough for florida to want him, maybe he should be playing for us. Ultimately, its this. Fred Glass has done a fabulous job as AD so far, and getting rid of him would be on the level of Bobby getting the axe. I would (as it pains me to say it) let Bill Lynch finish his contract, but gut his staff and find better people to do it. Hey Leach and Fullmer will still be there in a year!

  10. I agree with letting Lynch finish his contract with some new faces on the coaching staff. I go back to the 60's and other thana falsh by Pont and a genuine effort by Mallory, IU remains unable to draw recruits at the Big Ten level. I don't see the reality of a big time program without a big time coach. Money, and I maen a lot of, is what it will take to change the program with a big time coaching staff. We have to decide whether we want to educate medicore football players at Indiana(preferably in-state) or just pass through players like Ohio State does.

  11. Love your columns, Pete, but I couldn't disagree more with this one, on almost every point you make. First, injuries are a feeble excuse for what happened at Madison on Saturday. Indiana is not affected as much by injuries as we are by consistent lack of depth at every position. For example, anyone who saw the game knows that because of injuries Wisconsin started significant backups for the first time at the beginning of the game and not just the third quarter, when most Wisconsin starters were on the bench or working on their term papers. Lo and behold, Wisconsin's 2nd and 3rd string running backs each ran for their career highs by halftime. A Big Ten caliber team, should have been able to prevent that in the first half, even with a few 2nd stringers playing.

    Second, there is no evidence to suggest Indiana "can beat Penn State." Granted, this is not a good PSU team by its standards, but it is still worlds better than the PSU teams from earlier this decade that toyed with the Hoosiers. And, PSU's waxing came at the hands of a top 10 team, not Akron or Temple. This is also a talent issue. Historically good teams, e.g. PSU and Mich., simply count on the fact that IU is a win, no matter what. Further, Purdue, despite their obvious struggle to find a QB, feels the same way as PSU and Mich., in that at least they can win the Bucket Game and save their season. The Hoosiers clearly don't take that game as seriously as the Boilers, who simply dominate the series, regardless of the equality of talent in the programs at times.

    Third, there is no chance that Lynch keeps his job for reasons that are legion. The Wisconsin game was merely the camel-paralyzing straw, not the single game that reflected Lynch's competence (see overall Big Ten record from 2007-10). Hep hired Lynch as an assistant for a good reason, which is simply that Lynch is an assistant coach at the D-I level. He is a competent head coach in D-II/D-III, but not in D-I. A quick internet search and the "eye test" supports this claim. I really wanted Lynch to succeed at IU, especially in light of the tragic circumstances that forced him into the job as well as IU's desperate need for a winner on the gridiron. But, alas, his career arc at IU closely mirrors his other D-I stint at BSU-start strong and fade into oblivion and irrelevance.

    Further, money should not be the issue, as Fred Glass has dismissed it as such in his tenure. Glass overtly claims he is committed to building a football program at IU. In this regard, he has built the excellent addition to the stadium, and somehow attendance has indeed improved, despite the product on the field. Thus, Glass has trapped himself into the expectation that IU can no longer cut corners on any aspect of the program, and now he must at least attempt to hire a "name" instead of the next guy on the bench just because he might want to save a buck. IU has attempted the cowardly money-saving measures and "hire an assistant" route for 100 years now, and it is time to abandon that policy in favor of success. If it takes begging rich and/or famous alums to raise the cash to hire the "name" coach, so be it. I don't think anyone actually believes, including Glass, that Lynch will actually be IU's coach next year, as contracts are made to be broken. So, it's time for the athletic dept. to do the opposite of all its instincts and go "Costanza" on its new hiring policy, or we'll be stuck in 100 more years of the same.

  12. Did you people even watch the game? What were the Badgers suppose to do, fall down everytime they had the ball? A pick-six, two fumbles in in IU territory, a redshirt Freshmen QB leading a TD drive, a TD run by a fourth string QB, all happening in the second half, thats 35 points alone!

    SteveNTexas did the "76 Hoosiers BB team stop shooting the ball, running the offense? Of course not!

    The bottom line if our team is that bad its on us, not on the opposition! Man up Hoosiers!

  13. Expensive? What's this guy make, $300K? That's chump change in this day and age. Lost recruits? Like this guy has done anything with the ones he's had!! Beat PSU and Purdue? I'll take on anyone who wants that action! Even if the Hoosiers won both of these games, it would not overshadow the mediocrity that is IU football. Lynch has had ample time to demonstrate that he can coach, motivate, and compete. Sorry Pete, it ain't happening with Mr. Nice Guy at the helm.

  14. Over 100 points scored between the two teams, how often do you get that? I do however put all the blame on Wisconsin..they shouldn't have scored so many points... Our uniforms looked good though. Will be in Landover for the game this Saturday, should be great--loved the UVA & IU game last year, over 50 points in that one too! Blame UVA for scoring too many points in that one too.. oh well, maybe we'll see 150 points this week--hope I'm not going to blame PSU for scoring too many points....

  15. I too think the Wisky Coach was CLASSLESS in running up the score to help them in the BCS. If I had been Bill Lynch I would have not even walked to the middle field and shook hands with that Classless guy. We need a new Coach who will hit the ground running and turn this absolute terrible Coaching Staff out to pasture.

  16. Yeah, throwing a 74 yard touchdown pass on 3rd and 7 while up 60 points is not running up the score. Absolute nonsense. They should have been running dive plays. As for Lynch and Glass and the IU players: where is the anger over this? This "aw shucks, we really got beat, didn't we" nonsense makes me want to puke. Somebody needs to care enough to get hacked off and do something about it. You get punched in the face, you either hit him back or stand there like a victim and get beaten to death. I'm still waiting for someone in Bloomington to be as mad about this humiliation as I am.....