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.