Monday, November 22, 2010
Indiana Football – Glass Has Big Decision To Make
So what should Fred Glass do?
That question hovers over the Indiana football program like a dark cloud and the answer is not clear cut, although some think it is.
We live in a world of color and shades of gray, not the black-and-white simplicity of fire the bum and hire the savior, because there is no bum and there might not be a savior.
As athletic director, Glass’s job is to do what’s best for the program. Certainly that means winning. As the Kelvin Sampson basketball fiasco showed, it also means following the rules, doing things the right way and bringing in players interested in academics as well as athletics. It means representing the program with class and dignity.
As Lynch wraps up his third season in a four-year deal, he’s thrived at all of that except the winning part.
Yes, that's the No. 1 part.
Lynch has an overall record of 18-30. His Big Ten record is 5-26, 2-21 in the last three years. Indiana has lost 12 straight conference games, including all seven this season. For the most part, they’ve been competitive. They got hammered at Ohio State and Wisconsin this season, but they could have (perhaps should have) beaten Michigan, Northwestern and Iowa. They had a chance against Penn State.
Beating arch-rival Purdue in Saturday’s season finale might get Lynch his final year. The players know this. Linebacker Tyler Replogle said he's loved playing for Coach Lynch. Quarterback Ben Chappell said players feel responsible because, “We’re the guys who are playing.”
“He’s done a great job getting us prepared every week,” Chappell said. “It’s come down to a few plays where if one of us steps up and makes a play, we have different outcomes. That’s tough. I have the ultimate respect for (Lynch).”
Replogle skipped on the win-one-for-the-Gipper approach because, he said, it's been a season-long quest.
“We’ve been trying to win for Coach Lynch all year. We talk as players all the time. We love Coach Lynch. We want to go undefeated for him because he means the world to us. You try to win for him every week, and I think that’s what we’ve tried to do. If there’s anything left that we can give more, we’re going to try to.”
Typically coaches get five years to turn around a program. Lynch got four, but because he was part of Terry Hoeppner’s staff, because he retained all of the assistant coaches, it’s basically been six years.
Even if Lynch gets his final year, if it ends with a losing record, he’s done. Then a new coach will be hired and the Hoosiers will go through the seemingly never-ending rebuilding process.
The program doesn’t need that. It needs stability. That disappeared with the firing of Bill Mallory in 1996. The Hoosiers have had four coaches since -- Cam Cameron, Gerry DiNardo, Hoeppner and Lynch -- and managed just one winning record. That 7-6 mark and Insight Bowl appearance came when Lynch was the interim coach in the aftermath of Hoeppner’s death.
That’s why the best, fastest and least expensive way for IU to turn its program around is for Lynch to do it.
If he can.
Consider that next year IU will have an inexperienced quarterback. Redshirt freshmen Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker have yet to show they can run a Big Ten offense against Big Ten defenses. There will be a large learning curve. An even bigger one would be in store for talented newcomer Tre Roberson, perhaps the state’s top prospect out of Lawrence Central, if he were to win the job. Not many true freshmen are ready for the complexity of the position.
An inexperienced quarterback can make it if he has a good running game and a strong defense.
Does that sound like Indiana?
Don’t expect much of a running game. Why? Because the Hoosiers’ rushing attack hasn’t overwhelmed anyone in recent years, and there’s no indication that will change next season. They’ve averaged 3.8 yards a carry or worse in five of the last seven years. They are last in the Big Ten this year, averaging just 102.8 yards a game.
Injury prone tailback Darius Willis is coming off knee surgery, as are three freshman running backs. The offensive line reminds no one of Wisconsin, although it does have size, athleticism and potential.
As for the defense, IU hasn’t excelled in that area since the early 1990s under Mallory. Hoosier coaches emphasized defense for the upcoming recruiting class, and the group seems to have a lot of talent, but it likely will take a year or two to develop.
Lynch doesn’t have that much time.
So we’re back to where we started. What should Glass do?
He has three options -- let Lynch and his staff finish out the last year of the contract, fire him, or retain Lynch as long as there are major staff changes. Glass has said he’ll wait until after the season before evaluating the program. He’s also said he wants to honor Lynch’s contract, that contracts should mean something again at Indiana.
The evaluation should take maybe 10 minutes. Glass is around the program enough to know what needs to be done and whether Lynch can do it. The decision needs to be made by early next week at the latest.
Glass is under a lot of pressure from angry fans and well-financed boosters to fire Lynch, although it is not unanimous. Bringing in a new coach would be expensive. There would be Lynch’s settlement, the coaching search expense and then the price of a new coach and staff.
Lynch is the lowest paid head football coach in the Big Ten. So is his staff. A new coach would want more money for himself and his staff. He’d want to increase a budget that ranks at the bottom of the conference.
Who would you get? Probably a mid-major head coach or a BCS conference assistant coach. One name that has popped up is Brady Hoke, the former Ball State coach now at San Diego State. He’s had success at both places and knows the Midwest very well. Whether or not he’d be interested is unknown.
Lynch said he’s not focused on his employment status. He said all his energy is directed at beating Purdue this Saturday. He also said Glass has been great to work with and has been true to his word.
“His support has been unbelievable,” Lynch said. “We’ve had a great relationship. Everything that he’s said has been exactly what it’s been throughout the year. He’s been as supportive as can be.”
Glass is getting a lot of advice on what to do. In the end, he needs to do what is right for Indiana University. The right thing would be to honor the contract, but the right thing and the necessary thing aren’t always the same thing.
Glass has said being the athletic director at Indiana, his alma mater, is his dream job. Figure it’s not much of a dream right now.