IU athletic director Fred Glass will evaluate the football program at the end of the season, which will begin sometime late Saturday afternoon in the aftermath of the Oaken Bucket Game. But let’s say Bill Lynch was doing a self-evaluation. How would he do it? For that we bring you his response to a Big Ten teleconference question.
“That’s a difficult question for me to answer because I’m certainly going to slant the answer in my favor,” Lynch said. “That’s what makes it difficult. I certainly have a great respect for everyone here and the evaluation process they’ll go through, but I think in running a football program in the Big Ten there’s a lot of factors that go into it. We’re all judged on won-loss record.
“Those of us in the profession know there are so many things that are involved with it. It all shows up on Saturdays. I’m certainly proud of what we’ve done here and what we have built. We’ve been very, very competitive. I think in the last two years, we’ve had 15 Big Ten games and 10 of them we’ve had the lead or were within a score in the fourth quarter. We’ve only won one of them. So, that’s the reflection of us not finishing and not getting it done, but it’s also certainly a reflection on us being competitive.”
When a team fails to finish, who is responsible?
“Every situation and every game is different,” Lynch said. “It’s about making plays. Our guys have prepared very, very well and have worked very hard and have really battled. We’ve been coming up a play or two short. Each one’s a little bit different situation. To try to characterize it, it’s because of this, you can’t do it that way. That’s why you play, but the effort our guys have given and the way they’ve battled and certainly the staff, I think there isn’t one single thing you could say would make the difference, but that’s true in every football game you watch no matter what it is.”
Consider this. Against Michigan cornerback Richard Council was coached well enough to be in position to make an interception in the closing seconds of regulation. His job was to make the play. He didn’t, and injured a knee in the process.
Against Iowa, receiver Damarlo Belcher was coached well enough to get open for a game-winning touchdown pass. Quarterback Ben Chappell hit him perfectly. All he had to do was catch it. He could not.
IU is 0-7 in the Big Ten. It is the only winless team. Why?
“I think we played against really good football teams,” Lynch said. “Every team that beat us is a bowl eligible team out of the Big Ten. The Big Ten is very, very good this year.
“We certainly had a great opportunity against Michigan, got beat in the last minute. We had a great opportunity against Northwestern, it came down to a made field goal and a missed field goal. We had a great opportunity against Iowa and dropped a ball in the end zone. We were tied with Penn State going into the fourth quarter.
“At some point, you’ve got to realize we came up a play or two short against some really good teams. We had some injuries, I think losing Darius Willlis has affected our running game, but everybody has injuries. I’m not going to say that’s the difference because everybody has injuries. That’s part of it. We were very competitive in some big games that would’ve turned our season around and everybody would’ve looked at it a little differently.”
Instead, there is no turnaround, only growing speculation that Lynch won’t get the chance to coach his contract’s fourth and final season. He isn’t alone on the hot seat. Michigan’s Rich Rodriguez might not survive if his Wolverines get pounded by arch-rival Ohio State Saturday.
What’s going to happen?
Maybe the best compromise would be to let Lynch stay if he replaces some members of his staff. But finding a good assistant coach, say an offensive or defensive coordinator, would be difficult given the tenuous nature of IU's coaching situation. A guy would risk coming for one year and then getting released with the rest of the staff if the Hoosiers don't win next season.
No wonder there's a lot of grim faces around Memorial Stadium these days.