In the end, new Indiana football coach Kevin Wilson will be defined by the quality of his staff.
Sure, recruiting is huge, and that will reflect his assistant coaches. They all need to be great recruiters, guys who can sell a vision. Does it help that IU has the best facilities in school history? You bet. So does the fact the state produces better football players, and more of them. It’s much easier getting a good to great in-state kid to come to Indiana than one from, say, Florida.
Still, that's not enough.
Wilson needs good Xs and Os guys, coaches who can teach and develop and inspire. He will set the tone, but he can’t do it himself.
Certainly the need for a good defensive coordinator can’t be over-emphasized. IU’s consistent lack of defensive success is the main reason for years of mediocrity.
In the last 11 years the best the Hoosier defense has ranked nationally is 71st in 2007. The worst was 112th in 2000. In fact, in this decade IU has ranked 101st or worse five times. This season they ranked 89th, giving up 410.2 yards a game.
That can’t continue.
Wilson needs a coach with great schemes and imagination. A guy who can confuse quarterbacks and disrupt offenses. A guy who can get players to not only to be in position to make plays, but to actually make them.
So who will that be? As Wilson said, “If you want to speculate and name drop you can, but I don’t have a clue. I’m going to take some time and get the right guy. It is a huge hire and we’re going to get someone good.
“I need to get the right guy. That’s a very open-ended process. There’s no one set at any position except me. We’re going to evaluate what we have, what we need, what we’re looking for and try to get the right fit.”
The right fit also includes an offensive coordinator. Wilson called the plays at Oklahoma, but he’s not sure if he’ll do that at Indiana. Some head coaches do it with a lot of success. Some can’t because it’s too much with all their other responsibilities.
“I’m an offensive guy, so to have a strong person there will be a key hire,” Wilson said. “There are going to be several key hires.”
It’s going to cost money for this and athletic director Fred Glass said he has the full blessing from IU President Michael McRobbie to spend what is necessary. The coaching change will cost IU an extra $2 million a year, which will come from a renegotiated media and marketing deal with Learfield Communications, plus extra revenue from the Big Ten Network that will become even more lucrative thanks to money coming from the new conference football championship game (estimated to be somewhere between $130 million and $150 million).
Wilson, in case you’ve forgotten, is making $1.2 million a year for seven years.
Wilson is a no nonsense guy who is committed to his family and his profession. He has a strong background and more resources than any IU coach has had in years, perhaps ever. He’ll need it because the Big Ten is a powerhouse conference that will be more of a powerhouse once Nebraska arrives next season.
The challenge is formidable, but the reward, if it happens, will be great. For now, that’s all we know for certain.