Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Wilson Looks In IU Football Mirror, Sees Disconnect

Kevin Wilson is taking a good, long public look in the mirror. Coaching perhaps the worst team in IU football history was not part of the master plan when he was hired about a year ago. He wanted to be demanding. He wanted to change the mindset that kept the Hoosiers stuck in a whirlpool of losing that a revolving door series of coaches couldn’t stop.

John Pont stopped it briefly half a century ago. Bill Mallory did the same thing a generation in the past. Even Lee Corso had a few winning-season moments around the time the BeeGees ruled the airwaves.

Wilson arrived with his super-stud offensive credentials and tell-like-it-is approach, and as so often happens when a new coach arrives, all things seemed possible.

Then Cream ‘n Crimson reality hit, as it so often does. The Hoosiers lost at an unprecedented rate. They didn’t just lose, they got BURIED. They got physically roughed up by Ball State, for goodness sakes

Wilson demanded more, which is not a bad thing, which, in fact, makes him like every successful coach in America. But along the way, there came a disconnect.

Thirty players had enough and moved on, 19 of them on scholarship, some because of injury, some because, well, they didn’t like Wilson. One of them, perhaps the best of them, Damarlo Belcher, was kicked off the team after he and Wilson kept butting heads. His actual transgressions remain private.

It wasn’t the outcome Belcher or Wilson wanted, and both came off looking bad.

So now the Hoosiers get one last chance to win a game, this time Saturday against Purdue, their biggest rival. The Boilers have extra motivation because they need a win to become bowl eligible, but that motivation works both ways. Nothing would salvage a miserable season more than ruining Purdue plans.

Still, nobody figures IU to win. It can score some points against a sometimes vulnerable Boiler defense, but it has shown no sign of stopping anybody. It has played some of the worst defense known to man. Defensive backs get beat so badly at times, it’s like a bad comedy skit.

Except no one is laughing except, perhaps, opposing offensive coordinators who get their shots at making the Hoosiers look silly.

Again, this is not what Wilson and his staff wanted, not what athletic director Fred Glass wanted when he made them the highest-paid football coaches in school history and provided them with resources no previous staff had ever enjoyed.

So Wilson looked in the mirror and, in public, found fault. He mentioned it while talking to the media. He said it on his radio show.

“The real deal is our inability as coaches to connect and get more out of our kids more often,” Wilson said. “So we’ll keep moving with that.”

And then he said it again.

“We have not done a good job connecting. I have to do a better job of reaching our guys. We’re trying to reach our guys. We’re working at it, trying to work positively at it.”

On Saturday against Purdue, we’ll get one last chance to see if that work can produce results.

You don’t need a mirror to understand that.


Remember Indiana’s 1987 national championship, when Keith Smart hit the shot the rocked the college basketball world and Steve Alford had a song about him that resonated with a 1960s’ classic.

We’d sing it, but you can’t sing on a blog.

Anyway, that team will have a reunion to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the program’s fifth, and last, national title. It’s set for Sunday, Dec. 4, when the Hoosiers play Stetson.

In that year IU stunned No. 1 UNLV 97-93 in the Final Four semifinals when coach Bob Knight scrapped the patient, motion offense approach because he didn’t think it would work the Runnin’ Rebels’ attacking defense.

Then the Hoosiers beat Syracuse 74-73 on Smart’s last-second shot.

Former players Steve Alford and Todd Meier organized the reunion along with deputy athletic director Scott Dolson, who was a team manager on that title team.

The first 7,500 fans in attendance of the IU-Stetson game will get a replica calendar poster from that 1987 championship season. There also will be an autograph session between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. (the game starts at 4:30).

More information is on its way.


  1. In defense of coach Wilson the man didn't have much in the way of talent to allow him to be an overnight success. He comes from a program where football rules. You point out several observations with one being how several players quit. The key word here is "quit". The way I see it, coach Wilson has to rebuild with his own recruits. When you're this far on the bottom there is no where to go but up. The fact that Ball State beat us speaks volumes at how bad this program is. As far as his approach he sounds alot like Bob Knight in the fact that he is a no nonsense kind of guy. Time will tell but my money says there is improvement coming and within 3-4 years the program won't look anything like it does today.

  2. Wilson's biggest mistake was all the yapping he did early on. This 'win now' baloney didn't work for me then, and it certainly doesn't now. If one thinks back, Cameron was full of hot air as well, and it's hard to forget that he did nothing with possibly the most talented player IU has ever had in Randle El. IU fans are tired of the football team being a doormat, thus it will take deeds and not words to win them back. Perhaps an extra slice of humble pie will teach Wilson to concentrate on the job at hand and stop making idle promises. Other schools can compete with a similar level of talent, so I suggest that it is on Wilson to prove to the fans that he is up to the task at hand.

  3. I may be wrong, but it seems Fred turned a bull loose in the China Shop. First Fred says, We will honor all the football scholarships awarded. But this was not the case. Then no sooner was the new coaching staff assembled when they began to flee. And then the same with the players. I played football and practicing as hard as you play needs some detailed explanation to my thinking. Because going as hard as you can against the sled and the dummies is one thing, but beating up on your team mates is stupid. If he lasts, he may turn it around. But for now he has trashed what Terry tried to get started. For that I am sad.