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.