Through big staff hires and new contracts, Indiana is proving it's finally serious about football
The outstretched arm of Michael Penix Jr. might be the moment we remember as the turning point for Indiana football. What we didn’t realize at the time was that the Space Jam-like stretch across the goal line in Indiana’s 36-35 win over No. 8 Penn State was the entryway into a new era for the Hoosiers.
Looking back, it’s easy to see how Penix’s converted 2-point conversion kickstarted Indiana’s impressive 6-2 season in 2020. There’s little doubt that play gave the Hoosiers the confidence necessary to end a 24-game losing streak to Michigan and 10-game skid to Wisconsin. After decades of losing, the spotlight was finally on Bloomington — and it’s not because of what was happening inside the walls of Assembly Hall.
For once, Indiana experienced the attention that comes with a nationally relevant program. And one thing has become overwhelmingly clear in the months since the magical year came to an end: IU has no plans of slipping back into the B1G basement anytime soon.
New athletic director Scott Dolson showed his commitment to the program in terms of cash. On Monday, Indiana announced it had restructured Tom Allen’s contract, increasing his pay to an average of $4.9 million per year through the 2027 season. According to Zach Osterman of the Indianapolis Star, that’s the largest contract IU’s athletic department has given anyone.
The new figure catapults Allen up to being the sixth-highest paid coach in the B1G, earning about as much as Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. That’s a fairly big move for a “basketball school.”
Allen is 24-22 in his four seasons with the Hoosiers, posting winning seasons and bowl appearances in back-to-back years in 2019 and 2020. The reconfigured contract serves as evidence that Indiana doesn’t want to risk losing the coach it’s taken decades to locate.
But perhaps the most interesting aspect of Indiana’s new commitment to football is that it actually began before Allen’s contract was revised.
First, Allen had the confidence to seek out the individuals best suited to make Indiana better after running backs coach Mike Hart left for Michigan and defensive coordinator Kane Wommack was named the head coach at South Alabama.
Allen poached Charlton Warren, a veteran SEC assistant, away from Georgia. Then he accepted a call from Deland McCullough to bring the Kansas City Chiefs running backs coach back to Indiana.
Then, the school had to be willing to fork over the dough to bring those guys to Bloomington.
IU will pay Warren $700,000 in his first season in Bloomington, a $100,000 increase from what he made at Georgia. McCullough, who just spent three seasons with the Chiefs, will make $515,000 to return to the Hoosiers’ staff. Both will see pay bumps in their second seasons, too.
Hart’s contract was set at $375,000 and Wommack was making $460,000. Pretty substantial differences, right?
This is the first time in awhile — maybe ever — that Indiana’s football program has built this much momentum. Rather than watch it fizzle away into thin air and slip back into its losing ways, IU is making an effort to establish a winner on the gridiron. Not only one that regularly fights for bowl contention, but one that competes with the top tier of the B1G.
After Penix’s thrilling 2-point conversion play against Penn State in the season opener, Allen had one of the most memorable locker room speeches ever heard. It was so popular in the hours after the Hoosiers’ upset victory, it went viral.
“Since the first day I stepped foot on this campus, I believed. I believed Indiana could do what we just did on that field,” Allen yelled. “I’ve been made fun of, I’ve been mocked! I never cared! Because you know what? The best is yet to come.”
Allen believed great things could happen in Bloomington from Day 1. It seems like the rest of Indiana is starting to believe, as well.