Extending Kevin Wilson might've been strange to some, but it made perfect sense
All you have to do is go back and read the last sentence of the first paragraph of the team’s official release.
“No other coach in the Big Ten has more seasons on his contract and only one (Jim Harbaugh) has as many.”
That was the language used to describe the length of Kevin Wilson’s new six-year contract with Indiana. Important to note was the fact that he’s now the most secure B1G coach next to Harbaugh, at least in terms of years left on a contract.
IU finally has its head coach of the future. No longer is it, ‘Give the guy three or four years and let him see if he can turn it around.’ Indiana Athletic Director Fred Glass made the decision he had to make.
Give Wilson some stability — by doubling his contract, too — and let’s see if he can give this perennial basement program some stability.
To outsiders, the deal might not make much sense. The guy was 20-41 overall, he won 20 percent of his conference games and he reached a bowl game once in five years. For 95 percent of Power Five programs, that’s a fireable résumé.
But not at Indiana.
Perspective, as I often say, is everything. So instead of getting caught up in the cumulative numbers, which are comparable to pretty much any Indiana coach ever, take a look at what Wilson accomplished with this year’s group:
-first bowl game since 2007
-first B1G team to lead conference in total offense, scoring offense and passing offense since 1995
-won three road games for first time since 1994
-won back-to-back B1G road games for first time since 1993
-first time winning Old Oaken Bucket three straight times since 1947
Every single one of those metrics suggests one major thing that IU football has lacked for the greater majority of its history — progress.
That’s a word that rarely defined Indiana football with any legitimacy.
Since the turn of the century, there’s always been a roadblock to prevent IU from continuing its steep climb to college football relevancy. Whether it was too many injuries, subpar defensive efforts, unlucky bounces or just simply not having the talent, IU always found ways to lose.
And even this year, that narrative played out again.
We saw it when IU couldn’t get the one key score against No. 1 Ohio State. We saw it when IU blew a 25-point second-half lead to lowly Rutgers at home. We saw it when IU couldn’t force an all-or-nothing incompletion against No. 14 Michigan in the final seconds of regulation.
Those were the moments that made people think that this is just the same old program. But the final two games of IU’s regular season solidified the only thing Wilson had to do to earn an extension.
The program couldn’t be the laughing stock of the B1G.
Whipping the likes of Maryland and Purdue might not have seemed like much, but for Wilson and the Hoosiers, that did everything. Besides pounding on inferior competition, that gave IU a chance to showcase its high-flying offense on primetime TV in the biggest market in the world. It gave alums a chance to talk about their football team instead of just their basketball team in December.
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There was a banner that they showed on the Pinstripe Bowl broadcast that read “IU foot-ball school?” Danny Kanell, who was the color commentator for the game, bashed the sign, saying that it was disrespectful that IU’s own fans would slight the football program like that.
Nobody will seriously argue that Indiana is a football school after making one bowl game. That wasn’t the point of the sign. It was meant shedding light at the fact that the culture surrounding IU football was actually changing, which was a completely foreign concept to fans.
IU has Wilson to thank for that.
It’ll still be an uphill battle for Wilson with the new contract. He currently boasts the B1G’s worst 2016 recruiting class, according to 247sports. For IU to avoid a one-year wonder like 2007, that obviously can’t be the norm for Wilson moving forward.
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This new deal should help his ability to sell himself and his long-term vision of the program. Glass knew that when he doubled Wilson’s annual contract. He couldn’t afford to let the second coach to take IU to a bowl in 20 years leave, nor could he expect him to recruit in the B1G with uncertainty about his contract.
On the surface, $15 million is a lot of money to invest to a guy who hasn’t had a winning season yet. But Glass banked on 2015 being the launching point for IU’s future.
And for once, it doesn’t look so grim in Bloomington.