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Indiana Football: 5 coaches to target in head coaching search



Indiana football head coaching target Paul Chryst.
Examining some of the main candidates that the Indiana football program should target as its next head coach. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Indiana Athletic Director Scott Dolson has an extremely important coaching search on his hands following the decision to part ways with Indiana football head coach Tom Allen on Sunday.

Allen, who spent seven years on the sidelines for the Hoosiers, finished the 2023 campaign leading IU to just a 3-9 record and 1-8 in Big Ten play. Allen went 33-49 overall and 18-43 in the Big Ten in his career. His 33 wins as Indiana football head coach is tied for fifth in program history.

Indiana failed to win more than two wins in Big Ten play for the third consecutive season this year and were the only team in the conference to have just one win in league play.

Indiana has gone just 3-24 in Big Ten games over the last three seasons, including two last-place finishes in the Big Ten over that time.

So, who should be some of the names on the list for Indiana and Dolson. Let’s dive in.

Trending: Tom Allen releases statement following departure from Indiana football program

Paul Chryst

Chryst is a name Indiana fans should know well as he spent eight seasons as the Wisconsin head coach from 2015-2022. This past season was spent as an offensive analyst and special assistant to the head coach at Texas. Why would IU look in this direction? He’s a proven winner and has numerous years of experience leading a major conference program. Chryst won three Big Ten West Division titles during his tenure and finished with 10+ wins in four different seasons. In every full season at Wisconsin outside of the covid-shortened season in 2020 Chryst finished with at least eight wins.  He also had at least six wins in Big Ten play in five seasons.

The biggest question mark is if he will want to fully adapt to NIL and the expanded transfer portal model that has taken over the college football landscape. Chryst was very adamant that his way was the best and didn’t adjust his system much throughout the course of his tenure in Madison.

Chryst has been to a bowl game in every full season as a head coach with a record of 7-2.

He went 67-26 overall and 43-18 in Big Ten play in his Wisconsin tenure.

Willie Fritz

Fritz is an intriguing name that has popped up in numerous coaching searches around the country after leading a major turnaround in the Tulane program. In eight seasons, Fritz has led Tulane to four bowl games and one conference championship. After just two wins in 2021, Fritz has led Tulane to a 23-3 record and a win in the Cotton Bowl last season. Tulane finished the season ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll.

What is intriguing about Fritz is his way to turn programs around and sustain success. He’s done it at nearly every level at which he’s been a head coach. The question is; can he do it at a major conference level and in the Big Ten? He’ll be a highly sought-after candidate for many head coaching positions, so if Indiana wants him, they’ll have to fight hard to get him.

He has a career record of 208-115

Justin Frye

Frye is the current associate head coach and offensive line coach at Ohio State and has spent time with Ryan Day at both Boston College and Temple. He also spent time at UCLA under Chip Kelly as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator — so all that’s to say is he has a lot of experience in numerous conferences at the major level. But, none as a head coach. What else does he have? Frye is a former Indiana football player, so there’s some weight in that as well.

After a tenure with Tom Allen that was heavily defensive-minded, brining in a young potential up-and-coming coaching mind in Frye who has a heavy emphasis on the offensive side of the ball is intriguing. Having the ability to learn under Chip Kelly and Ryan Day holds a lot of weight as well — two extremely talented offensive minds in their own right.

If, and it’s a big if, Indiana goes to someone without head coaching experience, Frye should be the guy IU looks at the most.

Sean Lewis

If Indiana needs head coaching experience in order to be on the short list, you could put Sean Lewis on the list. Lewis is the current offensive coordinator at Colorado but spent five seasons as the head coach at Kent State. During his tenure, he took the Golden Flashes to two bowl games and won seven games twice. He also has previous experience at Syracuse as an offensive coordinator as well.

Why would he leave Boulder just one year after getting there? Lewis had Colorado’s offense averaging 32 points per game before head coach Deion Sanders took play-calling duties away from him. The offense stumbled and scored over 20 points just once after the switch was made. So, Lewis’ future is in question already.

Lewis is another young offensive mind that has the previous experience as a head coach. He’s someone who could be ready for a major move and Indiana football could be that program.

Dan Mullen

This is definitely a wild card but he checks off almost every box Indiana would potentially be looking for. Mullen has spent 13 years as a head coach at Mississippi State and Florida, totaling a 103-61 record. He made it to a bowl game in all but his first and last seasons as a head coach — including seven bowl victories. He finished in the AP Top 25 six years, including three in the top 10. Overall, Mullen put together very competitive programs and sustained good success for nearly every year.

The one knock on Mullen had been the lack of recruiting success towards the end of his tenure at Florida. So, how effective could he be at Indiana? Regardless, he has ties in almost every southeastern state so being able to still leverage any relationship there with an expansive midwestern pool could be effective.

Mullen has spent the last year in broadcasting, so is he also ready to make a move back to the sidelines? A lot of different things in play, but he certainly brings a powerful name to the program and the Big Ten conference. He’s a call I would make.

SEE ALSO: ‘We have lost momentum’: IU Athletic Director Scott Dolson comments on decision to part ways with Indiana football head coach Tom Allen

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Alec Lasley is the owner of Hoosier Illustrated, a comprehensive site covering news, updates and recruiting for Indiana University athletics. Alec has covered Indiana for six years and is a credentialed media member. He has previously worked for both Rivals and 247Sports.