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Quick Hitters: Key thoughts on Indiana football head coaching search



Indiana football
Indiana Athletic Director Scott Dobson is in the midst of a critical head coaching search for the Indiana football program. (Marc Lebryk-USA TODAY Sports)

Following the decision to part ways with former Indiana football head coach Tom Allen on Sunday, Athletic Director Scott Dolson is in the midst of a critically important coaching search.

Indiana is coming off of a 3-9 record and was the only one-win team in Big Ten play.

With NIL and the transfer portal changing the landscape of college football, and college athletics altogether, this is a very key decision in order to elevate the program.

What type of coach does the Indiana football program need? Here are some of my thoughts.

Let’s dive in.

Needs to be an innovative offensive mind … or surround himself with offensive minded coaches. Indiana is coming off of seven seasons in which it was known as a defensive program. Following the elevation of Tom Allen, former IU defensive coordinator, to head coach — the shift from Kevin Wilson’s high-powered offenses to bottom of the pack offensive groups was evident. While Indiana had some quality offensive teams, the consistent turnover at offensive coordinator eventually led to a major drop-off in offensive innovation. Recruits typically want to play at a flashy, explosive program with high-scoring games. The saying ‘defense wins championships’ is becoming slightly overrated. Last season, the four teams in the College Football Playoff all scored over 40 points in the semifinals. The year before, Georgia scored 30+ points in each of its playoff games. Continuing with that trend, there has only been one National Championship game with the winner scoring less than 30 points, while four of the nine years of the playoff yielded semifinals games where at least three programs scored above 30 points.

I’m not saying Indiana is going to become a playoff team overnight, or even in a few years, that’s not the point. But the years of trying to be a defensive first team is limited … or behind us altogether. 17 of the top 25 teams in the College Football Rankings are also ranked in the top 30 in scoring offense in the country. Indiana needs to make a shift back to a fun, offensive-minded program.

The one outlier in this situation is Iowa — and quite frankly, I’m not sure if it will be able to maintain the same level of offensive production and continue winning 8-9+ games in the future.

Related: Potential candidate shoots down idea of becoming next Indiana football head coach

Openly willing to discuss NIL and put that on the forefront of fans minds. There’s no hiding it; the college football landscape is changing and a large part of that is due to NIL. While Indiana has a good NIL program on the basketball side, and its entire athletic department, football has been an afterthought when it comes to NIL. A large reason for that is the lack of conversation(s) Tom Allen had openly. While he was willing to discuss it at times, and obviously participated in the major NIL event fundraising day earlier this month, if you look around the country, that’s all the top-tier coaches talk about. It may get old, and some may not like it, but in order to compete atop the major conferences and around the country, you need a major NIL investment in the program. Well, on Tuesday Indiana seemed to take the first step with that. According to IndyStar reporter Zach Osterman, boosters, NIL collectives and other fundraising put together a $3 million pool for the next head coach … and it’s just a starting point. While that’s not going to be enough to sustain success moving forward, that is a terrific start and a needed one as Indiana football enters this new era.

“College football has changed dramatically over the past several years. Some of those changes have been a shock to the conscience of those who support IU football. The time has come to fully embrace those changes and I pray that IU does just that,” Allen said in a statement following his dismissal.

While the discussion will always start and end with on the field production, NIL has to be a major point of emphasis with the next head coach and something he openly discusses religiously.

Recruiting contacts and relationships around the entire country. This is almost a no-brainer but with the Big Ten expanding to the west coast, it will bring in additional recruiting opportunities. Thus, this program can no longer live and die with midwest recruiting and the state of Florida. While Tom Allen made some major splashes with key prospects, and even under-the-radar players in his tenure, he was extremely limited to where he recruited and recruitment’s that he won. That can’t happen moving forward. Indiana needs to become a more national-level program when it comes to recruiting. Obviously that’s easier said than done, and it’s not something that can immediately change overnight, but with the new recruiting pitches that can now be made to west coast kids, there needs to be formed relationships from the new staff to contacts all around the country and in every single time zone. Indiana needs to start to build more of a pipeline outside of the midwest and it needs to start immediately.

Proven major conference winner. This is no slight on any mid-major or non major conference coaching staff, but Indiana needs to make a splash in the market and get a proven winner at the power five level in my opinion. You can’t take the chance on someone at a mid-major level. Indiana needs to win now and make progress now and getting somebody who has done it before and had sustained success is critical. Indiana is just 3-24 in the last three seasons in Big Ten play and just 9-27 overall over that span. With added competition from Washington and Oregon specifically, as well as UCLA and USC, Indiana can’t sit back and hope for wins. It needs to be able to go out and bring in a coach who has done it before and has a model and the blueprint for winning.

SEE ALSO: Intriguing name that could get a look for the Indiana football head coaching opening

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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.