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Big Ten record, losses to ranked foes doom Lynch


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By Geoffrey Miller




For the fifth time in 16 years, IU is searching for a new football coach.

Bill Lynch, the Hoosiers’ coach since 2007, was fired Sunday morning by IU Athletics Director Fred Glass.

Prior to the dismissal, Lynch had one year remaining on a contract he signed after his first season.

“My view was, given the circumstances of the last seasons, that extending the contract was not a viable option,” Glass said. “It would send the signal of what merited an extension at Indiana University and in my view was not the right thing to go.”

The athletics director considered other options, including allowing Lynch to serve out his contract, but didn’t feel comfortable proceeding in any other direction.

Glass made the announcement Sunday in Assembly Hall, mainly citing Lynch’s record in the Big Ten as the primary cause.

Lynch’s team won a season-ending thriller Saturday at Purdue in overtime to capture its lone Big Ten win of the 2010 season.

“While it’s a tough decision, I’m confident it’s the right one,” Glass said.

Starting in a promising fashion by taking IU to its first bowl game since 1993, Lynch simply could not sustain his initial pattern of winning.

Lynch was 19-30 overall during his four-year campaign in Bloomington.

The 2010 season started with optimism from both Lynch and Glass. At Big Ten Media Days in August, Glass said he expected Lynch to remain IU’s coach well into the future.

“I really feel like Bill and his staff have this program going in the right direction,” Glass said then. “My sincere expectation is that he’ll be the coach here for a long, long time.”

Glass’ support was welcome to the coach.

“I think the support he’s given us has been great. I couldn’t ask for more,” Lynch said. “It’s been a really good relationship since he’s got there. He’s shown a great commitment to football.”

Lynch’s starting quarterback, senior Ben Chappell, also shined praise on the coach during the conference’s preseason media event.

“All of us want to win for him,” Chappell said in August. “The way he treats all of his players, whether it’s the starting left tackle or the eighth-string safety, he treats us all the exact same. What you see is what you get with coach Lynch, and I think that’s why I have such respect for him.”

Lynch, 56, was initially brought to IU in 2005 to serve as then-coach Terry Hoeppner’s assistant head coach and offensive coordinator.

Previously, Lynch coached quarterbacks at IU in 1993-94 under Bill Mallory before beginning an eight-year stint as coach at Ball State.

As Hoeppner struggled with an unknown illness in 2006, Lynch assumed coaching duties in two games that season. Lynch was later charged with leading the program when Hoeppner was too ill to do so during the 2007 spring practice.

Hoeppner succumbed to his illness on June 19, 2007 — later revealed to be terminal brain cancer — and Lynch was named the interim coach for the 2007 season by former IU Athletics Director Rick Greenspan.

Rallying around their former coach’s memory with a motto to “Play 13,” Lynch led the 2007 Hoosiers to the program’s first bowl game since 1993 on the heels of a 7-6 record.

The season included the Hoosiers’ first win against Purdue since 2001.

IU fell to Oklahoma State 49-33 in the Insight Bowl, but it was still enough to earn Lynch a four-year contract as IU coach.

“I think when you’re an Indiana kid and you’re a coach, I think this is your dream, to coach at Indiana,” Lynch said after signing the new deal in 2007.

The next season — nor the next few — wasn’t such a dream for the coach.

After winning their first two games of the year against non-conference opponents, the Hoosiers would drop five straight games. They attempted to right the ship by beating Northwestern 21-19 in Bloomington on Homecoming weekend, but it didn’t last.

IU wouldn’t win again that season and finished the year taking a 62-10 drubbing from the Curtis Painter-led Boilermakers in West Lafayette. The Hoosiers’ final record was 3-9.

Prior to the start of the 2009 season, Lynch lost a key cog to his offense in quarterback Kellen Lewis. After multiple unspecified violations of team rules, IU’s all-time leader in passing yards was kicked off the team.

The move allowed Bloomington native Ben Chappell, then a junior, to step into the role as IU’s full-time starting quarterback. In 2008, he and Lewis had split time behind center.

Chappell passed for single-season school records in completions (268) and passing percentage (.626), but the Hoosiers again fell short of bowl eligibility, perhaps more painfully so.

Flashes of success without victory proved to be the story of the season as IU recorded
three of its five losses against ranked opponents by an average of just more than five points.

IU finished 4-8 last year, 1-7 in conference play.

The trend of dropping pivotal games for the program continued into 2010 for the ever-optimistic Lynch, and such results translated into Sunday’s decision.

Until the end, Lynch, who earned his 100th career win Saturday, maintained the unwavering support of his players.

“I know everyone I talked to, we really wanted to win it for him,” IU senior linebacker Tyler Replogle said. “It’s my last game playing for him, and I couldn’t have asked to play for a better coach.

“He’s one of the best people I know.”

Now, the Hoosiers will look to find a new direction. Glass mentioned no timetable for when he could announce IU’s 30th coach since the first record of the program in 1887.

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