CHICAGO — IU Coach Tom Allen began his tenure as college head coach by writing the numbers 50, 26 and 10 on a board.
Those numbers have great meaning for the Hoosiers. It’s been 50 years since IU won the Big Ten, 26 years since IU won a bowl game and 10 years since IU has had a winning season. Allen wants to change that.
“We’re going to accomplish all three of those, I told our team,” Allen said at Big Ten Media Day. “If you don’t believe that, you need to leave. Said the same thing to our staff.”
Make no mistake, he’s setting the expectations sky-high for his football program. He can do so after former IU Coach Kevin Wilson laid the foundation, bringing IU to two consecutive bowl games and beginning to shift the perception of the program.
Allen’s the perfect candidate to take IU to that next level, something that showed in his inaugural Big Ten Media Day. Alongside the other coaches from the conference, he exuded confidence and passion, something that’s clear whenever you listen to him speak.
As comfortable as he seems in this position already, he said he never dreamed of being the head coach at IU this soon.
“This is just being transparent,” Allen said. ”I’m not one of these that guys that says I have to be a head coach. I’ve always felt like opportunities come when you do your job and you do everything the best you can. You let that take care of itself.”
Allen proved himself a more than capable leader last season, transforming the IU defense into a strength of the team. He was tasked when he was hired with having his message carry over to the entire team.
His mantra of Love Each Other was once again front and center Monday, but now it’s spreading beyond the defense.
“I think he’s just put that whole LEO over the whole team,” senior cornerback Rashard Fant said. “Before it was mainly with the defense because he only met with us, but now he’s meeting with all of us.”
Along with LEO, Allen’s passion is helping the team to buy-in this offseason.
“Coach Allen is big on getting to know people personally and things of that nature,” senior linebacker Tegray Scales said. “If you’re a team full of people that are bought it, it’s so much easier to work out because everyone knows there is a purpose behind things.”
There’s a purpose with everything that Allen says and does. He brings an edge and a toughness to the team along with upping the Hoosiers sense of urgency.
While it might just be Allen’s first season as head coach, this is a critical year for the program and its ability to become something greater. Allen clearly believes that can happen and with good reason.
Allen couldn’t help but say he’s blessed to be the head coach, but it’s really the other way around.
IU should be thankful that it had a more than capable coach waiting in the wings as defensive coordinator.
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