Abruptly, Kevin Wilson was in Bloomington.
Touching down on runway 35, the private twin-engine jet carrying Wilson and Bloomington’s newest famous family arrived at Bloomington’s Monroe County Airport seven minutes early Tuesday. The landing jolted a few reporters awaiting his arrival into action after they missed its descent.
In a sense, the surprise landing was akin to Wilson’s hiring as the newest leader of IU football. The coach doesn’t fit the bill of a big name in the college ranks, but yet it took mere days — and few other candidates, if any — for IU Athletics Director Fred Glass to make the eye-raisingly quick hire.
Wilson, despite not finding a preliminary spot on the list of rumored, potential hires after rounds of media guesswork, was officially introduced as IU’s newest football leader Tuesday with a hefty salary and seven-year contract in his pocket.
“I think it demonstrates part of the value of hiring Chuck Neinas,” Glass said of the consultant he used to locate IU’s next coach. “(Neinas) was the first to bring Kevin’s name to my attention.”
But the North Carolina-born coach, with a hint of a southern drawl, however — surprising to followers of IU football — already had ties to IU’s Athletics Department.
Wilson’s pedigree includes time at a pair of traditional black colleges as an assistant before he was hired as an offensive assistant at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
Wilson’s most recent background was as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma.
Often nicknamed the “Cradle of Coaches,” Miami has employed an incredible array of successful coaches, ranging from legendary Ohio State coach Woody Hayes to former IU coaches Bill Mallory and Terry Hoeppner.
Such begins Wilson’s inadvertent but very real connections to IU.
While at Miami, Wilson worked alongside Hoeppner for several seasons — and in a very direct way.
“Terry was the defensive coordinator, and Kevin was the offensive, so they had some battles (on the field),” Hoeppner’s widow Jane said with a smile after Tuesday’s announcement.
Terry Hoeppner tragically passed away in June 2007 after coaching IU for just two seasons.
“We lived near each other for 10 years. He lived in our neighborhood,” Jane Hoeppner said about Wilson. “When I heard there was a chance that he might get the job, I was just beyond thrilled.”
Wilson only needs to look toward IU’s Sembower Field to find another acquaintance from his days at Miami.
Tracy Smith, IU’s baseball coach, was a member of the RedHawks baseball staff during part of Wilson’s time in Oxford.
“You have to remember Miami University in Oxford, Ohio is not a real big place,” Smith said. “I knew him from his coaching days there. We weren’t great buddies, but we knew each other professionally. We certainly knew each other well enough to sit down and talk.”
Smith said Tuesday he thought bringing Wilson, and more narrowly his demeanor, to IU football would work out well.
“The thing you always got from him was that, yes, he was always a very intense guy, very direct,” Smith said. “I think what everyone is going to see from him is that he is very focused. ... He’s a very confident guy, and he’s been-there-done-that in the Big Ten.”
Smith credited Glass’ outlined process with bringing in a coach he feels will fit well into the IU athletics culture.
“As Fred always says, take your job seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously,” Smith said. “That’s kind of how I would see Kevin. I think he’s going to come in here and have an understanding of what he wants to do, but he’s going to bring other people along with him. As my wife Jamie said, he’s unpretentious.”
Former IU coach Bill Mallory — credited with leading the Hoosiers to six bowl games — never worked alongside Wilson but formerly mentored and worked with Wilson’s boss both at Miami and Northwestern in the late Randy Walker.
“Randy always spoke very highly of Kevin when he was coordinating his offense there at Miami and then at Northwestern,” Mallory said. “I followed (Kevin) through Oklahoma. In fact, my son Doug was at Oklahoma State so he and Kevin knew each other that way, too. They’ve got a good man.”
Mallory said Wilson draws his style of football coaching from a pretty astute heritage.
“I think we all come from a similar background and approach to the program, I think the same with John Pont,” Mallory said about the former coach. “He goes back to Woody (Hayes) and that kind of drifted down. The impact it had on him had an impact on me. I took it with me, I know Randy carried it on with him. Kevin’s the same way.”
Wilson and Glass made no hesitation to draw upon the indirect connections during Tuesday’s press conference, and it left Wilson to make one simple summation of why IU felt like the right fit.
“I knew this was a great place, a place I could be a part of,” Wilson said.
Football coach has ties to Hoosiers in roundabout path to University
Abruptly, Kevin Wilson was in Bloomington.