Tom Allen believes IU football can win championships.
That’s what the former IU defensive coordinator said after he shook Athletic Director Fred Glass’ hand and accepted the permanent — not interim — head coaching position.
But the coordinator that oversaw the most-improved defense in the nation said his first reaction to Glass’ request was heartbreak for former IU Coach Kevin Wilson.
“Transitions in the profession are hard,” Allen said. “Let alone this. My heart breaks for him. I never expected this to happen.”
After signing a six-year extension in January 2016, Wilson submitted his resignation from IU due to what Glass cited as “philosophical differences” regarding the leadership within the program.
“Once I concluded that I thought a parting of ways made sense, then I don’t think you wait,” Glass said. “I think you move out, and that’s what I did.”
Glass didn’t talk to Allen until after he had talked to Wilson, but he said he knew he was going to hire from within. He and Wilson had a conversation about hiring from within, and Glass came to the conclusion that it should be Allen.
Glass said he sees a coach in Allen that can lead the program in a direction he sees fit.
“He is demanding and has a very high standard for his players,” Glass said about Allen. “But he is not demeaning. I’ve seen the way the kids react to him. Yeah, it’s about scheme and all that, but it’s really about relationships. He is a leader of men.”
Allen, who was competing for the defensive coordinator position at Auburn a year ago, took the IU defensive coordinator position in Bloomington and made an immediate impact.
He established “LEO” — Love Each Other — on the defensive side of the ball, and the Hoosiers improved their defense more than any other team in the country, with a 127.3 yards-per-game improvement.
He quizzed every defensive player and made sure they all understood each other’s responsibilities. That’s something junior linebacker Marcus Oliver said helped him the most between the 2015-16 season and 2016-17.
Wilson said before the season one of the qualities that makes Allen such a good coach is that he’s energetic and positive. He gets his players to buy into what he says and believes.
When junior linebacker Tegray Scales intercepted a pass in Miami against Florida International for a touchdown, Allen emphatically hugged his assistant coaches on the sidelines. When the Hoosiers forced two consecutive three-and-outs against Penn State, he pumped his fist so hard his headset fell off.
And with that passion and energy, Allen said he wants to establish a culture of accountability, toughness and love — a culture that’s proven successful on the defensive side of the ball.
The Hoosiers can compete for championships, and he wants to lead them there, Allen said near the end of the press conference on December 1, 2016.
“My goal for this program is to break through in 2017,” Allen said. “We’ve been close. I’m tired of getting text messages from my buddies telling me how hard we play, how close we are.”