At his first Big Ten Media Days in 2017, IU football head coach Tom Allen gave three numbers: 50, 26, 10. Those numbers represented how long it had been since the Hoosiers won the Big Ten, a bowl game and had a winning season, respectively.
Four years later, those numbers are 54, 30 and zero. While the Hoosiers had two of their best seasons ever in 2019 and 2020, Allen said the team is not only looking to continue that success into 2021, but to build upon it and erase the other two numbers.
When Allen took over for former head coach Kevin Wilson in December 2016, players would close out practice by saying “Big Ten champs,” in a huddle, something he quickly put a stop to.
Nearly five years later, the players have earned that right from their coach.
“I didn’t feel like there was belief in those words, and I just felt like it was more negative than positive,” Allen said “It was just something we said, broke it down and everybody jogged off. This is the first offseason I’ve given the players the permission to break it down on ‘Big Ten champs’.”
Players are buying into Allen’s vision for the team as well, after seeing the team’s consecutive 5-7 seasons turn into 8-5 and 6-2 records in 2019 and 2020.
“It's really exciting to just be a part,” senior linebacker Micah McFadden said. “My freshman year we definitely weren't the team that we wanted to be and we didn’t have the season we wanted, but it's cool to be a part of that transformation and seeing all of his goals come to fruition.”
To make the dreams of winning IU’s first Big Ten title since 1967 a reality, the Hoosiers will have to get past Ohio State, a team Allen called the gold standard and that has won the conference in four consecutive seasons.
After losing to the No. 3 Buckeyes 45-38 in Columbus, Ohio, last season, the Hoosiers are confident in their ability to change that result in 2021.
“It just lets this football team know that we’re right there, that we can compete with anybody,” senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle said. “I think this football team understands that now.”
While ending the 54-year-long conference championship drought is within reach for the Hoosiers entering Allen’s fifth season as head coach, the team still has work to do in order to achieve that goal.
“The vision is very clear, that is the goal,” Allen said. “To come back to this facility and play for a Big Ten championship on Dec. 4. That is the goal, and then you start working back from there on how you get to that goal. To me, that is the vision, and the mindset you have to have is that you are going to affect that opportunity by what we do every single day.”