Indiana athletic director Fred Glass hasn’t said that football coach Kevin Wilson will return for a sixth season, but after securing bowl eligibility in West Lafayette this afternoon, it’s a certainty.
At the time I am writing this, no firm invitation has been issued by a bowl to Indiana, but that is a certainty as well. Those paid to analyze such things project the Hoosiers as a great candidate for Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium or another bowl in Santa Clara sponsored by a company with which I am not familiar. There is a possibility that IU could go to Detroit for a bowl there (please, God, no – not Detroit).
Wilson will return because the narrative of improvement can be made with a straight face after Indiana finished the regular season 6-6. In fact, the narrative doesn’t even need to be advanced by Indiana’s athletic staff. Going to a bowl is an obvious sign of growth even to passive fans, despite an 0-6 start to the conference season.
The only question is whether Wilson’s contract should be extended based upon Indiana earning its first trip to a bowl in nearly a decade (second in 20 years, but no need to mention that). This is year five of a seven-year deal, and with two years left it might make sense to come to a decision on retaining Wilson beyond that window.
After going 1-11 in his first season, Wilson’s Hoosiers have won 19 games in the last four seasons with another game to play. Eight of those wins have come in Big Ten play. It isn’t exactly championship level football, but there is reason for optimism.
Today’s win against Purdue bring the Hoosiers a third straight I link in the Old Oaken Bucket chain for the first time since 1947. They have won consecutive Big Ten road games for the first time since 1993, and have won three road games against Power Five Conference teams for the first time since 1986.
Assuming he’s retained, Wilson with be the first Indiana coach to survive for a sixth season since Bill Mallory (1984-1996), and showing patience despite Wilson’s overall record of 24-40 and 8-32 mark in the Big Ten shows just how far Indiana has needed to come to reach mediocrity.
Indiana’s history is so besotted with losses, not only is it the all-time losingest program among 126 FBS programs, it ranks 15th in winning percentage among Big Ten teams – of which there are only 14! (The University of Chicago is the extra team. They were members of the Big Ten until leaving the conference after 1946.
Whether Kevin Wilson is the answer for Indiana depends upon the question being asked. He’s a good enough coach to have won the six required games to qualify for a bowl. For those who want Indiana to be mentioned among Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin the the elite programs in the Big Ten, Wilson beating the two worst teams in the Big Ten to hit the magic number for bowl eligibility is a baby step on a long trip.
[This has nothing to do with Wilson or the success of the Hoosiers in 2015, but it is my fervent hope that Indiana plays a bowl game anywhere but Detroit. I would like to enjoy this bowl game in person and I will not travel to Detroit for any reason. I wandered the streets of downtown Detroit on a Saturday night in 2012 in a fruitless search for a sports bar. There was one, but it was hosting a private party. As a matter of principle, I will not spend time in a city without a sports bar.]