Indiana University has named defensive coordinator Tom Allen—a former coach at Ben Davis High School—as its new football coach, replacing Kevin Wilson, who the school said resigned on Thursday.
IU Athletics Director Fred Glass said he accepted Wilson’s resignation—effective immediately—even as the team prepares for its second consecutive bowl game and just last Saturday won the Old Oaken Bucket, the fourth consecutive victory in its traditional rivalry with Purdue University. Several reports said Wilson was fired.
During a hastily arranged news conference, Glass cited "philosophical differences" with Wilson. There were reports that Wilson had pushed players to return from injury and Glass said the issue was looked into by a law firm hired by the university.
"I understand there's been a lot of back-and-forth about former players and those sorts of things," Glass said. "I'll just tell you we have no outstanding claims of medical cases."
"I know this issue about medical has come out, and the reason I can speak so confidently that we don't have any medical issues and that our medical care has been so robust is that the outside group found that to be the case," he added.
Glass also said no potential NCAA violations were involved. He said he and Wilson met early Thursday and continued a discussion they'd been having "for a few weeks," with both concluding a change was needed.
"There is no smoking gun or single precipitating event that led to where we are today," Glass said. "I think it's really a realization by myself and Kevin that we're not on the same page with key ways in which the program needs to be led."
IU's decision to hire Allen immediately avoids a coaching search even as Indiana (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) waits to find out which bowl game it will play in, but there was little doubt the resignation was unexpected.
"It's hard to believe," Allen said. "This day has been an absolute whirlwind. Unbelievable."
Allen, a New Castle native, joined the IU football staff as associate head coach in January 2016 and made an immediate impact on the quality of the team’s defense. He’s a former head coach and defensive coordinator at Ben Davis and had assistant coaching positions at Mississippi and South Florida universities.
Glass said in a statement that once he turned his attention to finding a new coach, he “quickly concluded that person was in our midst in Tom Allen.”
“He is a leader of men,” Glass said. “He is demanding without being demeaning. He is a proven, successful coach on a national scale with deep Indiana ties. He cares about his players, and they care back.”
Since Allen’s arrival at IU, the team’s defense improved in every major statistical category against a schedule featuring four top 10 opponents. IU is holding its opponents to 372.6 total yards, an improvement of 136.9 yards over 2015.
Allen's contract is still being finalized and will be released once it is complete, officials said.
Wilson went 26-47 in six seasons in his first college head coaching job. His agent did not return messages left seeking comment.
He was the longest-tenured coach since Bill Mallory, the school's career leader in wins, departed after the 1996 season. Wilson's teams had shown steady improvement and earned their first back-to-back bowl bids last weekend when the Hoosiers defeated rival Purdue for a school-record tying fourth consecutive year.
In January, Wilson agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $15.3 million after leading the Hoosiers to their first bowl appearance since 2007.
But a former Hoosiers player told ESPN that he and at least five current IU players were interviewed about Wilson's treatment of players in meetings with athletic department officials and university lawyers during the past two weeks.
Indiana's Board of Trustees met in Bloomington on Thursday, ESPN reported, and their meeting included a two-and-a-half hour executive session, according to an agenda on the university's website. Public bodies can use executive sessions to discuss employment matters privately.
Former IU football player Laray Smith told the Indiana Daily Student that Wilson pressured players to play through injuries in his time at IU from 2013-2015.
Smith said he had an injury to his back during his freshman year. The team told him it was just a bruise, but doctors told Smith he had a blood clot. Wilson still pressured Smith to play.
"Once you were hurt, he didn't care about you." Smith said about Wilson.
After Saturday's 26-24 victory over Purdue, backup quarterback Zander Diamont told reporters he was not going to return for his final season of eligibility because he would graduate over the summer and had a history of concussions. He did not say anything about Wilson asking him to play through the injuries.
Wilson acknowledged he was surprised by Diamont's decision and said he had double-checked with Diamont to see if that's really what he wanted to do.
Wilson was an offensive assistant at Oklahoma from 2002-10, working with Bob Stoops to create some of the most explosive offenses in college football. He and the Sooners went to 10 consecutive bowls, including three national championship games, and the 2008 offense under his guidance set NCAA records by scoring at least 60 points in five straight games and 716 total points in all.
He was considered a red-hot hire, brought in to replace Bill Lynch, and he didn't disappoint. His aggressive, wide-open offense injected excitement into a floundering program that was losing fans.
Over his first three seasons, things did not go smoothly. But by Wilson's fourth season, there were signs of progress and he backed it up with back-to-back 6-6 seasons that included being consistently competitive against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan.