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Sports Business

IU's new football coach will need special vision

December 8, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

To succeed as Indiana University athletics director, you need to have a special kind of vision.

The school’s current athletics director, Fred Glass, knows well that most of the top-shelf football gurus with serious Division I head coaching experience wouldn’t consider coming to Bloomington to lead the Hoosiers.

So Glass had to find himself someone at least a little under the radar. Glass also must have felt he had to pay a hefty sum to show his seriousness about building the program and to throw his unquestioned support behind his new hire.

So Glass agreed to pay Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson three times what he made during his final season with the Sooners.

The $1.2 million annually Wilson will earn for seven long years is the most any IU football coach has ever made. It’s five times higher than Bill Lynch’s base salary. Now that’s commitment.

And once you dig into the contract, I’m sure Wilson will have ample opportunity to make more than $2 million annually through incentives. That could bring Wilson up to par with Indiana basketball coach Tom Crean.

If Wilson can do the unthinkable, and win the Big Ten, he’ll make more than Crean. And it only makes sense, because a thriving college football program has much more opportunity to generate revenue than does a school’s men’s basketball team.

But to take the Hoosier to the mountain top, Wilson’s vision will have to be at least as good as most IU supporters are hoping Glass’ is.

Here’s why. Wilson has the same problem as Glass. He won’t be able to compete with Ohio State, Penn State or Michigan for top football talent, just the same way Glass can’t compete with those schools for top football coaching talent. Wilson won’t have the luxury he had at Oklahoma, where high school all-Americans regularly flow into Norman.

So Wilson will have to have a special kind of vision to identify diamonds in the rough and other players overlooked by the bigs. He’ll have to take their special talents and mold them into a team that’s at least competitive with the guys he simply can’t talk into coming to IU. Just the same way Glass had to recruit a guy who he hopes can match wits on the gridiron with all the guys who he couldn’t afford or would simply never consider coaching football at a program like IU.

If Glass has found a man in Wilson who can do that, and Wilson actually pulls it off, then no one will cry about the $8.4 million IU pays him over the next seven years. Nor will they complain about the $5 million to $8 million in incentives Indiana shells out to Wilson.

And the buyout clause in Wilson’s contract—as well as his loyalty to the Cream and Crimson—will get as stern a test as anything his football team faces on the field.

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