Entering the 2012 Division 1-A college football season, Indiana football has virtually no expectations. After going an abysmal 1-11 last fall, which featured nine straight losses to end the season, three different starting quarterbacks, standout wide receiver Damarlo Belcher’s release from the team, and, to add insult to injury, Wilson’s prized recruit, Gunner Kiel, retracted from his letter of intent and opted to enroll at Notre Dame. Kevin Wilson’s inaugural year as Indiana’s football coach could not have gone worse.
Both the men’s football and basketball programs began their 2011 campaigns with similar prospects. The football team had let go of former Head Coach Bill Lynch and hired Kevin Wilson, the quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, where, under his tutelage, Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy. Indiana’s football team had also recaptured the Old Oaken Bucket, defeating its archrival Purdue in the last game of the 2010 season.
The men’s basketball team, though, which like the football team was excited for their upcoming season, burdened the pressures of yet another losing season. Tom Crean, however, found the programs savior in Cody Zeller, and the Hoosiers wound up advancing to the sweet sixteen in this past year’s NCAA Tournament. Under duress, the Indiana basketball program delivered.
Now, after starting in the same position, the basketball team is looking to lap the football team in successes. Zeller and the Hoosiers have already been labeled as a national title contender for next year, with a preseason number one ranking likely. The gridiron Hoosiers, however, by popular consensus, will once again finish in the basement of the Big Ten (and the Leaders Division).
This is not good for Kevin Wilson. He needs some expectations, anything, to help turn his program around. Sure, the football team might surprise us this season…by actually defeating Division 1-A program. Last year’s catastrophic season did not set Indiana football back a year or so, it will set them back several if they don’t straighten the path.
Fortunately, the Hoosiers’ men’s basketball team has set the precedent for Wilson and his coaching staff. Four years ago, following the black mark Kelvin Sampson left on the program, Tom Crean and the Hoosiers went 6-25 during his first year as Head Coach, while Tom Pritchard was the team’s leading scorer and the team managed only one conference win. It took Crean and the Hoosiers two more years before they made the NCAA Tournament, and without the addition of Cody Zeller, Indiana basketball may still be dwindling and Tom Crean may be looking for a job right now.
For the football team, what’s said is done. Last season has no bearing on the upcoming year. For Kevin Wilson, the rebuilding process of Indiana football won’t be easy. First off, they need to establish a plan of action and then build off of that plan. They need to find the right players for their system as well as role players. They also need to start winning some games to spark some hope and eagerness in its fan base. And finally, they need to find their Cody Zeller. Maybe Gunner Kiel was that player, or maybe he wasn’t. We’ll never know. What we do know is that Indiana football has a long way to go, yet Wilson’s predecessors, namely the late Terry Hoepner, proved that it could be done. Hopefully Kevin Wilson likes to work in peace and quiet, as there will be plenty of it with an entire state’s attention focused across the street on the happenings inside of Assembly Hall.