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Indiana in the Buff with Mr. Komodo: My Coaching Christmas List

I’m back and capitalizing on all the Jon Gruden clicks.

The block I, how I miss you.

Thanksgiving is over, so it’s finally time according to local laws and regulations to put up Christmas decorations. The Komodo family put up our trees last night. They look like. The lovely wife Komodo did a good job while the smaller komodos were less than helpful. It was fun.

As you may have seen, the Indiana Hoosiers are also on a search for a new football coach. I’ve listened to hours and hours of podcasts on the Indiana football coaching decision and where the program goes next. I’ve seen different lists from different people. Some names I like, others I (and a fair amount of Indiana sources) do not.

In the spirit of the upcoming holidays and the desire to capitalize on Jon Gruden clickbait, I’d like to share with you a compilation of some of the best HC candidates that appear to be legit options, as well as some who I’ve seen floated that Indiana should stay away from.

Type of Candidates

From Osterman, CrimsonCast, and the Hoosier Huddle podcast, it appears that Indiana does have a type of coach in mind. They are looking for someone with significant P5 experience and someone who can build a program. Reading between the lines, it appears they want someone who has had big time job experience and can go to donors with demands and comparisons to how other schools are ran. Failing that, the coach should have an extensive resume and history of success at multiple levels of football.

For the record, that’s how I interpret all the insider pods and articles. I could be 100% wrong.

Now, onto the lists.

*DISCLAIMER – This list is 100% my list of preferred candidates and is in no way sourced by insiders or anything. I’m not a journalist and don’t claim to be.

Top of the Crop

1a - Dan Mullen - ESPN and ABC Analyst and Commentator

Former Florida Gator and Mississippi Stat Bulldog Head Coach

103-61 Head Coaching Record

In my opinion, Dan Mullen is the go to guy here. Mullen has a 10+ year P5 head coaching resume including building the Mississippi State program into a respectable place in the SEC. He also was the head coach for the Florida Gators and can tell any Indiana booster within earshot that simply giving to the donor fund won’t get Indiana football where it needs to go. He’s the guy who can stand in front of boosters, give a list of demands and examples of what winning SEC schools have, and have credibility behind those demands. I thought I heard on one of the podcasts that Mullen was passively interested in the Indiana job last year, but I have listened and read so much over the past day I could be making that up. Anyway, he’s the top of the crop for me. The other thing of note...literally everyone with any ties to Indiana has mentioned him either offhand or as a potential candidate. That’s not nothing.

1b - Willie Fritz - Tulane HC

Former Georgia Southern, Sam Houston State, & Central Missouri Head Coach

208-115 Head Coaching Record

Southern Lance Leipold. Willie Fritz is certainly 1b to Mullen’s 1a. Fritz has extensive head coaching experience and has had success everywhere he’s been. While the offensive style is unique, Fritz is a program builder and has had success at every single spot he’s been to. In a 27 year head coaching career, he’s had just 5 losing seasons. That’s impressive. Currently, he’s got Tulane 11-1 and going after the AAC conference title. The key thing here is that Fritz has a 27 year head coaching record. That speaks for itself.

3 - Tom Herman - FAU Head Coach

Former Texas Longhorns & Houston Cougars Head Coach, Ohio State Buckeyes OC

58-30 Head Coaching Record

Look, while not the sexy hire he once was, Tom Herman I think would be a fantastic option 2. Similarly to Dan Mullen, he can walk into the boosters, say “this is what Texas does,” and have credibility in that statement. He wasn’t even fired for being bad at Texas. He was fired for not being good enough. I get that FAU didn’t have a good year this year, but it was his first year. I think it’d be a good hire for IU to get him.

4 - Paul Chryst - Texas Offensive Analyst

Former Pittsburgh & Wisconsin Head Coach

67-26 Head Coaching Record

I get that the Wisconsin fans might chuckle at this one, but Paul Chryst isn’t a bad hire. He’s certainly a boring hire and a debate can be had if he can still hack it in the modern era of college football, but he’s got P5 experience at multiple stops, and the only losing record he had was his last year at Wisconsin when he got whacked early in the year. I consider this a safe hire, and let’s face it, he’s more than available right now. He’s also another guy that can say, “at Wisconsin they do this” and have it resonate with boosters.

Close and Reliable Other Options

While not my personal cup of tea, these two guys are hires that I’d be okay with.

5 – Chris Creighton - Eastern Michigan Head Coach

Former Drake, Wabash, and Ottawa Head Coach

191 – 113 Head Coaching Record

The more I think about it, the more I want to move Chris Creighton up above Chryst. Creighton has an extensive coaching record like Willie Fritz, however he just doesn’t have the pop that Fritz does. He’s had long term success at building and recycling at the D1 FBS level so I don’t think it’d be a scary hire. However, being at EMU I just don’t think that’s got the pop Indiana wants to make.

6 - Jason Candle - Toledo Head Coach

65-33 Head Coaching Record

Certainly a hot commodity, Toledo head coach Jason Candle would be a splash hire. However, my pause about him is that he’s only be the head coach at Toledo and his only other stop was at Mount Union. Bad hire? No. But certainly he’s down on the list for me.

Stay Away From

Here is a list of coaches that I’d prefer if Indiana stayed away from. I think you can hit gold with anyone in the top lists, but these coaches give me vibes I’d prefer not to have. It’s not a knock on these coaches as much as it is a knock on the current situation of Indiana football.

Kane Wommack - South Alabama Head Coach

Young, upcoming, and has head coaching experience, it’s not quite the experience you’d look for after paying the last guy 15 million to leave. IU fans love him from his time in Bloomington, but I just don’t think he’s the guy you want to burden with the realities of a P5 job like Indiana. I wouldn’t hate it, but I’d prefer if Indiana would stay away from him for the time being.

Sean Lewis - Colorado Offensive Coordinator

Sean Lewis is on the hot boards for some reason. That reason is probably Coach Prime. However, he was just relieved of his playcalling duties as OC at a bad Colorado school and has a sub .500 record from his time at Kent State. He’s only got 1 year of experience at a P5 School. I just don’t think he’s the guy and I’d be kind of concerned if he’s who they pick.

Justin Frye - Ohio State Offensive Line/Associate Head Coach

The only reason he’s on these boards is because he’s an Indiana alum. He’s never been a head coach. He’s never been a major coordinator. I don’t know why he’s getting so much attention. Maybe he’ll pan out somewhere eventually, but not at Indiana and not right now.

Antwaan Randle El - Detroit Lions WR Coach

Ugh. I hate that I have to do this. However, do NOT hire Antwaan Randle El as the head coach please. He’s got 5 total years of coaching experience, all at the NFL level. Indiana falls into this trap of “well he’s an Indiana guy so he can do this” all the time. No. The problem with Indiana football is historical, so there’s no one worse to lead Indiana than a former player. Also…experience. Maybe one day Antwaan can fulfill a Calbert Cheaney type role, but not today.

Jake Dickert - Washington State Head Coach

Jake Dickert is 15-16 as a head coach. No. Just…don’t do that to me.

Don’t You Fucking Dare

  • Jerry Kill
  • Jon Gruden
  • Pat Fitzgerald
  • Matt Canada

This list is pretty explanatory. These 4 guys should have their pictures on a paper behind the entrance of Memorial Stadium that says “DO NOT ALLOW ENTRY.” Starting with Jerry Kill, like, GTFOH. Gross. No.

Apparently Jon Gruden’s agent is trying to get him hired too. It’s appeared on EVERY major news station that he’s a candidate, to which the reaction from Indiana world has been emphatically no. Anyone with any close ties to Indiana athletics has gone out of their way to say he’s not being considered.

Pat Fitzgerald is another one that was thrown out initially that seems to have disappeared into the bowels of the carousel. Skipping over his current litigation with his former employer, I don’t want Pat Fitzgerald as my head coach. The football sucks too much and even when they win it’s not fun to watch. He also has only coached at Northwestern for the last 20 years, so…like…no. Indiana isn’t Northwestern in many ways. That success doesn’t replicate like that. No.

And, before people float it, fuck Matt Canada. I know he’s an IU alum, and he hasn’t been on any boards yet, but before it happens, let’s just nip it right here. Matt Canada is the embodiment of “Failing Forwards” and should not be allowed anywhere near the Hoosier football program.

Before We End, Here’s The Thing About Resources

As several readers and myself have noted over time, the lack of resources diverted to football in the past has been…lackluster. You’d be forgiven for assuming that will always be the case as well. However, I’d like to note that the attitude towards Indiana football has changed pretty considerably in the last 15 years and has changed radically in the last 3-4.

Here are some data points:

  • Between 2007 and 2019, Indiana spent around $108 million to enclose the north (2007) and south endzones (2017)
  • In 2019, Indiana MASSIVELY renovated their locker room in Memorial Stadium. I can’t find a number on it.
  • Indiana gave Tom Allen a contract extension in 2020 that at the time could have been up to $5.5 million per year. At the time, it was a middle to upper middle ranged salary in the B1G.
  • Indiana gave Rod Carey an OC contract that could have made him earn 1.1 million which would have been a top OC earner in the B1G despite knowing that Tom Allen might get fired.
  • Scott Dolson has acknowledged that the next renovations needed are the East and West sides of the stadium and Mellencamp Pavilion and that there are plans to do so.
  • Indiana just attempted to pay the former coach the third largest contract buyout in college football history. It may still be the third largest at $15.5 million.
  • In 2012, the Indiana operating expense was around $15 million. In 2022, that number was over $31 million. It will be larger in 2023 and even larger in 2024.

All this to say, if Indiana wanted to continue being a run of the mill doormat in football, they wouldn’t be doing all of this. They aren’t going to pay that money to buy out Tom Allen only to pinch pennies when hiring their new staff. No coach they’d want to get would allow Indiana to deny them their preferred hires because of a couple hundred thousand dollars. The game is changing and Indiana is trying to learn how and it does show when you lay it all out.

Don’t get it twisted. The historical support for the program has been poor, but it is changing for the positive.