No. 8 Hoosiers maintain focus as profile of team, coach grow

Indiana coach Tom Allen makes his philosophy clear every day.

He recruits hard, prioritizes personal relationships, demands focus and accountability inside the locker room, and shares the credit. Here, the quest for moral victories is replaced by hard work, toughness, an unwavering standard of excellence and achievements on and off the field.

They are principles most athletic directors seek from their coaches, especially those with winning track records. And right now, with the eighth-ranked Hoosiers having their best season in decades, everybody seems to want to jump on board and sing Allen’s praises.

“You recruits, come play for this man, best coach in America,” offensive lineman Dylan Powell said softly Saturday, briefly interrupting Allen’s on-field interview after a 14-6 victory at Wisconsin.

“Best coach in the nation right here, let’s go!” running back Stevie Scott III shouted.

The touching clip of one Indiana player after another stopping to hug Allen, jump on him or laud him for what he’s achieved in four full seasons as a college head coach made the rounds on highlight shows all weekend.

It also started a conversation about what could be next for Allen — national coach of the year, a higher-profile job?

Allen, of course, prefers the debate to stop there because he still has unfinished business.

Next week, the Hoosiers (6-1) could be playing for their first Big Ten championship since 1967 — if the Michigan-Ohio State game is canceled — and Indiana is still chasing its first bowl win since 1991.

The more immediate task is beating Purdue to retain the Old Oaken Bucket.

“I’ve seen the game a lot, always watched it,” Allen said Monday. “Sometimes you’ve got high school teammates playing against each other. You’ve got families divided. It’s personal, you know, because there’s a whole year of bragging rights and it can change your whole season. So it’s a big game for both teams and it means a lot to the fan bases. It’s huge. It means a whole bunch to me.”

The 50-year-old Allen understands the significance because he grew up in Indiana, playing football for his father at New Castle High School near the Ohio state line. The same school produced two other well-known Hoosiers — national championship-winning basketball stars Kent Benson and Steve Alford.

Allen, like his father, coached high school football in Indiana and took his first college coaching job at Division III Wabash College, an all-men’s school located 50 miles northwest of Indianapolis.

So when he was offered the defensive coordinator’s job at Indiana in 2016, he jumped at the opportunity. By the end of his first season, athletic director Fred Glass made a coaching change, promoting Allen in part because of the bond Allen had with his players.

“He’s authentic, I’d say that’s his greatest quality,″ Glass said recently. “He’s the same guy on the sideline as he is when he’s talking to the coaches, when he’s talking to the kids and the kids respond to that.”

This season’s achievements prove it.

Indiana beat Michigan and Penn State in the same season for the first time, snapping a 24-game skid against the Wolverines. They’ve tied one single-season school record with three wins over ranked teams and another with seven consecutive weeks in the Top 25.

Some believe Allen could soon be on the short list of more prominent programs. Rumors about possible openings at schools such as Michigan and Southern California, Tennessee and Texas abound.

It’s not clear Allen would even be interested.

Last December, he signed a seven-year contract extension that more than doubled his average annual salary to $3.9 million. The deal included more money for his assistants and a provision that adds one year to the deal for each bowl appearance the Hoosiers make.

Allen insists coaching has never been about the money. He’s gotten emotional when talking about the relationships he’s developed over the years and choked back tears recently while explaining the sacrifices his wife and children endured for his career.

“We wanted our children to get a great education and be a part of a good community each time we moved and find a good church and help them to continue to develop,” Allen said. “That was really the focus and I was concerned about that. And, obviously, pay for all of the debt we created over the years of buying and selling homes that we lost money on, which is what you do when you live there for eight months.”

So far, Allen has been a perfect fit for Bloomington.

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More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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