BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Tom Allen spent a quarter-century weaving his way up the coaching ranks.
Like his father, he started coaching at the high school level. Unlike his father, he steadily moved up, going from NCAA Division III to the Football Championship Subdivision and eventually to the Football Bowl Subdivision. Now, after that circuitous journey, Allen finally has his dream title: Head coach at Indiana.
Allen got the job in December when Kevin Wilson, the man who hired him in Bloomington, abruptly resigned amid allegations of player mistreatment. And suddenly, the Indiana native was thrust into a whole new role as the Hoosiers prepared for their bowl game.
It wasn’t easy, and it won’t get any easier Thursday when the Hoosiers open the season against No. 2 Ohio State.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Allen talked about the coaching change, his hometown’s reaction and bringing stability to the Hoosiers program:
AP: How important was it to keep some semblance of continuity after Kevin’s resignation?
Allen: “If they had brought somebody new in, it would have been hard. But because I was with them and we had done some special things on defense (last year), half the team already bought in. The offense, they saw it, they saw it and so they understood. But they were hurting and they should have been.”
AP: Did you ever dream about being Indiana’s head coach?
Allen: “You know, yeah. Just being raised in this state and being around the program and in my mind, such a big part of my history with Indiana was with coach (Bill) Mallory. Just the kind of person he was and one of his sons was my exact age, playing high school at the same time. So yeah there was just a lot of, in my mind, a lot of history here. Coach (Terry) Hoeppner was someone I was very fond of and my dad was very close to him. So those two guys really were very strong. When I came here as an assistant, nobody ever thought it would happen the way it did. But yeah the idea of one day being head coach here was for sure a dream opportunity.”
AP: What has been the reaction in your hometown, New Castle?
Allen: “I would say they’re busting at the seams with pride. That would be a pretty accurate description. A lot of the same folks are still there, coaches, teachers. I went back and spoke and saw teachers I hadn’t seen since I graduated and they’re still there. All the way up, every level. My high school wrestling coach still coaches wrestling there. They’re just so, so proud. A lot of small town pride in somebody that’s one of them. That’s kind how it feels, someone to represent them. I feel it, too. I want to represent them. I want to make them proud.”
AP: You’re the seventh head coach here since Bill Mallory’s tenure ended after 1996 season. How critical is it to get some long-term stability?
Allen: “I think if you look at a lot of programs that have had maybe a drought of success or lack thereof, in order to re-establish it or to do it for the first time, it takes the commitment from the administration to stay the course. You all can talk about John Wooden and how long it took. I look at us and Duke, a lot of similarities in the type of school we have and the basketball piece and all that I look and what coach (David) Cutcliffe has done there. It didn’t happen overnight. You stay with it and you believe in the core values within the program and you don’t waiver from those. If you let those values infiltrate your team and your recruiting then you have a team full of guys who match that. And you have several layers of it because it’s class after class after class. But it takes time. So I think continuity is important and I think talking to Fred Glass about even just why they went the direction they did after Kevin was to keep some continuity and build off the positives that he had established because he did a lot of great things here.”