Well, we all knew it was coming. IU fired head football coach Bill Lynch a day after IU defeated Purdue in West Lafayette for the first time since Bill Mallory's last game in 1996. (I was at the 1996 game, by the way, and was knocked over by a Purdue linebacker while storming the field. God, I miss college.)
Lynch is a great guy, a class act, and had one of IU's best recruiting classes in recent memory coming in next year, but unfortunately, his teams had too many near misses (and one too many games in which the Hoosiers gave up 83 points) to survive. Three Big Ten wins in three seasons just doesn't cut it. For Arkansas State's sake, with how easy our non-conference schedule was this year, we set it up so we only needed to win two Big Ten games to be bowl-eligible, and we couldn't even do that. Our near misses in the last two seasons were too much to take (and were the difference between bowl games and losing seasons). Three losses by 7 points or less this season (including a dropped TD catch against Iowa that would have given us six wins). Three losses by 3 points or less in 2009 (and another loss where we were up by 10 on Iowa in the 4th quarter). It's great to be competitive and within a stone's throw of bowl games, but that's not enough. I think I speak for every IU fan when I say that moral victories suck.
The fact of the matter is that no coach has had a winning record at IU since Bo McMillin, who left the Hoosiers after the 1947 season. He is also the only head coach in IU history to have a .500 record or better in Big Ten play. After going to 6 bowls in 8 years under Bill Mallory, the Hoosiers have only been to 1 bowl since 1993 -- their 2007 Insight Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. The Hoosiers' last .500 Big Ten record was a 4-4 effort in 2001 (Antwaan Randle El's senior season), and they have not had a winning Big Ten record since going 5-3 in 1993. Since the Big Ten moved to an 8-game conference slate, IU has won 6 conference games exactly once (1987).
It sounds like IU AD Fred Glass is willing to pay -- gasp -- Big Ten market rates for the next head coach, and that should be music to every IU football fan's ears. We need either a big name or someone with good big-time college football coaching experience. Of course, it doesn't hurt that IU recently updated its stadium and football facilities, which is always helpful in recruiting (both a head coach and players). There is no reason why IU can't be competitive in football. Fifteen to twenty years ago, Wisconsin and Northwestern were perennial bottom dwellers in the Big Ten. Before 1993, Wisconsin had gone to 6 bowls; since then, they've been to 15. Before 1995, Northwestern had gone to 1 bowl; since then, they've been to 7. Each of those programs found the right man for the job, who turned things around. IU needs to find its Barry Alvarez or Gary Barnett.
Here are some names that have been thrown around and some other names I would like to see considered. As you can see, I have a strong preference for someone with previous head coaching experience. Everything's in alphabetical order.
My Top Five
Tommy Bowden (former Clemson and Tulane head coach). Bowden is, of course, the son of former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, and he would bring instant name recognition. A three-time conference coach of the year winner, Bowden never had a losing season in his two years at Tulane and 9+ years at Clemson, compiling a 90-49 overall record and going to 9 bowls (4-5 record). If he's interested (which is a big "if"), I see no reason why not to pursue Bowden.
Paul Chryst (Wisconsin offensive coordinator). Jesus Chryst! Merchandising alone might be a reason to hire the man. Chryst is a Wisconsin alum, working at his alma mater, so I don't know if he would make an in-conference move. That said, he has been Wisconsin's offensive coordinator the past five seasons, and was Oregon State's offensive coordinator before then. This year, the Badgers lead the Big Ten in points per game (and are 4th nationally), are 2nd in the Big Ten (18th nationally) in total offense, are 2nd in the Big Ten (12th nationally) in rushing yards per game, and dropped 70+ points on two Big Ten teams (including IU).
Randy Edsall (Connecticut head coach). In 1999, when Edsall took over the reins, UConn was a D-1AA school. Since then, Edsall has guided the Huskies into D-1A. He has an overall record of 73-69 (and is the school's all-time winningest coach) and, since joining the Big East in 2004, UConn has gone to four bowls (with a 3-1 record). Now, with a victory over South Florida on Saturday, UConn will clinch the Big East title and earn an automatic BCS bowl berth.
Phillip Fulmer (former Tennessee head coach). Fulmer coached the Vols for 16+ seasons, leading Tennessee to the 1998 BCS championship, a 152-52 overall record, and 15 bowl games (8-7 record). Despite having only two losing seasons during his tenure in Knoxville (which were the only two full seasons where his team won fewer than 8 games), Fulmer was fired at the end of the 2008 season, in which his team went 5-7. He has openly admitted that he wants to get back into coaching, although he has said, "I'm not going to go walk into a door somewhere that you have no chance to be successful." Depending on Fulmer's definition of "no chance" and "successful," I think IU would be a perfect fit.
Paul Pasqualoni (current Dallas Cowboys assistant; former Syracuse head coach). Pasqualoni was extremely successful at Syracuse, compiling a 107-59-1 record (and a 6-3 bowl record) in 14 seasons as head coach (with only one losing season) before being fired after the 2004 season (in which Syracuse went to a bowl). He is 61, which means he has a limited shelf life, but also that he has nothing to lose by coming to IU.
Coaches who should be pursued if the Top Five are Unavailable
Troy Calhoun (Air Force head coach). Calhoun has a great record at Air Force (33-18 over four seasons, three bowl games and another one likely on the way), and has experience as an NFL offensive coordinator (with the Houston Texans). He is an Air Force Academy alum, so I'm not sure if he would be willing to leave his alma mater.
Al Golden (Temple head coach). Yes, Temple has a football team. Long one of the laughing stocks of D-1A, Golden has led the Owls' resurgence. After a successful stint as the defensive coordinator at Virginia, Golden was named Temple's head coach in 2005 at the age of 36. The Owls were 1-11 in Golden's first season, but have steadily improved. They joined the MAC in 2006, and tied for the MAC East Division title last season, finishing with a 9-4 record and the school's first bowl game since 1979 (a 30-21 loss to UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl). This year, the Owls are 8-4 and poised to go to their second bowl game in a row for the first time ever. To put this in perspective, before Golden, Temple had been to 2 bowls ever. The bottom line is that Golden can clearly resurrect a program.
Michael Haywood (Miami (OH) head coach). Three of IU's most beloved (and successful) coaches, John Pont, Bill Mallory, and Terry Hoeppner, all cut their teeth at the Cradle of Coaches before coming to IU. That's a pretty good track record. In addition, Haywood has big-program experience, having been Notre Dame's offensive coordinator under Charlie Weis, as well as a running backs coach at Texas and LSU. After a 1-11 season last year (Haywood's first), the Redhawks are currently 8-4 and playing in the MAC Championship Game this Friday against Northern Illinois.
Kevin Sumlin (Houston coach). Sumlin is from Indianapolis and played at Purdue (unfortunately). In three years as Houston's head coach, he is 23-16 and has gone to two bowls (1-1 record). Before that, he was Oklahoma's offensive coordinator. His 5-7 record this year is somewhat of a concern, since the Hoosiers were also 5-7 this year.
Coaches whose names have been mentioned who I am lukewarm about
Steve Addazio (Florida offensive coordinator). While Addazio does have IU connections (he was an assistant under Gerry DiNardo), I'm not terribly impressed with his offensive play calling. Hoosier fans may remember our 2004 game against Penn State, in which we had 1st and Goal from the 1 yard line with about a minute left. We ran the exact same running play three times, which Penn State stuffed every time, and then finally ran a pass play on 4th down, when Matt LoVecchio overthrew his target, thus preventing us from beating Penn State for the first time ever. At Florida, he is apparently under fire for the Gators' poor post-Tebow offense.
Brian Harsin (Boise State offensive coordinator). Harsin is an interesting possibility. He is young (34), has been an assistant coach at the collegiate level since graduating from Boise State in 2000, and has been Boise State's offensive coordinator for the last five years. Obviously, Boise State has a high-powered offense and has done very well under Harsin. My only concern is that he's not a big enough name and that he wouldn't want to leave his alma mater (and hometown).
Brady Hoke (San Diego State head coach). Hoke is the former Ball State head coach, so he has ties to Indiana. He left Ball State for San Diego State after a 12-1 season in 2008 and a 7-6 record the year before, and he has an 8-4 record this year at SDSU. Outside of those three seasons, however, he has no winning seasons (and an overall losing record).
Glen Mason (former Minnesota head coach). Maybe 13 years ago.
Jim McElwain (Alabama offensive coordinator). McElwain has been Nick Saban's offensive coordinator the past two seasons, after one-season stints as the offensive coordinator at Fresno State and the quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders, respectively. Before that, he was an assistant under John L. Smith at Michigan State. I think he might still be a couple years away from a head coaching position.
Paul Petrino (Illinois offensive coordinator). Petrino is Arkansas head coach Bobby Petrino's younger brother, and was his brother's offensive coordinator at both Arkansas and Louisville (and his wide receivers coach during Bobby's one season as the Atlanta Falcons head coach). Paul is in his first season as Illinois's offensive coordinator. Not to discount anything the Illini have done this year, but it seems like the offense is pretty much a spread option with Nathan Scheelhaase deciding whether to keep it or hand it off to Mikel Lashoure.
Don Treadwell (Michigan State offensive coordinator). Treadwell has been MSU's offensive coordinator for a few years now, before which he was Cincinnati's offensive coordinator. MSU has always had pretty good offenses. I'm just not as impressed with Treadwell as I am with some of the other possibilities.
John Gruden (former Raiders and Buccaneers head coach). He has publicly stated that he's not interested in the Miami (FL) head coaching job. Glaringly, he has not said the same about the IU vacancy.
Jim Harbaugh (Stanford head coach). His sister is married to Tom Crean, and his brother John was once an assistant at IU under Cam Cameron (who is now John Harbaugh's offensive coordinator with the Baltimore Ravens). So what if Jim's built Stanford into a top five team? He is more than welcome to do the same in Bloomington.
Mike Leach (former Texas Tech head coach). Leach is currently unemployed, and his high-powered offense and slightly insane personality would definitely bring some attention to Memorial Stadium. Of course, he is a polarizing figure and was ridden out of Lubbock on a rail after allegedly locking a player with a concussion in a locker room closet. I'm sure the Bob Knight loyalists would appreciate that. I would have liked him a little bit more if he hadn't sued ESPN, seeing as though ESPN is the most powerful name in sports.