BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Indiana coach Kevin Wilson abruptly resigned Thursday, less than a week after the Hoosiers became bowl-eligible for the second straight season.
Athletic director Fred Glass made the announcement during a hastily arranged news conference and cited “philosophical differences” with Wilson. There were reports that Wilson had pushed players to return from injury and Glass said the issue was looked into by a law firm hired by the university.
“I understand there's been a lot of back-and-forth about former players and those sorts of things,” he said. “I'll just tell you we have no outstanding claims of medical cases.”
“I know this issue about medical has come out, and the reason I can speak so confidently that we don't have any medical issues and that our medical care has been so robust is that the outside group found that to be the case,” he added.
Glass also said no potential NCAA violations were involved. He said he and Wilson met early Thursday and continued a discussion they'd been having “for a few weeks,” with both concluding a change was needed.
“There is no smoking gun or single precipitating event that led to where we are today,” Glass said. “I think it's really a realization by myself and Kevin that we're not on the same page with key ways in which the program needs to be led.”
Defensive coordinator Tom Allen was promoted to take Wilson's job, effective immediately. That at least avoids a coaching search even as Indiana (6-6, 4-5 Big Ten) waits to find out which bowl game it will play in, but there was little doubt the resignation was unexpected.
“It's hard to believe,” Allen said. “This day has been an absolute whirlwind. Unbelievable.”
Wilson went 26-47 in six seasons in his first college head coaching job. His agent did not return messages left seeking comment.
He was the longest-tenured coach since Bill Mallory, the school's career leader in wins, departed after the 1996 season. Wilson's teams had shown steady improvement and earned their first back-to-back bowl bids last weekend when the Hoosiers defeated rival Purdue for a school-record tying fourth consecutive year.
In January, Wilson agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $15.3 million after leading the Hoosiers to their first bowl appearance since 2007. This year, Indiana earned its first back-to-back bowl trips since 1990 and 1991. And with many key offensive players and the heart of an improved defense all expected to return in 2017, the future looked bright.
After Saturday's 26-24 victory over Purdue, backup quarterback Zander Diamont told reporters he was not going to return for his final season of eligibility because he would graduate over the summer and had a history of concussions. He did not say anything about Wilson asking him to play through the injuries.
Wilson acknowledged he was surprised by Diamont's decision and said he had double-checked with Diamont to see if that's really what he wanted to do.
Wilson was an offensive assistant at Oklahoma from 2002-10, working with Bob Stoops to create some of the most explosive offenses in college football. He and the Sooners went to 10 consecutive bowls, including three national championship games, and the 2008 offense under his guidance set NCAA records by scoring at least 60 points in five straight games and 716 total points in all.
He was considered a red-hot hire, brought in to replace Bill Lynch, and he didn't disappoint. Hs aggressive, wide-open offense injected excitement into a floundering program that was losing fans.
Over his first three seasons, things did not go smoothly. But by Wilson's fourth season, there were signs of progress and he backed it up with back-to-back 6-6 seasons that included being consistently competitive against the likes of Ohio State and Michigan.
Player mistreatment allegations have cropped up elsewhere in recent years.
Illinois fired coach Tim Beckman a week before the 2015 season following allegations that he mistreated players, interfered in player medical decisions and pressured players to play hurt. A law firm hired by the school to investigate those charges said it found evidence of both interference in medical decisions and pressure on players to play through injuries. Beckman denied any wrongdoing and was paid $250,000 as part of a legal settlement with the university.
The athletic director who hired Beckman, Mike Thomas, was fired several months later. The university said Thomas had done nothing wrong but his departure followed the football investigation and an investigation of alleged mistreatment of women's basketball players that found no wrongdoing. Those accusations led to a separate settlement with a number of former players.