Indiana fires Lynch after four seasons
After a promising start, Bill Lynch's tenure as Indiana coach ended with the Hoosiers in their familiar spot at the bottom of the Big Ten.
Lynch was fired Sunday with one year left on his contract, a day after Indiana reclaimed the Old Oaken Bucket from Purdue to earn their only conference victory in a third straight losing season.
"My view was that, given the circumstances of the last three seasons, that extending the contract was not a viable option," athletic director Fred Glass said. "It would send the wrong signal of what merited an extension at Indiana University."
Players insisted that Lynch wasn't the problem.
After Saturday's 34-31 overtime victory at Purdue, Indiana's first win in West Lafayette since 1996, senior quarterback Ben Chappell acknowledged Lynch took most of the blame for the failures of the players.
But that wasn't what Glass had to consider.
He saw Lynch's 19-30 record over the past four seasons, three conference wins in three years, the failure to reach another bowl game after his first season and the likelihood that other coaches would use Lynch's uncertain future against him in recruiting over the next year. That gave Glass three options: Extend Lynch's contract, let him fulfill the final year of the deal or start over.
Glass opted for Plan C despite being one of Lynch's most public supporters.
When the Indianapolis attorney took over as athletic director in January 2009, he said Indiana needed to make a stronger commitment to honoring contracts. In August, Glass again offered support to Lynch when he told reporters at the Big Ten meetings that Lynch had the program moving in the right direction.
Three months later, he reversed course.
"My experience is that a lot of things, the right thing to do is often times the hardest thing to do," Glass said. "Unfortunately, this is one of those times."
The constant speculation about Lynch's future with the program — and the struggles this season — had Glass staying relatively quiet in recent weeks.
Lynch took over as interim coach in 2007 after coach Terry Hoeppner died from complications of a brain tumor and led the Hoosiers to their first bowl bid since 1993. This was supposed to be his best season since then.
During an interview last summer, Lynch looked and sounded like a confident man, explaining that "I've done this a long time, and when you do it long enough, you know the difference between a good football team and one that has holes."
Instead, the big expectations fell flat again.
While Indiana won all four of its nonconference games, it lost the first seven Big Ten games and four of those by double digits. Until Saturday's overtime win at Purdue, the Hoosiers had lost 12 straight conference games and 15 straight league games away from their home field.
Any lingering hopes Lynch had of keeping the job, however, evaporated during a two-week span this month when the Hoosiers were blown out 83-20 at Wisconsin and then lost 41-24 against Penn State. The second loss eliminated them from bowl contention for the third straight year.
Glass said the loss to Wisconsin accelerated the evaluation.
Players thought they might save Lynch's job with a strong performance at Purdue on Saturday. But even a victory that brought the Old Oaken Bucket back to Bloomington for the the third time since 1997 wasn't good enough. Glass said he will meet with the team on Monday, and he expects the players to be disappointed.
"I'm confident that they are unhappy," he said. "They're Bill Lynch guys. They believe in him. They wanted to win for him."
But Glass had decided weeks ago that he would make a decision the day after the game against Purdue.
"I thought it was really important that whichever way this went, Bill wouldn't be twisting in the wind," Glass said.
Lynch's seven wins ins 2007 were the second most by a first-year coach in school history. James M. Sheldon won eight games in 1905. Lynch leaves with a career record of 100-97-3 at four different schools - Butler, Ball State, DePauw and Indiana.
Glass said he appreciates Lynch's contribution to the program. He said he will make the decision on a successor by himself and he won't rush to make a move.
"It's more important that we get it right than get it fast," he said.
Among the names that have been bandied about during the past month are former Ball State coach Brady Hoke, now at San Diego State, and former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach.
Glass said he does have a short list though he did not provide names, and that he would consult with Colts president Bill Polian and former Colts coach Tony Dungy before making a decision.