Fred Glass: 'Before the job became open, I was convinced Tom was the guy'
Fred Glass had heard all about his hire from the media and fans on the fringes who clamored for a big name from a conference outside of the Big Ten to be the next coach at Indiana in 2016.
But, for Glass, the former athletic director who retired earlier this year, the right man at the right time was already on campus and in the locker room.
So, while it was a surprise to some on Dec. 1, 2016 when a defensive coordinator who had only been on campus for a year was promoted after the separation from Kevin Wilson as head coach, Glass knew all along Tom Allen was the right man for the job.
He knew it well before the job even opened up, Glass recently told TheHoosier.com.
“Even before the job became open, I was convinced Tom was the guy to lead the Hoosiers. He was the perfect guy for the job, and would have been successful anywhere, but he was especially the perfect guy at Indiana. I felt Tom would be successful anywhere because is a leader of young men. He loves those kids and they love him back. He recruits well and develops well,” Glass said.
Surprisingly, Glass had no idea who Allen was when Kevin Wilson gave him the reigns of the defense, hiring Allen from the University of South Florida to turn around a defense that was ranked 120th out of 130.
“I give Coach Wilson a lot of credit for identifying Tom. I had never heard of him, and we were in recruiting mode and I remember walking around my dining room table quite a bit telling him what our vision was. I saw him come here and buy in, believe and change the culture from the defensive side of the ball,” Glass said.
At his introductory press conference in December of 2016, Allen talked about working for Wilson and thanked him for the opportunity.
“He believed in me and gave me a charge when I came here to be the head coach of the defense, to change the culture of the defense and that’s what we did. The players believed, they played with amazing passion,” Allen said.
Indiana and its fan base was about to find out what made an emotional coach the right man for the job and how he had turned around every program he had been at since his humble beginnings at Temple Heights High School in Florida.
Allen says the journey from a now defunct high school in Florida to Indiana has been the result of belief and a vision to create change.
“We had 28 players on the varsity, nine through 12. Had a few assistants, lot of awesome kids I believed in. We’ve been to 11 different schools and eight of those 11 had losing seasons the year before we got there. Temple Heights was one of them, hadn’t made the playoffs for 17 years. I chose the phrase Dare to Believe what I believed to be the motivation or challenge and had t-shirts made up that said Dare to Believe 1994 state playoffs. At that time, you have to qualify to get in and the top two teams get in. We had to beat some teams who had beaten us for a long time. It began that way, belief in young people and a vision for creating change and it carried over to a lot of different people,” Allen said.
And when Glass named him the new coach at Indiana, Allen immediately went to serving up a vision centered around three numbers – 50, 26 and 10.
At his first Big Ten Media Day, Allen discussed those three numbers. It had been 50 years since Indiana had won the Big Ten, 26 years since the Hoosiers won a bowl game and 10 years since Indiana had a winning season.
“I went back and did my homework. I believed we would accomplish all three of these. I told our players we were going to accomplish all that, and told the staff the same. I told them if nobody believed it, they could leave. I think people thought the 26 and 10 were possible, but I didn’t listen to the negativity. I refused to let other people define what we can accomplish here,” Allen said.
That attitude was what Glass saw in his new football coach.
“Tom is great in scheme and all of that, but he changed the culture at Indiana with buy-in, and I have to tell you, LEO (love each other) is a real, powerful thing. I didn’t care that he hadn’t been a head coach since high school and that people didn’t know who he was. I looked at the national landscape the year before on who was out there and there wasn’t anyone I wanted more than Tom Allen. It was the plan all along and I had a great deal of confidence. Nobody knew Tom would have the success he had, but I believed he would and I believed in him,” Glass said.
Success was hard to come by in Allen’s first two years, as the Hoosiers won only five games both times and came up just short of that elusive sixth win to become bowl eligible.
But last year, Allen finally broke through, leading the Hoosiers to eight wins and validating the belief Glass had in him.
“I was confident and comfortable those first two years. Sure, I would’ve like to have seen Indiana go 6-6 and go to a bowl game, but for a first year, as a head coach here and win five games and be within a touchdown of beating Purdue in the last game, and then doing it again, it is significant, especially when you put it in the context of Indiana football. When Indiana qualifies for a bowl game, that is significant. I was encouraged. I think the expectations on Tom his first season were unrealistically high because Kevin had been to bowl games. Tom wanted to break through, and he talked about it at the press conference, and he was building a culture, developing a program and having significant success,” Glass said.
At 4-0 and ranked ninth in the country, Indiana travels to Columbus, Ohio this weekend for a top 10 meeting against third ranked Ohio State.
Regardless of what happens, this is a situation where Glass envisioned Indiana being in when he turned the program over to the native Hoosier.
“I’m not a soothsayer and I didn’t know what would happen, but without doubt, there would be no faith. I always thought we needed to make an investment in people and facilities and bring contiguity as a coach. I was happy turning to Tom as a defensive coordinator and coach. Indiana is here because of belief. I told Tom when we break the dyke, it is Katy bare the door. Until you beat Nebraska and dominate Michigan, you don’t know. When that happens, that is when belief begins. Last year told the kids they could believe and now they are winning and believe,” Glass said.
The former athletic director told TheHoosier.com that regardless of how the season shakes out, Indiana will be winners due to Allen and the culture he has instilled in his players and the program.
“Tom is genuine. That is his single most important quality. What you see on the sideline, in press conferences and on tv, that is him. Some coaches talk a good game and they know the latest, groovy handshake. Tom has a principal’s license and kids love him because he is genuine and they know he cares more about them as people than players. Due to Tom, we are getting a better caliber of players who buy into LEO and know it works. We don’t have naysayers and factions because Tom is recruiting the guys who want to be involved and want to buy in to LEO. When you combine that with the caliber of players we are getting, we have closed the gap and will continue to do so,” Glass said.