Bizarre day leads to unexpected new direction for Indiana

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- There have been some strange hiring/firing news conferences over the years, but Indiana might have set a new bar Thursday.

Hoosiers athletic director Fred Glass announced the stunning departure of Kevin Wilson while simultaneously promoting defensive coordinator Tom Allen to permanent head coach. Allen sat next to Glass in front of the media, trying to talk about his appreciation for the job and his plans for the future while reporters waited to pepper Glass with questions on what Wilson did wrong.

Not that he gave many answers on that front. Glass was a successful attorney before he took over the Indiana athletic department, and he parried inquiries about possible mistreatment of players by his former coach like a star barrister. Glass mentioned the term "philosophical differences" so many times I began to envision him and Wilson in robes, arguing over the soul's immortality.

Plenty of coaches don't see eye-to-eye with their ADs. But simple philosophical differences don't get them fired when they're winning. Wilson just led the Hoosiers to a victory over Purdue that clinched the program's first back-to-back bowl bids in 25 years. Coaches also don't walk away from guaranteed money. But Wilson accepted a mere $542,000 buyout despite having five years left on a contract that would have paid him over $2.5 million per season.

So there was obviously a lot more going on here than a clash in leadership styles. As ESPN.com reported, some former players accused Wilson of pushing them to play through injuries. Those accusations sounded a lot like the ones leveled at former Illinois coach Tim Beckman, who was fired after a university review on the eve of the 2015 season.

But Glass insisted Thursday that no Indiana players saw their medical situations "compromised," and said he was confident there were no outstanding claims against the program regarding medical treatment. Glass instead kept returning over and over to "philosophical differences," a term which even he admitted at one point was like "an unsatisfying meal of empty calories."

It's not too hard to read between the lines that there's likely a confidentiality agreement in place to protect both sides. Unlike Beckman, Wilson could be hired someplace else without an uproar as long as no ugly details emerge.

The best insight into what really happened came from Glass' comments about Allen. He praised his positive attitude in working with the defense this season and said Allen's leadership style was "demanding but not demeaning." Presumably, those are philosophies Allen and Glass share that Glass and Wilson did not.

Glass has long desired to have continuity in the football program, which is why he stuck with Wilson despite some lean early years and those personality conflicts. So he immediately promoted Allen and gave him a six-year deal, declining to even conduct a coaching search.

The move certainly comes with some risk.

Allen was the head coach at Indianapolis' Ben Davis High School as recently as 2006 before a rapid rise through the college coaching ranks. This past season was just his second as a coordinator in the FBS and first in the Power 5. He did a remarkable job in improving the Hoosiers' defense, which had long been the laughingstock of the Big Ten. Players generally embraced and loved playing for him. Allen is also a Hoosier through and through, having grown up in New Castle, Indiana. His father was the high school football coach at the same school where Steve Alford's dad was the basketball coach.

But Allen is still totally unproven as a head coach. Indiana has slowly climbed back to respectability, and the wrong coaching hire could set it back years. With improving facilities and an attractive campus, the Hoosiers might have been able to lure a young up-and-comer to Bloomington.

With a six-year deal, though, Allen will get every chance to prove he's the guy, starting with the Hoosiers' bowl game later this month. His first and maybe most important task will be to heal a locker room that must be shaken by Thursday's news.

"Sometimes the best person is the person in your midst," said Glass, who suggested that Allen's personable style might be the "missing link, the secret sauce" to getting Indiana over the hump.

Time will tell. It's likely Allen will never experience a weirder day as head coach than his very first one.