There's an age old saying that you never get a second chance to make a good first impression, and in that regard Kevin Wilson's IU coaching career is off to a very good start.
Wilson was introduced as Indiana's new football coach Tuesday afternoon, bringing a quick resolution to a coaching search that officially began just nine days earlier. The man who made the decision – IU Athletic Director Fred Glass – seemed downright giddy about his most significant personnel decision since taking over the reins of the IU Athletic Department.
"As you might imagine with it barely being a week into the search, Indiana University got our guy," Glass said.
There was a lot for Glass to like about the 20-year college coaching veteran.
He's enjoyed tremendous success at each of his three stops at Miami (Ohio), Northwestern and Oklahoma. His nine years on Randy Walker's Miami (Ohio) culminated with a 10-1 campaign in 1998, which opened the door for Walker at Northwestern. During his three years in Evanston, his Zak Kustok-led no-huddle, spread option attack paved the way for the Wildcats' 2000 Big Ten co-championship.
That success prompted Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops to lure him to Norman, Okla., where Wilson has overseen one of the nation's most dynamic offenses during the last decade. He's coached a pair of Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks (Jason White in 2003, Sam Bradford in 2008), a Heisman runner-up in running back Adrian Peterson, and a slew of All-Americans. He's been named a finalist for the national assistant coach of the year twice and won the award in 2008.
He's clearly proven he can win with both superior talent and lesser talent, with the latter being every bit as critical if he's going to have success in Bloomington.
But using first impressions as the guide, there's more to like about Wilson than just a glitzy resume. He knows the Big Ten from his time at Northwestern. He coached alongside Terry Hoeppner for nine years at Miami (Ohio). He's recruited the critical recruiting areas of Cincinnati and Dayton. And he has plenty of familiarity with IU, thanks to head-to-head battles when he was on the Northwestern and Miami staffs.
He also seems to have a clear vision of what it's going to take to win at Indiana, beyond the Xs and Os.
"I think I understand the Big Ten. I've been around the league and recruited it on a daily basis, competed against it. I think I understand the region, the environment and what it takes to build a successful program. We're ready to build our program. We're ready to build something special," Wilson said.
"We're going to be tough, we're going to be physical. I'm an offensive guy that has put up a boatload of points, but nine years of going up against Coach Stoops everyday you learn that you've got to play great defense and you win the Big Ten and you win championships by being able to play `D'."
He's also ready to get to work. It's unclear whether or not he'll coach in Oklahoma's Fiesta Bowl game against UConn on Jan. 1, but he's already thinking about getting the IU players pointed in the right direction.
"Within our league, we've got eight teams playing in bowls, so they're not sitting around eating sweet potato pie," Wilson said. "So we'll give our team some direction this next month."
He also has been tested. While this will be his first head coaching job, it won't be the first time that his decisions have faced scrutiny.
When you spend a decade in charge of the offense for a team that routinely is in the BCS National Championship conversation, you don't fly under the radar. As Oklahoman columnist Berry Tramel pointed out this morning: "We already know Wilson can handle the heat, because the pressure on the head coach at Indiana is not as great as the pressure on the Oklahoma offensive coordinator."
He also has a good answer for Indiana's 2011 recruiting class, which is considered one of the best groups of prospects IU has assembled in a decade. Many have been worried about the prospects of the group being dismantled with the coaching change, but Wilson's message figures to resonate with plenty of them once he gets them on the phone.
"They picked a great school in the first place and I think they've now picked a school that's also hopefully going in a direction that's going to make the football team, no disrespect, stronger than it was," Wilson said. "If they liked it in the first place I think they're going to love it once they get to know me and our staff and what we'll put together."
All of this, obviously, is no guarantee of success - too many other coaches have tried and failed to build a consistent winner in Bloomington. But from everything that you can see and read, Wilson sounds like the right fit for Indiana.
DECKER: Wilson Makes Good First Impression
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