Bloomington, Ind. – Bill Lynch knows as well as anyone that there are no guarantees.
The recently-named IU head football coach will begin the 2007 season without an "interim" tag to his job title, but minus a multi-year contract as well.
After introducing Lynch as IU's football boss for the upcoming campaign 2 ½ weeks ago, Athletic Director Rick Greenspan said he'd re-visit the coaching situation at the close of the season. At the time, the presumption was Greenspan's words were in regards to Terry Hoeppner, who was to be sidelined for the season to cope with his medical issues.
But after Hoeppner succumbed to brain cancer four days later, Greenspan's words were just as apropos to whether or not Lynch's stint as head coach would extend beyond the 2007 campaign.
Lynch said he understands his situation and accepts it, opting to refrain from looking too far into an uncertain future.
"Our job is to coach the football team," Lynch said. "That's very clear, and that's what we're going to do. It's a very difficult situation for everybody, but we're going to use Hep's words, that there is a lot of opportunity out there and that's how we're going out to do it."
There is undoubtedly a great deal of opportunity for Lynch, his staff as well as this year's team. The Hoosiers are coming off a 5-7 season a year ago, the most wins for an IU football team since 2001. In addition, IU returns a majority of its biggest playmakers on both sides of the ball, headlined by quarterback Kellen Lewis and wide receiver James Hardy.
That is compounded by the fact the Hoosiers' 2007 schedule is a favorable one. The non-conference slate includes I-AA Indiana State along with three MAC foes, and the conference schedule is minus perennial powers Michigan and Ohio State.
While there are still plenty of potential stumbling blocks this fall, all the stars appear aligned to not only get IU to its first bowl game since 1993, but to fulfill Hoeppner's vision of getting the IU program back into the postseason.
With that, one would think, would come a multi-year deal for Lynch. While Greenspan hasn't come out and said a bowl berth would secure Lynch's position at the helm of the program, it's hard to fathom that IU would turn its back on a coach who led IU to the postseason for the first time in 14 years.
Lynch knows that sort of speculation will surround him and the program this season, but his focus is on his players and the day at hand.
"I really think it's important that we take it one day at a time," Lynch said. "That's the only way we can do this job the right way for these kids. If we look too far ahead, talking about a bowl game or anything else, we're getting ahead of ourselves."
Lynch said that's an approach Hoeppner took as well when he first arrived at IU in December of 2004. While the goal was always to get to the postseason as quickly as possible, he knew as well as anyone that it was a process that was going to have some pitfalls along the way.
"(Hoeppner) bought us all the Bill Snyder book, from Kansas State, about building that program," Lynch recalls. "A lot of the really good coaches out there say that's the greatest turnaround in 100 years. One of (Snyder's) messages was you have to take the approach to get a little better every day, don't get ahead of yourself. After a period of time, you'll be good enough and you'll accomplish your goals. That's what we need to do."
If they can do that, Indiana will end the Big Ten's longest bowl drought, one that is among the longest in major conference football. It's a goal that's well within reach, one that would likely secure Lynch's immediate future as IU's head coach.
Lynch knows that, but it won't be used as a rallying cry this fall.
"There's no question in anyone's mind that the goal is to play 13, to go to the bowl game," Lynch said. "So much so that you don't have to throw that in front of the kids. That's assumed. The key to us in coaching is how do we get them there? Talking about it and talking about? I don't think you have to do that. Our job is how do we get better everyday."
Uncertainty Doesn't Faze Lynch
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