Bloomington, Ind. – Bill Lynch has finally admitted to looking to the future.
But not too far.
With the Hoosiers' postseason hopes set to be determined in their regular season finale Saturday against Purdue, Lynch's fate could be in the balance as well. Some think he'll be one-and-done as the Hoosiers' head coach if he doesn't get IU to its first bowl game since 1993. Others think even a seventh win and bowl game isn't enough, that Athletics Director Rick Greenspan has already decided that he'll embark on a national search for a new coach once the season comes to a close.
But Lynch has consistently declined to speculate about anything beyond the 2007 season, and that didn't change as IU begins its preparation for Saturday's 3:30 p.m. match-up against Purdue. He'll look ahead, but only to the next game on the schedule.
"We're doing everything we can to get this team ready to play Saturday," Lynch said when asked about his coaching future. "We're going to coach them up like we have since this whole thing started."
This whole thing started when Lynch was named as Terry Hoeppner's full-time replacement in the off-season, and it's a question that's hovered over the program and the coaching staff ever since. Despite guiding the program through the tragic loss of Hoeppner and to its first six-win season in 13 years, Lynch's status as the program's head coach appears shaky.
While most outside the program can only point to incremental progress in terms of wins and losses – IU went 5-7 a season ago and missed out on a bowl with a 28-19 loss to Purdue in the season finale – those who are closer to the situation applaud the job Lynch has done in the most difficult of circumstances.
"Following the death of our leader (Lynch and the IU coaching staff) had to come in and prepare us for the season, prepare us for camp – he's had a tough job," senior cornerback Tracy Porter said. "I think people have to take that into consideration."
While IU Director of Football Operations Harold Mauro might be a bit biased since he's a part of the IU football staff, he's also a former college assistant coach (at both IU and Northwestern) and a long-time IU Athletics administrator who has seen first hand the sort of work Lynch has put in during a tumultuous time.
"We've been through a lot," said Mauro, who has been busy in recent months organizing this weekend's 40-year reunion of the 1967 Rose Bowl team. "I've been through ten presidents, nine athletic directors, one interim athletic director and nine football coaches in my time here. I've seen a lot of change, a lot of different things. Bill Lynch has done a magnificent job."
Lynch isn't about to offer a self-assessment of his job performance, but he does admit that rebuilding a program that hasn't been to the postseason in 14 years – more than twice as long as any other school in the Big Ten – takes some time.
"A lot of people want drastic improvement and things to happen overnight," Lynch said. "When you're building a program there's a process that you go through. We've had some tough things happen along the way in this process. But I think we've made good improvement, I think we're heading in the right direction. I feel good about where we're going and I think our players do too."
That might be, but ultimately teams and coaches are measured in terms of wins and losses and bowl game appearances, and it will be up to Greenspan to decide on Lynch's fate.
With that in mind, Lynch would like nothing more than to get a win on Saturday and enhance the Hoosiers' bowl chances. While a win against Purdue won't guarantee a spot – it would likely result in a two, three, or even four-way tie for seventh in the Big Ten – the odds would be in Indiana's favor for either a spot in the Motor City Bowl or to fill a vacancy in a bowl that's been left open by other conferences not producing enough bowl eligible teams.
"None of us have a crystal ball and can see exactly what's going to happen," Lynch said about IU's chances to go to a bowl if it is 7-5.
What Lynch would rather do is focus on the task at hand, which is securing a seventh victory, earning IU its first win over Purdue since 2001, and sending the senior class out with a win in their final home game.
"I know we have one big football game left, and that's all we can control," Lynch said.
It's also all Lynch can control as well.
"We're looking forward to Saturday," Lynch said. "We control what we can control, and that's getting them ready and prepared to go."
Lynch Still Not Looking Too Far Ahead
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