IU Finds Its Man in Lynch

Bloomington, Ind. – It didn't take long for Bill Lynch to accept Rick Greenspan's offer to be IU's football coach. After spending nine months navigating the Indiana football program through the devastating loss of Coach Terry Hoeppner and subsequently...

Bloomington, Ind. – It didn't take long for Bill Lynch to accept Rick Greenspan's offer to be IU's football coach.

After spending nine months navigating the Indiana football program through the devastating loss of Coach Terry Hoeppner and subsequently through a season that's proven to be the program's most successful since 1993, Lynch was rewarded with a five-year contract offer on Friday.

Lynch's answer was immediate.

"Did I have to take the weekend (to decide)? No. I had to take long enough to say yes," Lynch said.

In doing so, Lynch sheds the appearance of being a stopgap solution following the passing of Hoeppner last off-season. While Lynch didn't sport an "interim" tag on his office door placard for the last nine months, it was, for all intents and purposes, the situation he found himself in.

Now that uncertainty has been replaced with the kind of job security that Lynch was excited to announce Monday, the first day coaches could hit the road and meet face-to-face with recruits. Lynch was set to head to Indianapolis shortly after today's press conference where his son and assistant coach, Billy, was at Franklin Central H.S. to step up IU's efforts with arguably the top running back in the state, Darius Willis.

"I'm anxious to get going as much as anything else," Lynch said. "Knowing I'm going to jump in the car and head up to Indianapolis recruiting, where you can go after it now, you don't have any reservations, (recruits) can't ask you any questions you can't answer."

Throughout the course of the season, Lynch and his staff had consistently deflected questions about their future in Bloomington. Instead, they had delivered a message that the task at hand was to do the best job they could coaching this team this season, and the future would take care of itself. Ultimately, that approach produced a 7-5 record, a heart-stopping win over Purdue in the regular season finale, and most likely a bowl bid come this weekend.

While the wins were important to Greenspan in recommending the hire to IU President Dr. Michael McRobbie, he said he saw Lynch do a great deal more for the program than simply enjoy some success on Saturdays.

"As the season progressed, I think we could see we were going from mending some broken hearts to mending some ankles," Greenspan said. "I think Bill did a tremendous job."

Ultimately it was the support of Greenspan and McRobbie that Lynch needed (further details of Lynch's contract weren't made available), but he had already earned the respect and admiration of many former IU coaches and players who were ecstatic to see the former Butler, Ball State and DePauw head coach receive a multi-year contract to remain in Bloomington.

"In my mind this was the right choice – a no-brainer," said former IU player and assistant coach Mark Deal, who now works in athletics fund-raising. "What other coach had to deal with (everything Lynch had to this season)? It was his program this year, yet it was Hep's program. He had to walk that fine line all year. He didn't want to usurp what Hep had done. Yet it was his program, too."

While Lynch had tried to build on the foundation that Hoeppner laid in his two years in Bloomington, Greenspan noted some of the positive changes Lynch did make since taking over in February. Among those were the successful move of Nick Polk from wide receiver to free safety and the development of the Hoosier pass rush which went from ranking tenth in the Big Ten with 14 sacks a year ago to a unit that recorded a school-record 42 sacks this season, led by NCAA leader Greg Middleton's 16.

That sold Greenspan and many others close to the program, including the man who first brought Lynch to Bloomington, Bill Mallory. The winningest coach in IU history first hired Lynch as his quarterbacks coach in 1993, a position he held for two seasons before taking over the Ball State program.

"I'm very optimistic about the program and the kind of leadership it will get from Bill," Mallory said.

If there was a knock on Lynch it was some of the struggles he had during his eight-year stint at Ball State. After going 15-8 in his first two seasons in Muncie he eventually fell on hard times, winning only one game during one two-year stretch. He eventually rebounded and won a share of the MAC West title in 2001, but was let go after the 2002 season.

Many think the reasons behind a few of the lean years were substandard facilities as well as a limited recruiting budget, things he won't have to deal with at IU considering the facility upgrades that are currently in the works.

Greenspan said he wasn't well versed in everything that unfolded during Lynch's time in Muncie, but said his time around the Hoosier head coach has proven to him that he's selected the right man for the job.

"I was taught a long time ago believe what you see," Greenspan said.

What he's seen is a man that he thinks is the right fit for an IU program that is headed to its first bowl game in 14 years and is on solid footing for the foreseeable future. Terry Hoeppner laid the foundation for that future, and Lynch will to add to that over the next five years.

"You're happy for Bill, but the happiest guy in the world would be Terry Hoeppner," said Deal. "Bill was Hep's guy. Make a plan, stick with the plan, plan for the unexpected. Well, the unexpected happened. Hep planned for the unexpected, and this was the perfect guy to do it."

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