Speaking publicly for the first time since his abrupt December departure as Indiana’s coach, Kevin Wilson pushed back Thursday against allegations of player mistreatment during his time in Bloomington.
Wilson, now the offensive coordinator at Ohio State, said there was no truth to reports suggesting he forced injured players to practice and play in games while leading IU’s program.
“We wouldn’t be here doing this job if those things were true,” Wilson told reporters in Columbus. “Anyone can have an opinion. I know the department over here looked into everything. I know this school has looked into everything. I know we’re very, very comfortable with what we’re doing, where we’re at and we’re excited to move forward.”
Indiana athletic director Fred Glass cited “philosophical differences” in announcing Wilson’s resignation on Dec. 1. In the ensuing days, a few former players came forward with stories of alleged mistreatment from Wilson across his six years as the Hoosiers’ coach.
In one case, former Indiana defensive lineman Nick Carovillano and his father, Dean, complained to the Indiana athletic department that Wilson and members of IU’s medical staff did not handle a back injury suffered by Carovillano with proper care.
A May 2015 investigation conducted by Indianapolis law firm Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP found that Carovillano did not receive inadequate medical care and the coaching staff not exert improper influence over the training staff. However, the investigation did conclude that members of IU’s coaching staff behaved in ways that contributed to an unsatisfactory environment for players.
A formal reprimand from Glass was placed in Wilson’s personnel file.
During Wilson’s tenure, Indiana’s training staff saw unusual staff turnover. Wilson went through four head athletic trainers in six seasons — uncommon movement for a position that often sees individuals remain in place for years, including through coaching changes.
Wilson on Thursday praised the work done by IU’s training staff, past and present.
“I think a couple of those trainers were the best I’d ever been around. Outstanding,” Wilson said Thursday. “(Former IU athletic trainer) Patrick Spieldenner is off the charts, just like our guys here. Those guys handled all the decisions. I used to get ridiculed when Tevin Coleman would come out of a game, or Dan Feeney missed a bunch last year. Those guys ran the ship. They did a great job.”
Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told cleveland.com in January that he and Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer thoroughly vetted Wilson before hiring him. When a reporter pressed Wilson on Thursday regarding the 2015 investigation that determined the coaching behavior toward some players was unsatisfactory, an Ohio State sports information director interjected, “Kevin’s a Buckeye, folks. Kevin’s a Buckeye.”
“That’s the athletic director. He made that call,” Wilson said. “We appreciate that. We appreciate the opportunity he gave us to coach there. We appreciate the opportunity to coach those kids. I’m very grateful for those kids and what they gave our family. I’m appreciative of all their comments moving forward, and at the same time, we’re excited to be here coaching these cats.”
Wilson spoke fondly of his time in Bloomington, where he compiled a 26-47 record and helped IU to back-to-back bowl trips in 2015 and 2016. Tom Allen, Wilson’s replacement, coached the Hoosiers in the 2016 Foster Farms Bowl loss to Utah.
“We just go back to how much we loved being there, how much we loved our players,” Wilson said. Didn’t have a chance to kind of see those guys off. Did a great job, I think, recruiting and developing those guys. We were a team that battled and played and had a lot of success. Had a great deal of academic success. Had a great deal of off-the-field success.
“I got a message from a kid the other night who was going through a situation. Just said, ‘Hey man, I appreciated everything you did. You made me tough as nails. I love you.’ At the same time, you move on. You wish those guys well, because they’re your guys. It was a great time. It was great for our family, but now we’re here.”