From his second-floor office that overlooks the field at Memorial Stadium, Tom Allen can see the future.
Right now, there’s a massive pile of dirt where the scoreboard once stood just beyond the South end zone. The dirt represents the initial phase of a construction project that will result in a new wellness facility and front door to Indiana’s athletics campus.
The Indiana coach wants his program to represent an open door through which IU fans will relish walking.
Eventually, Allen sees a packed stadium, a winning Hoosier team and a brand of football that makes those around the state proud to hold a connection to IU. As a native Hoosier himself, Allen wants those around the state to share that vision.
So as he enters his first full season leading Indiana’s program, the pressure Allen feels is not to win games — he sees victories through those office windows, too — but to deliver a product of which fellow Hoosiers can feel proud.
“This is home to me,” Allen told The Herald-Times on Monday. “I know so many people, so many high school coaches, so many families, so many people that I know and have known for so long are tied into the state and Indiana University.
“I don’t sit here and feel like, ‘Oh man, we have to win right now.’ To me, I expect us to win. I believe that we are doing things that are going to put us in position to keep climbing. I just feel the weight of wanting to just do something special for my home state.”
With spring practice in the rearview mirror and fall camp still three months away, Allen has time to catch his breath and let his mind recalibrate.
He’s officially served as IU coach for five months, juggling a bowl game, recruiting and assembling a revamped offensive coaching staff in that time.
In between those functions, he’s also fulfilled various speaking engagements around the state, taking the time to spread his mission statement with fellow Hoosiers.
“I just left a classroom,” Allen said. “I spoke to a business class and we were talking about some of these things. To me, when you believe so strongly in what you’re saying, and I believe in the vision of what we want to build here and the way we want to do it and the way we do things (success will follow).
“I believe so strongly in that. I want to go out and talk to people. I want to get the word out and I want them to see how much this means to me, how much I care about it, how excited I am about what we’re doing. To me, it just gives me a chance to share that vision with our fans.”
There are plans to share his thoughts with his players, too.
When Allen arrived last spring, he conducted individual meetings with every player on Indiana’s defense. The conversations had nothing to do with football. Instead, Allen asked his players to tell them about their families, their faith and the things that were important to them.
This spring and summer, Allen will be sitting down with each of his offensive players to continue to build deeper relationships with those on the other side of the ball.
Last year, that kind of outreach was among the reasons the Hoosiers felt comfortable buying into Allen’s philosophies, and by extension, hit the ground running.
“When I first got here there was no confidence (among the IU defensive players),” Allen said. “There was no trust. There was none of that. So it has to be built. It can be built. I think that’s the difference. It can be created. That’s where you have to keep staying true to who you are and stay focused on the process of the little things. That’s how you create the breakthrough.”
This is, after all, the year of “breakthrough.” That one word has become a mantra for Allen and his staff as they attempt to elevate Indiana’s standing in the Big Ten East.
It won’t be easy — not with a schedule that includes a season opener against Ohio State, a non-conference road trip to Virginia and a difficult mid-season stretch at Penn State, home against Michigan and at Michigan State.
But Allen chooses only to deal in positivity at a place that, historically, has only experienced favorable results in fits and spurts.
He believes the breakthrough is coming. Through the windows of his office, he can see it, too.
“I just want to see us put a product on the field that people come and support faithfully and they feel good about thae product that’s out there competing for championships,” Allen said. “Every Saturday is that expectation, every year, that we’re going to be in the hunt. I believe we can do that. I believe we will.”