LEO a pillar for IU during an emotionally taxing offseason

It took nearly 1,000 words for Indiana coach Tom Allen to answer one question Wednesday, because, ultimately, the subject struck at the very core of what he believes his program is about.

And the question, unfortunately, has been how IU deals with tragedy. Not only after the killing of George Floyd, which sparked so much sadness and outrage in the country as a whole. Within the Hoosiers’ program, they have also dealt with the shooting death of IU football alum Chris Beaty this past weekend, and the murder of receiver Cam Wilson’s mother more than three weeks ago.

At any other time, these tragedies would have been excruciatingly difficult to accept. Amid a deadly pandemic, and now national protests following the death of another unarmed black man in police custody, the question for Allen is how he guides players through it all. How does Allen help his players grow as young men in a time like this?

“It’s probably more the emotional drain that it has on you, that you don’t realize how taxing that can be,” Allen said. “But, man, you gotta be there for your guys.”

IU’s motto of “Love each other,” or LEO, as Allen says it, holds a lot of weight right now. The Hoosiers’ coach has spent a lot of time on the phone with athletes in the past week, just listening. That’s been important.

But the conversations IU’s coaches and players have already had — about LEO, about living for something larger than yourself — serve as an anchor in times like these. In 1,000 words, Allen painted a picture of what LEO means against a backdrop of tragedy.

“We talk about this all the time with our guys. It’s not if, it’s when,” Allen said. “Obviously, nobody could have predicted these kinds of things are going to happen, and it happens … such serious, heavy things happening one after the next.

“But that’s why you have to live your life with core values and core principles. There are anchors in your life. This is what we talk about all the time, that when these storms come — not if they come, when they come — you have a rock-solid foundation that cannot be shaken.”

Early this offseason, the Hoosiers steadied themselves amid storms that seem light in comparison. Multiple assistant coaches were poached and then replaced. A couple of seniors-to-be, tackle Coy Cronk and quarterback Peyton Ramsey, transferred out. A talented young rusher, Sampson James, went into and quickly out of the transfer portal.

At that time, Allen was using the phrase, “We don’t blink.” Steadying the ship was about focusing, seeing past some waves that were expected, some that weren’t.

Then the pandemic hit. Then the tragedy in Wilson’s family. Then Floyd. Then Beaty.

Personally, Allen has leaned on his faith. But more than just preaching a belief system, Allen has come back to living life for others. That can hold true for any athlete of any creed.

“That faith, it’s something that just — you’re trusting something bigger than you,” Allen said. “Because if it’s just about you, man, it’s just the weight becomes too heavy.

“The whole pandemic is a big enough issue in itself, and you have the loss, the experience within our football family, with Cam’s family, and now with Chris, and then all that’s going on with the country. So it’s really heavy things that are real life, that make football seem pretty trivial.”

At some point, the conversation will shift more to football. And it did somewhat Wednesday as IU announced football players will return for voluntary workouts June 15. But, again, there is a much larger conversation to be had between Allen and his players as this offseason continues.

Allen believes the number of wins and losses he accumulates will pale in comparison to the people he helps shape. That’s why LEO is such a big deal to him, especially now.

“The thing about young people, they’re forming that foundation, and we’re helping them establish that foundation,” Allen said. “Some kids are stronger than others, and some are more fragile than others. And so we as coaches and myself as a leader, we have to, in those young men, where the foundation isn’t as strong, that’s when you gotta be a part of that stabilizing structure. And have the wisdom to know what that looks like, and what can you say, and not say, what they need, and where they can find us.”

Times like these are when the roles of player development staff like Mike Pechac and John Powell are amplified. It’s also a time just to listen, and Allen is already thinking about what he can do to possibly facilitate a conversation between his players and members of law enforcement.

This period has been difficult and emotionally taxing, but it’s something Allen hopes his team will grow from.

As long as LEO is the foundation, he believes they can.

“I brought it here and I believe in it and stand by it, because it’s about life,” Allen said. “It’s how you build a great football team, I believe, as well as how you build a great man. And that’s what we’re trying to do here. We want to do both.”

25 comments

  1. “it took nearly 1000 words to answer”. Is it possible Coach has been hanging around Hoosier Sports Report and became a H4H fan ?

  2. It is during a year like this that makes it clear coach Allen is the right coach for IUFB. Some people diminish or ridicule LEO but it is just a way to get the point across about how this staff will treat others and expect the players to do the same. I hope this season shows IU weathered all the storms to be an even better football team.

  3. With all due respect, I sort of think you’re missing the point, V13.

    We often hear ‘kumbaya’ statements from our elected officials….We often see quick diversions from important issues because that’s easier than a true sense of empathy and the necessary actions to promote justice.

    It’s no different than tone-deafness in Drew Brees’s recent comments. Many want to express their mantras and their own “feel good” parties while almost blocking out (whether innocently or subconsciously) the need to simply listen and support right now.

    Police departments simply can’t come to a podium right now and say, Let’s all just ‘Love Each Other’….Thanks everyone! Now let’s go play some football!’

    This is a time to listen. It’s not a time to preach your own version of respecting America (Brees) or your strategy to be flower children of the world.
    Listening and empathy is the first step. Action and repercussions for those abusing justice for all is the next step.

    We all love ‘feel good’ stories….But I’m a firm believer that some want sports back very quickly because they simply don’t have the capacity to “tackle” the weight of this day. It’s almost a blessing that there is a shutdown of sports right now. Maybe we can finally stop sweeping justice under a rug, keeping it there for a different generation to tackle, and listen. There’s no changing the channel. There’s no game at 7:00 o’clock to tune it all out.
    We can’t Partridge Family our way out of this one….It’s not a time for cute band-aids on the gaping wounds of disparity far too long ignored. LEO appears tone-deaf right now….(though it may be from the most sincere place in a heart). It simply displays a lack of understanding and respect for the history and the moment of a stage you need to be a participator rather than a director/preacher.
    Don’t fear the moment or detract from it. Embrace it and allow it to take you for the ride.

  4. And I don’t think it’s a time to play basketball in Disney World right now….I believe there is a severe tone-deafness in that rush to ‘normalcy.’

    Maybe this should be the ‘Summer of Change’…. when there was no rush to take the stage away from the citizen of the streets? Could this be our minutemen now saving our democracy? Can you hear Paul Revere on his horse…pleading with us to believe the king does not like this unruly population with its lofty ideals that the man unseen is as big as the one who sits at the throne? Put down that basketball, King James. Allow the citizen of the street to have this moment. Let’s not Mickey Mouse around with justice because wealthy NBA owners are threatening the castle is burning to the ground. Let it burn. Throw the tea to the bay….and let it burn.

  5. Somewhat ironic…considering the source.
    If only Tsao were here to add another 10,000…while providing some real ‘poignant’ gems within the 10,000. Scoop truly misses his voice.

  6. What I have noticed and no surprise to me…from those who have a couple to few millions plus of wealth and paid as wealthy for whatever endeavors that represent his or her livelihood the same o feel good messaging just like in the past. About 320,000,000 people in this country and it’s so much more complex than that….and it can be applied to the rest of the world as well.

  7. t and H4H, you are missing the point of LEO as it isn’t a message but a way to live your life. It is a short hand way to remind coach and others to think about the people around them and value them as humans. We have no idea how much coach Allen donates to others just as for so long people didn’t know about coach Knight’s donations to the library. It seems it is in vogue to criticize people in the public without knowing what they do outside the spotlight. There are some things to criticize coach Allen about and many things to approve of but going after LEO is not the hill to die on.

  8. I just finished reading Mitch Daniel’s US Senate testimony from June 4, 2020 where he was asked by the Senators about opening the Purdue Campus this Fall and subject of fans attending sporting events and , Daniels comments were Purdue’s Football stadium would be restricted to 25% capacity and No Fans at the men’s and women’s basketball games this winter.

  9. V. I actually support and like coach Allen motto. In my comment I was not referring to T. A. specifically but rather referring to just the several to many times I have heard “feel good” messaging from elites and others including politicians (that’s what politicians do) across the board. Re read my comment. I didn’t specifically even mention T.A.

    1. t,
      I think you and V13 are on the right track with the LEO motto. The real question, “The motto is great but is it being put into practice?” By all appearances it may well be very much in practice. We all know there will be exceptions to even the best practices, but TA appears to be trying to make it a way of life for his program.

      The one thing which has struck me is how hard current members of IUFB have tried to recruit friends they know, and former HS teammates. I know this is true of most programs but there seems to be a higher level of player intensity in the matter than what I have seen from other programs around the country. I suspect if a real effort were not being made from TA on down to make this motto the way members of the IUFB program actually conduct themselves in life, we would not see current players making anywhere near the effort to recruit their friends and others to the program.

    2. t, thanks for correcting my impression and I too agree with you; jumped to a a conclusion based on the H4H post. I appreciate what H4H brings to this site but his focus on hating LEO is wrong.

  10. Again, it’s tone-deaf considering the moment the country is in. These “leaders,” whether in sports, entertainment, business or civic should be calling for justice. They should also be doing listening right now. This is not a time for their platform…or anti-platform.

    Allen should be ultimately judged by the product on the field. Most coaches build family and “love” grows naturally…as it should. I’ve seen this movie before with the last basketball coach. Scripture, ideologies, tweets from Joyce, slogans (breakthrough, Hoosier Rising, etc) reunions, “feel good” stories/parties(pulling cars out of snowy ditches), praying at halftime, etc….all serving to sell in lieu of where real measures of improvement/ascension /wins are being left to a mirage.

    I also believe the use of calling many class-skippers as “thugs” while not using such terminology for a football player who grabbed his girlfriend by the throat (LEO card-carrying member) remaining on the team says a lot about certain hate crowds of our past and reflects upon the issues that continue to plague our society.

    Knight appeared most of his career as being a miserable SOB. But the majority of his players loved him….We make way too big of deal of what people “appear”…or what they tweet and preach. You’re a coach. You should be building brotherhood and mentoring. It should be part of the job description…along with winning some MEANINGFUL games against strong opponents. You should justify your huge earnings beyond “feel good” eruptions.

    But, most importantly, understand this day …and this moment in history. Listen to those who call for action in upholding justice. We insult the absence of justice and decency when we slap a happy face on the atrocities witnessed.

  11. Bottom line: If Jesus was our coach making big bread, I’d expect some solid wins against top BigTen teams to go along with LEO.
    Sadly, I doubt Jesus is a very good football coach. Probably still wouldn’t have a prayer beating OSU. We could just pay him the big bucks to Love Each Other….Maybe even just display the slogan on scoreboards instead of a score? And the final score: Love 21 Hate 3. See you next week, Love fans, when we try for a big win against ‘Indifference to Atrocity.’

  12. Good news, Trenten Howland just committed to IU. Good running back out of IL. Someone better figure out how to keep Mike Hart around in a hurry.

  13. When we LEO…does that just mean our own teammates? Do we have to love Purdue as well? Do we beat the hell out of them during a game…and love them when the final whistle blows? I need further explanations. My football coach always said ‘HIT EACH OTHER’! …It was known as HEO (never to be confused with ‘Hate Each Other’ Hating is easy. Applying a good clean hard hit? Not so much? After HEO and practice is over, then go home and love your parents. HEO now because OSU is going to HYH (HIT YOU HARDER)…. much harder. Do you love stretchers?

  14. I can’t stop thinking of Bob Knight at a postgame press conference telling everyone in the press to LEO. This is going to stick in my head far too long.

    1. H4H,
      I realize I will be running the risk of sending you off on a tirade but you give me pause to wonder. Based on your very cynical attitude toward the LEO approach, it would lead me to wonder if you had ever been a part of such an environment. I know it is much easier to fall into a dysfunctional environment than one which is not dysfunctional, but you do give me cause to wonder. Just because a program might adopt the LEO motto, does not mean it will necessarily promote a weak competitive attitude. Rather, it would tend to suggest a very supportive environment of urging those within the program to promote and live the things which could be considered to be the ideal in life.

  15. Maybe you’re not paying attention…I’ll try not to write another 1000 words.

    It’s simply believe it’s tone-deaf at THIS moment in time. You can think whatever you want to think of my past and my lifetime. Seems like my opinions on this Fox News Network are a constant target. I don’t really care. Our country should be done with kumbaya…..It’s time for justice and action.

    And maybe answer one of my many questions once in a while…? (all of which are not insults…or one-liner snidely comments). There are many questions up there…Why is a class-skipping ‘F’ student who played for Sampson a “thug”…and a current football player on the LEO team who grabbed his girlfriend by the throat not given the same description (or a far worse one)? Why weren’t the Mellencamps and the basketball coach’s son described in that manner?

    LEO rings hollow to me when it comes from some on here (that doesn’t mean Coach Allen..or V13…or you). The structures of institutionalized racism can be perpetuated while singing kumbaya. Sorry if that comes as a shock to you.

    1. I apologize for personalizing it too much H4H,

      I hate it when outside events invade our oasis from the rest of the world and the HSN staff has been quite generous in allowing for venting in the matter. However, I do understand where you are coming from so let’s just suppose that what you are so animated about is systemic as you suggest, and it very well may be. Using your line of thought as our assumption, let’s look at the case in point. We have a terrible act committed presumably by law enforcement in a particular domicile. A great many try to triangulate themselves as separate from the entity known as law enforcement in order to rail against its believed abuses. My question is, who is responsible for the law enforcement in the cities across this nation?

      To my knowledge most police chiefs in municipalities are appointed by the elected officials of said locale. Therefore the responsibility for these departments and their believed abuses lie at the feet of the mayors and city councils. The next question is what philosophy has been in control of the egregious municipality currently in question for a number of years? If there is a systemic injustice in this case, does it not lie at the feet of those responsible for the law enforcement department in question? Even more so, does it not lie at the feet of those who continually elect those responsible for this rampant injustice in this particular locale?

      A lot of people like to act as if their votes have no consequences, but quite frankly, in this particular instance one cannot triangulate their way out it. You personally may not have cast a vote in this particular locale, but judging by your continued maligning of one philosophy over another, I would say many might want to take a look in the mirror and ask themselves when they vote for local officials in other areas. Many might want to ask themselves, “Exactly what am I voting for?” Everything begins at the local level, and this injustice certainly began at the local level.

      1. I’m not sure you can “localize” racism…..

        And, again, I simply don’t believe kumbaya is an appropriate or adequate statement/declaration right now. I’ve spoken enough…..

        Kumbaya to all. Love Each Scoop Member. Practice what you preach.

  16. oops..

    Why weren’t the Mellencamps and the basketball [baseball] coach’s son described in that manner?

  17. Oh, and I also think it’s time to start spreading the wealth in college sports. Not only should we LEO (love each other), we should pay each other. White coaches being paid millions upon millions …while athletes (a majority often being African American superstars) have no means to capitalize off the locked-up wealth in college athletics is wrong. It’s time athletes are given there fair share. Everything else about college athletics functions as an entity outside of the “student”…or the “university.” The hands of professional sports have been allowed to dip deeper and deeper into college sports …thus, basically, “professionalizing” the product. The salaries for coaches are exorbitant …as the, primarily, white prima donnas in the system (coaches and AD’s) .

    I believe it’s time to allow the athlete to be rewarded beyond a scholarship. Many of these athletes may “love” their coach…and “love” each other, but the fact remains that many come from strained educational/financial/economic backgrounds. It’s time we give them a cut and use professionalized college sports as a means to help these athletes lift up their families out of institutionalized racism and the disadvantages of decades of disparity (within economic and educational structures built to keep many down). As I said, “Lift Each Other.”

    Let’s stop the advantages for the few who get paid under-the-table. Let’s share the wealth….College sports (professionalized more and more each decade) is simply another version of institutionalized structures perpetuating disparity and discrimination (denials to wealth added but not received).

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