Allen, IU football plot a path forward

Tom Allen wants to talk about the way forward.

Indiana’s football coach has stuck to the motto “Don’t blink” throughout the pandemic. Now that the Big Ten is heading into a fall without football, Allen has labeled the Hoosiers’ new mission as “sharpen the axe.” He even shared a line from Abraham Lincoln during his Zoom call Thursday.

“If he was given six hours to chop down a tree, he’d spend the first four sharpening his axe,” Allen said. “That’s all about preparation. That’s all about improving the tools you work with and getting them to the highest level possible.”

That’s the positivity Allen is trying to bring to the situation now. If they can’t play — and they wanted to play — the Hoosiers can work toward the future. This is a time where strength coach Aaron Wellman can prove his worth.

But in all honesty, there wasn’t necessarily a straight line to that positive perspective. Not emotionally. Not when the Hoosiers were coming off of an eight-win season, returning more contributors than most teams. Not when 2020 was a season his program was pointing toward.

“It was a season I had been looking forward to here for a while, and then you get it pulled out from underneath you,” Allen said. “It is tough. It’s hard. Initially, there was a whole bunch of disappointment.”

“It’s going to be hard to watch games on the weekend when you can’t play yourself,” Allen added, ” … and not necessarily looking forward to it.”

Throughout the Big Ten, last week’s decision to pull the plug on fall sports led to an airing of grievances. Nebraska coach Scott Frost was especially vocal in his discontentment. A star quarterback, Ohio State’s Justin Fields, started a petition to push the conference toward a reversal. Groups of parents from multiple schools sent letters to the office of commissioner Kevin Warren, and Warren eventually clarified his position in an open letter Wednesday.

Allen wasn’t going to strenuously oppose the decision, especially when he’s said all along that doctors should have the final say. He did hint at shortcomings in how the Big Ten communicated its ruling, saying “When there’s a void in communication, negativity often fills that void.”

But now it’s time to move on.

“I don’t have to always agree with things, but a decision was made, and I had to flip the switch in my mind. OK, now that the decision has been made, how do we make the best of the situation?” Allen said. “How do we continue to build this program? Because I’m not going to look back, I’m not going to dwell on the past or dwell on the things I can’t control.

“But I am responsible for my response. Talked about that to our team. As we already know, events happen in life, and circumstances happen in life, that we can’t control. But how we respond to those events … that really defines the outcome of what’s next.”

With one promising fall season wiped away, Allen and the Hoosiers have to look forward to the next one, even if it’s unclear what exactly it will look like.

In his open letter released Wednesday, Warren said the Big Ten is looking to resume fall sports “as soon as possible,” looking at possible winter and spring models. Purdue’s Jeff Brohm mocked up a plan with games beginning in late February. Penn State’s James Franklin has speculated games could kick off even sooner, playing in domed stadiums in the conference’s geographical footprint.

Of course, Lucas Oil Stadium is an hour up the road from Bloomington.

“You would need to play indoors if you were playing in those months, prior to spring,” Allen said. “Just trying to be creative, I’m sure, and just utilizing those facilities that fall within the states that we have Big 10 schools. And that’s pretty much the hope.”

While Allen said he hasn’t been a part of those discussions, he did express a preference to play as early as possible to preserve the fall 2021 season.

“The later it goes, the less I feel good about it,” Allen said. “A shortened spring and a shortened fall in 2021, I would not be in favor of that. Keep 2021 secure in that season, and then do the best we can within the parameters to create a good scenario this winter or spring.”

The course of the COVID-19 pandemic will dictate whether that will ultimately be feasible. Personal choices will shape what the Hoosiers’ roster ultimately looks like, as well.

As of now, no IU football players have opted out of the coming season, but Allen is having conversations with athletes and their parents about how to proceed. He just hasn’t always had clear answers, especially following the Big Ten’s decision to postpone the fall season.

“Our parents and our players, they know that I truly care about our guys and their safety,” Allen said. “Yes, we all want to play, and we all want to play in the worst way. But never at the expense of their health and safety. So I think we’re on the same page with that.”

The eligibility piece, Allen added, is the next big question, though it appears the NCAA is moving toward granting fall athletes another year. The NCAA has also clarified that idled football programs will have 12 hours a week to work out and hold meetings during the fall.

That brings the focus back to “sharpening the axe.” That brings the conversation back to Wellman and the work he can accomplish with the Hoosiers in the weight room.

“I want to challenge them all to develop mentally, physically, and spiritually over this time,” Allen said. “And that way, when we are told that it’s safe to play, whenever that may be, we will be ready. And that’s the goal.”


  1. t, I agee about what coach Allen said. However, anyone considering indoor football after knocking out outdoor football clearly don’t see how the virus spreads much more quickly indoors. There is no way indoor football will happen and I have serious doubts of bball being played this season.

  2. Only time will tell, but at this point, it looks like the Big Ten Presidents made a huge mistake. On top of that, as TA alluded, the way they communicated it was terrible. If no significant health consequences result from the FB players, coaches and staff in the conferences that have chosen to play FB this fall (i.e., The Power-3 Conferences), the Big Ten Presidents’ decision is going to damage the conference for years to come. And it’s not just Big Ten Football that will be damaged!

  3. v13, I agree. So now they’re discussing that the Big Ten play an 8-game FB season in domed stadiums in January and February? Then the teams come back and play another short season in the fall? How many domed stadiums will be available? Did I miss the announcement about the vaccine being available?

  4. High school games are being played, even with limited fans, in Marion county, the most infected area in the state. This commissioner may end up having a very short tenure after all is played out. And yes, the comments on indoor football in order to avoid below freezing temperatures and snow isn’t the answer. More like a viral incubator.

    1. The local teams here in S. Indiana are playing tonight and we will have to see how the season goes. So far, school and practice haven’t produced any problems causing either to shut down. I admit we don’t have much virus around here but they have been warning that cases are likely to spike – so far so good.

  5. How many college/university in leadership roles including big ten commissioners, college presidents and including from other conferences as well are democrats vs republicans?
    Indiana high schools and high schools across the country same question?
    Many Indiana high schools did play some Friday Night Football. Next question…How many of those are on virtual learning vs hybrid learning vs normal schedule? Many are on virtual or hybrid.

    1. Well, as far as Indiana goes, pretty much Republican leadership. Local politicians of both parties seem determined to do what is best for the people they serve. Not so much from Washington. Interesting, replacing Farci with a Radiologist with no infection disease experience. We’ll see how that develops (chuckle, chuckle). It’s a confusing time, strong agreement with a few Democrat platforms and with some Republican. Need another party called ‘Other’?,, Seems as if we are living the late 60’s again.

      Playing in domed stadiums seems to counteract attempts to control the virus. (Domed is Doomed to fail?

      And t, Brown County State Park. lesson learned – Do Not take a bicycle.

  6. Dr. Fauci has professed every angle and every option since February. I have no idea where he stands. Knowledge? He leaves much to be desired and much left in doubt. I trust my instincts way more than his checkerboard performance.

    1. Are Dr. Fauci, Bill Gates and others wolves in sheep’s clothing? Unintentionally or intentionally? Are they simply tunnel visioned? What is the balance of Rationale vs Irrational?
      On everything going on….This includes Coronavirus and rioting/demonstrations vs law and order. Rational reasoning law and order problem solving can not reason or talk to Irrational reasoning problem solving. Until it can and comes into balance it just leads to chaotic violence and eventually war….if it continues.

    1. Tried it once with grandkid. All good going down those hills. Hell to pay heading back up. But they do have some famous mountain bike trails.

  7. WOW!! An that is why the United States is in this situation “it is” fighting this disease. Someone going with their gut/instincts versus going with what scientist suggest and advise.

    1. Fauci is a trainwreck. If he had advised from the very start masks will make a difference, that now everyone agrees with, we’d be a lot farther down the road. I hate the masks but I wear 1 w/o fail in public. In other words give me pertinent information and I’ll navigate through any trouble in front of me. But lie, pontificate or speculate and I shut you out quickly. I think most Americans can make good judgments for themselves. Government will never as relentless as they try ever replace personal responsibility and the inevitable accountability.

  8. If life is to go on as in actively living eventually whether short term or long term…it will have to continue and no one wants to be affected themselves or have those close to them affected or anyone affected in any kind of negative way including death and or short and long term side affects….Should actively living stop even if there are some death and negative consequences? Once and if active lIving starts up again is it stopped at the first negative consequence and or death? What is actually going on? Are some of these people in leadership roles both political, science, doctors, and decision makers dangerously nerds or relegating nerdy thinking creating a twilight zone chaos? When or is it going to stop?

    1. t, you have nailed the real issue about trying to control this virus. People will weigh risk and decide for themselves if they want to live life or be shut down. I don’t think people will stay in lock down for much longer and many are refusing already. My problem with our “experts” is the narrow view they have and not considering all aspects of there decisions. The B1G didn’t listen to players and devalued their thinking as saying they are able to make a good decision. These are young men that have different perspectives but do understand their consequences of their choices. If we take the view they don’t then I wonder why they should have the right to vote. I think they can decide because I think they have the intellect to vote and decide to play this season.

      1. V, I think there’s much of this where you’re not very well informed, but you have made an important point. President McRobbie made no effort to meet with any of IU’s Fall athletes prior to any decision whether sports would be a go or not. Many of them have been in Bloomington during the summer (football and others) and could’ve been gathered with appropriate social distancing to give an update on what he (McRobbie, as well as Scott Dolson) was thinking and the factors that were being considered. It could’ve been streamed for those unable to be there, as well as their parents. It didn’t happen, and it doesn’t sound like it happened anywhere in the Big 10.

        Maybe it wouldn’t have changed the outcome, but to not even make the effort shows how little they care about the input of student athletes who represent IU. I’m torn on the decision, since we still know very little about the virus, and since protecting the most vulnerable of our society should be a priority, in my opinion. But to make no effort to engage the student athletes in any meaningful way stinks, in my opinion.

        1. Yes, where is the teeth in the IU STUDENT ATHLETES BILL OF RIGHTS??? Or was it just a self serving administration proposition?…and some of those have said goodbye.

          1. I don’t think a Bill of Rights was necessary for something like this. It’s just basic consideration, and it wasn’t extended to the very people most directly impacted by the decision. Very disappointing.

    1. Nor do I think bill of rights is necessary. However, if was written for student athletes concerns and issues I do think this is a situation to implement them by communicating what decisions are going to be made. Or the student athlete bill of rights is just what is it…and only implemented to cover Who?

  9. Fauci’s problem was/is two fold. First he had a very narrow focus that prevented him from having a broader perspective. He had blinders on. He was strictly focused on preventing people from getting the virus. I paraphrase, but they included “we should never shake hands again,” etc. I heard that and said to myself, “what is he talking about. That’s absurd.” He had no problem with complete strangers having sex, but warned against leaving one’s house or being within 6 feet of another person.

    The second problem he had was that far too many people, in and out of the media and government, gave him way too much credibility, which gave him more influence and power than he should ever have had. So when he contradicted himself over and over, or changed the story, it created doubt, confusion and fear. He’s an 80-year old data-cruncher and government bureaucrat, and he’s been that for far too long. I doubt he has actually treated a patient for over 30 years! When he contradicted doctors who have been on the front lines treating patients for decades, IMO he began to lose credibility. There’s a reason they refer to medicine as an “art.” Medicine is both an art and a science. Fauci was all about the science and data, but he gave me the impression that he never had a handle on the art of medicine. He became popular because in certain situations, he disagreed with or contradicted things that the President had said. And for that, he became a media darling.

    1. Dr Fauci’s communication problem was trying to temper his thoughts to meet the Presidents ideas. His communication became much clearer once he gave up on Trump. The guy is world class. Who he was working with – he’s world famous – but not for the right reason. My outlook is probably colored after spending 12 hrs a day for a week with Eisenhower, meeting Gov. Reagan, phone conversations with Nixon and meeting the Bush family at the Gasparilla Inn, Boca Grande Florida. Not so much working for a guy now a Congressman. Kind of hard adding the current President to that list. Gregg Doyle’s Indy Star article today, may want to read it or – probably not.

  10. I don’t want to side track the thread, but Fauci has been a physician in the study and practice of infectious diseases for over 50 years. He’s recognized throughout the medical community, both in the US and worldwide, as an expert in this field. He oozes credibility. Unfortunately, he contributed, through statements that began to change on a weekly basis, to the overall lack of leadership we’ve witnessed at both the federal and state level, with a few notable exceptions. Effective leadership from the federal government would’ve aided Fauci immeasurably. But that leadership, as we all know, has been non-existent. But Fauci is highly credible.

  11. An 80 year old Mr. Obvious. He and others… scientists, doctors, biologists, and politicians….creating doubt and confusion… open things up BUT…shut things down…Truth or Falsehoods…Unintentionally or intentionally…and of course the MONEY.

    By the way, since social injustice and racism is a popular topic…Should about 80% of NBA be white players? Not that it should be…but just a question?

  12. Dr Fauci very credible….Leadership of the United States not so credible and honest. Which has lead to some of (not all) the problems in this country. The presidents and chancellor of the Big 10 and Pac 12 got it “RIGHT”……IMO…..if it only saves one young person (man or woman) life, it was the correct decision. I am in hopes that the SEC, ACC and the Big 12 have a great football season and no individual succumbs to COIV-19 (may the South rise again).

    1. I blame all leadership from all sides. Maybe, rather than focusing on impeachment and not accepting election results (resources, manpower energy, time, and hours, goals creating blindness to other issues) leadership of country may had better coordinated In strength response to the current state of affairs.
      Another question might be if it wasn’t this current state of affairs…would it have been something else? There is just no or hardly any INTEGRITY that presents this country in a weak state of affairs.

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