South Alabama hires IU’s Wommack as head coach

South Alabama announced Saturday it has hired Indiana defensive coordinator Kane Wommack as its next head coach.

Wommack is the second Hoosier coordinator in as many years to land a head-coaching gig, and both went back to a previous destination. Kalen DeBoer, who came over from Fresno State to be IU’s offensive coordinator in 2019, returned to lead the Bulldog program in 2020. Wommack was defensive coordinator at South Alabama before coming to IU as linebackers coach in 2018.

At 33 years old, Wommack will be the youngest head coach at the NCAA FBS level.

“To be the head coach at the University of South Alabama is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Wommack said in a release. “Melissa and I could not be more excited to return to a city that we love. Believing in all that this community has to offer, we proudly join a team of exceptional leaders in steering the Jaguar football program to reach its greatest potential.”

When he was at South Alabama from 2016-17, Wommack was the youngest defensive coordinator in FBS football, but he had immediate success. In 2016, his Jaguar unit was the fifth-most improved nationally in scoring defense (-10.3), one spot behind IU. South Alabama also ranked in the nation’s top 10 in pass defense.

While he was at South Alabama, Wommack coached current NFL safety Jeremy Reaves, who was a two-time first-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection and the program’s first-ever Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year in 2017.  

Wommack, who served as a grad assistant at Ole Miss when Tom Allen was there as linebackers coach and special teams coordinator, eventually followed Allen to Bloomington. He was just a linebackers coach that first year at IU, though Allen said that was a function of the Hoosiers being young and wanting to protect his apprentice from potential struggles. Allen always planned to hand the reins of the defense to Wommack.

Wommack had the pedigree. He is the son of a longtime college defensive coordinator, Dave. After serving under his dad at Ole Miss, Wommack went on to call defense at Eastern Illinois from 2014-15, so he made a quick climb up the career ladder.

Following a year as IU’s linebackers coach, Wommack took control of IU’s entire defense in 2019. That unit was still young, experiencing some ups and downs that season, but in 2020 Wommack’s “Swarm D” became one of the best defenses in the Big Ten. IU’s defense ranks first in the nation in interceptions, with 17, and tied for sixth in total takeaways, with 20.

That success apparently boosted Wommack’s profile enough to be considered for a head-coaching job at 33 years old. South Alabama fired Steve Campbell last Sunday after a three-year run where he racked up just nine wins.

“We are extremely excited to have Kane as the new leader for our football program,” South Alabama athletic director Joel Erdmann said in a release.  “We conducted a national search that included many tremendous participants, and at the end of that process it became obvious to me who is the best fit for us at this point in time and as we look to the future.”

This continues a two-year period of significant turnover on Allen’s staff, something that’s all but inevitable given the success of the program. Along with DeBoer and Wommack getting head-coaching jobs, IU lost performance coaches David Ballou and Matt Rhea to Alabama last offseason. Allen also had to bring in tight ends coach Kevin Wright, safeties coach Jason Jones, and defensive line coach Kevin Peoples this past offseason to fill holes.

Allen’s program was able to sustain momentum in 2020, getting off to a 6-1 start and ranked No. 8 in the Associated Press poll. IU football is currently on pause because of increased COVID-19 cases within the program, but there is still a good chance the Hoosiers will be playing in a high-profile bowl game in the coming weeks.

Last year, DeBoer stayed on IU’s staff through the Gator Bowl before heading to Fresno State.

When the season is over, Allen will have to find both a defensive coordinator and linebackers coach, because Wommack continued to lead that position group along with his coordinating duties.

“My staff and I will lead the Jaguars with a respect that honors those who have built this program; relational coaching that transforms the lives of our student-athletes; and, a contagious intensity that ignites and expands our great fan base,” Wommack said. “Our best is yet to come, GO JAGS!”

23 comments

  1. No more Powder Blue…? Gone? Bad news, man. I really liked this guy. I think he was instrumental….and he was fun. Big personality. IU sports is in dire need of those who don’t take themselves too seriously.
    Actually, Scoop is also in dire need of the same. This place has become ‘One-Upsville’ where rarely any bending, conceding of a point, or attempt to take things (or oneself) less seriously can be found.

    Jeremy can’t even have a bit of fun with “Hall Pass” anymore..
    “It’s just not serious enough, Price. More dissections of plays. More preachy quotes from Pastor Allen. More control. More conformity We’re losing ground to the those sites which do the analytics. Creativity? Self-deprecating humor? Why? You insult Herald Times and you insult yourself. And get that damn Harvard Hillbilly off the pages.”

    1. You do realize he called the defensive signals, right? And he is known to call the signals as late in the play as possible, right? Do you think maybe, just maybe, he wears a different color so that his players can easily find him on the sidelines? Sometimes the comments on this site are just too asinine to let stand…

  2. Boo! Great job at IU Kane! I have to admit that I personally would wait at the “Big” school as a young D Coordinator for a Head Coaching job in a Power 5 conference, than be a young HC at a much lesser school and conference. What was DeBoer’s record at Fresno St? Dane Fyeth example at Ft Wayne and MSU is not encouraging. 2020 is not the year to get big bucks at a small program. But Mobile is a great City!

    1. DeBoer at Fresno State 4-3 this year with a defense that wasn’t very good. If coach Inge can create a good defense they will be much better next year. Don’t forget that coach DeBoer had HC experience before coming to IU so he knows how to recruit and have a very good team.

  3. I think it’s spelled “Fife.” No problem, though. Fife is the dunce who almost cost us the game against #1 Duke at a regional semi by fouling on a 3-pt shot in the final seconds when we were four points up. Thank the heavens for a stupendous A.J. Moye block of a Carlos Boozer put-back.

    I like to think of the ‘Jizz-O for the Izzo’ as Dang Fife(add question mark).

  4. Not going to be for or against because it doesn’t matter. The reason anyone would actually say this is not a good move is simply (as I often do)…don’t want the particular coach that has success to leave.
    TOM ALLEN IS THE STAPLE OF IU FOOTBALL and if he finishes his coaching career at IU 15 – 20 years (maybe he eventually becomes administrative) with above 500 record in non conference, big ten, and bowl games would be a miraculous feat.

    1. I live in AL, and my point is that, ln my humble opinion, Troy is a much better football/sports option over South AL. But Kane is the ruler of his own career.

  5. Well, at least IU is not losing Wommack to a lateral move just for more money. Can’t blame the guy for taking a HC job and a school that he had worked for in the past. Gosh, suddenly IU is becoming the “cradle” of FB coaches. Who knows, maybe ten years from now, after they build a statue of TA in front of MS and he retires the winningest coach in IU’s history, we can hire either Wommack or DeBoer to be IU’s head coach.

    Wommack did a great job at IU and I congratulate him on his career advancement. Sorry to lose him, but the cream rises to the top. Next man up!

    1. Pertinent thoughts! Best of luck to KW.
      I’ve tons of faith Coach Allen hires a very good replacement. I wonder if he’ll also be an LB coach if staff adjustments will have to accommodate the new DC. TA will figure it out. Fun-Fun-Fun! Are we having fun yet?

  6. I was hoping Wommack would stay for a few years at IU but also knowing he was at South Alabama would be a place he would go just like coach DeBoer did with Fresno State. I am not worried about coach Allen finding a coach or two to replace coach Wommack and who might go with him.

    IU is in a good place right now to bring in coaches that are as good or better than the ones that leave. I would think there are coaches that really want to coach with coach Allen and he just needs to choose the best coach for IU. Get a coach that can make the defense even better and who can recruit even better players to IU.

    I wish coach Wommack good luck.

  7. PO- not much consolation in telling you, I told ya so….. I was worried he’d leave, and now he’s leaving. I’d be surprised if schools don’t through a bunch of money at Mike Hart and Grant Heard as well. But Tom Allan has shown the ability to make great hires in the past. Got to think that will continue in the future.

    1. No school has “a bunch of money” to throw at assistant coaches right now. The revenues just are not there now!

  8. Hires last year and if there is going to be significant turn over among staff 2021. A PROGRAM NEEDS STABILITY.

    1. As programs improve losing coaches are part of the growing pains. Once the arrive program arrives then coaches leaving are rare occurrences but still happen. IU is several good years away from arriving into the blueblood level that will keep assistant coaches here. Just look at coach Ballou leaving, I had hoped an “Indiana” man would stay but Alabama called and he left. Coach Allen pulled in a new S&C coach with a rep every bit as good as Ballou’s.

  9. Apparently LEO doesn’t include loyalty.
    I find it interesting that assistants, like Larry Johnson at OSU have spent years on the staff thru various coaching changes (after bailing on Penn St.). Fickel was there for years before finally leaving to head up Cinci. This ‘one and done’ stuff doesn’t get it. If Allen doesn’t insist on buy-out compensation provisions for whoever ends up getting the job, he’s making a mistake. Wommack did a great job. His influence might be hard to replace. I hope not.

    1. You realize that the King of LEO, Tom Allen, is thrilled for KW, his family, and his opportunity to be a head coach, right? You realize we got Tom Allen because he was disloyal to Ole Miss, right? Coaching changes are the nature of college football. Coaches expect turnover every year.

      1. BD I too believe coach Allen is thrilled for KW as he is going back to a place he knows as the HC. Coach Allen had to go to different schools to get to the school that he loves so he understands the process coaching takes to get where you really want to go. One day IU will be THE destination for coaches and some will stay the way coach Shelby has.

        There are coaches that know what they are and are happy with where they are which is a very good thing. There are coaches that know themselves and work to get to the job they want and that is a good thing. Getting a good mix of these coaches on a staff is important as they have different drives that make them go.

        1. TA getting to IU was much more coincidence than anything else. Kevin Wilson didn’t even know him when he was recommended to him. KW going to SA is great, but any offer of a head coaching job would’ve lured him away from IU. It’s how this works. The reasons Shelby hasn’t left are much more about his opportunity to move up, rather than loyalty to the program. They’re all “loyal”, but no one stands in the way of coaches who get chances to progress in their careers.

          1. BD, how much is the odds that coach Jones is named DC and coach hires a LB coach to replace coach Wommack? Jones has the background to be a DC and I thought the safeties played much better this year with him coaching them. I just want a 4-2-5 DC that has zone secondary like we did this year as zone secondary causes more interceptions and gets corners and safeties to adjust to what the offense is doing.

            Run right, the zone still has players playing like man secondary just having the players focus on the QB while running with receivers. I used to call mine a pattern read to have the secondary adjust to what was going on with patterns. Coaches thought we were running man but it often led to switching secondary players to other receivers as the patterns developed along with two or three players getting to the pass.

            I trust coach Allen to make the right decision on who will be the DC whether within the defense coaches or bringing in someone from another team.

  10. My point is eventually significant assistant turn over will take a toll.
    Costal Carolina beats Troy by 4…I suppose that is equal to IU beating Wisky by 8 at Wisky.

  11. Steve Campbell was making $617,000 at South Alabama before he got fired. Chances are very good Wommack will make slightly more than that for the next few years. That’s a significant increase in compensation, most of which will be guaranteed. More importantly, by taking over a down program that he is familiar with, he has the chance to turn it around quickly (i.e., three years) and then make the major jump to be a head coach at a Power-five conference team. And by that time, such a job will pay him over $3 million per season. Loyalty to a program is one thing, but loyalty to one’s family trumps it every time. Wommack would have been stupid not to have accepted South Alabama’s offer.

    The defense will be O.K. because it is TA’s defense. He just has to find a Coordinator that compliments his coaching philosophy and who is an accomplished recruiter. Maybe that’s someone who is already on his staff. He does tend to promote from within!

    The problem for IU FB is that it’s success on the field has surpassed its success at the box office. Until revenues from home games catch up and increase significantly, there’s little IU will be able to do to prevent good coordinators from leaving to become head coaches. But the key is to prevent good assistants from leaving for lateral moves (the same job for more money).

    As for assistant coaches staying at a FB program long term, most of them are either older men who have accepted that they’re not head coaching material and that their careers have peaked, or they’re getting paid so much money from a wealthy FB program that no school can afford to poach them away. Kevin Wilson is probably never going to be a head coach again. Wilson’s salary from OSU was $950,000 in 2019 (USA Today) and he’s surrounded by resources (staff and budget) that allows him to do his job without overwhelming stress. Not a bad gig!

Comments are closed.