On the flight back from Nebraska, senior left tackle Coy Cronk assumed the deal had already been finished.
The Hoosiers, and Chucky, had just beaten the Cornhuskers for the first time in 60 years and clinched bowl eligibility in October. IU was off to its best start in decades and players like Cronk never thought twice about an extension for the head coach they had all rallied behind.
Days after IU won the Old Oaken Bucket back and clinched an eight-win regular season, head coach Tom Allen received a contract extension that represented IU finally committing financial resources to football, lifting its coach’s salary into the tier applicable to his status of playing in a Power 5 conference.
Allen signed a seven-year contract extension, increasing his yearly salary to $3.9 million. The highest paid employee at IU, famous for its basketball tradition, is its football coach.
“It reflects a huge commitment to Tom, huge commitment to university football and very importantly a deep commitment that transcends me, transcends the athletic department, reflects engagement and support from the president and the Board of Trustees as well which also bodes well for the future of IU football,” IU athletic director Fred Glass said.
Allen, however, never truly dreamed of that day.
“That was not really part of the plan,” Allen said.
Allen began coaching in high school, bouncing from Florida to Indiana. He was hired from his head coaching job at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis to coach at Wabash College. Working in assistant positions, Allen had to move his family from Indiana to Tennessee to Iowa to Arkansas to Mississippi to Florida and back to Indiana. And they did it all in less than a decade. Only two of his six college stops before the Hoosiers lasted more than one year.
His wife was a school teacher, and had to find new jobs with each move. He wasn’t making anything near the money he’s getting now. But for Allen, it was never about the money.
“You knew hopefully one day you would have a chance to make a little bit more, but to say that I would ever dream of that, think of that, no,” Allen said of his new contract. “It was really beyond my wildest dreams to be honest with you. That’s why I just feel amazingly blessed and very thankful, appreciative.”
Allen was in a constant cycle of buying homes during his years moving from job to job. He said he didn’t want to rent, instead wanting his family to feel like they had a home, even if they had no way to know how long they’d stay. Or at least with the exception of one home he rented, but only because of how much he’d lost on his previous home when the housing market crash.
With his new contract he can pay off that debt. Now he has a home, for the long term, in Indiana.
And when he welcomes his young players and walks into the homes of recruits, he can assure them he won’t be leaving.
“They just want to make sure that you’re going to be the one coaching their son the whole time that he’s here at Indiana,” Allen said. “That’s been put to rest with the new contract, and that’s why it means a lot.”
Allen had a large group of recruits on campus just after his new contract was announced. He could tell all of them with absolute certainty that he would be their coach. Even after a breakout season for Indiana and for Allen himself as a coach, he wasn’t going to quickly step away for a job at a bigger school should that position open itself.
As Allen brings his team to Florida for the Gator Bowl and his first game since signing the new deal, he can tell all the players in a state he recruits so heavily, that the man they’ll see yelling and jumping down the sidelines in Jacksonville won’t be going anywhere.