The Big Ten conference features four first-year head coaches for the 2011-12 season, and two of them will be squaring off at Ohio Stadium this Saturday.
OSU fans will surely recognize coach Luke Fickell, but Indiana’s coach, Kevin Wilson, will be a new face.
Though they are both first-year coaches, the situation the coaches walked into couldn’t be more different.
Fickell rose to head coach at OSU from the defensive coordinator position because former coach Jim Tressel resigned amid a scandal involving players receiving improper benefits. But with six consecutive Big Ten championships, the OSU program is not accustomed to rebuilding. OSU gave Fickell a one-year deal and did not commit to anything long term.
Wilson, who was formerly offensive coordinator at Oklahoma, left to take over an Indiana program that has been near the bottom of the Big Ten standings for much of the past decade. He was signed to a seven-year deal and is charged with rebuilding the struggling program for the long haul.
Wilson has said he expected his team had the tools to be successful right away.
“We should do well, we expect to do well,” Wilson said before the season at a Big Ten Media Day in Chicago on July 29. “To me, the culture changes with our performance. I don’t complain about our culture. I want our fans to be excited about it, but they’re not going to be until we win games and do the things that winners do.”
But the Hoosiers haven’t done much winning during the 2011 season. They’ve compiled a 1-8 record on the year including and 0-5 mark within the Big Ten.
Their lone win was against South Carolina State and they’ve suffered disappointing losses to Ball State and North Texas.
Despite the struggles, Wilson is still looking forward to his first trip to Columbus as a head coach.
“Going to Columbus is going to be unique and special,” Wilson said during a press conference on Tuesday. “One of the great places to play.”
Wilson also said he thought Fickell and the coaching staff at OSU have done a good job in the face of adversity.
“It is a little transition, but I’ve got a lot of respect for Luke Fickell and all the coaches over there,” Wilson said. “I think they’re doing a good job in a difficult situation.”
The Buckeyes beat Indiana, 38-10, last year, but Fickell said despite the Hoosiers struggles, he expects a different Indiana team than OSU faced last season, largely because of Wilson.
“They’ll be a different mindset than the Indiana team that came in here last year, I truly believe,” Fickell said. “And that’s a tribute to what coach Wilson has done. You can see it from the sideline, the fire and the passion no matter what the situation is.”
Indiana and Ohio State kickoff at noon on Saturday.