The outpouring of love for former IU football coach Bill Mallory since his death on Friday has been incredible. He clearly had a tremendous and enduring impact on the lives of the young men he coached and many, many others. There is little doubt that Bill Mallory, the person, was far superior to Bill Mallory, the football coach.
But he was a damn good football coach.
Make no mistake, Coach Mallory is IU’s Bear Bryant, Bo Schembechler or Woody Hayes. In my mind, Mallory’s tenure is best thought of as three phases: a two-year rebuild, a nine-year stretch of success unlike any in the program’s history, and a two-year slide which culminated in his premature firing. In the four seasons that comprise the rebuild and the slide, Mallory’s teams went 9-35. In the middle nine seasons from 1986 to 1994, Mallory’s Hoosiers went 60-43-3.
I would argue (with an admittedly heavy dose of bias) that, given IU football’s track record before and after him, Mallory’s nine-year run of success at IU rivals any accomplishment by the sport’s all-time greats at their respective schools. In that nine-year stretch, he led his teams to six bowl games, one more than IU has played in without him in its entire history. And he won two of those bowls; every other IU football coach in history has combined for one other bowl win.1 His teams finished at or above .500 in seven of those nine seasons. In every non-Mallory season since IU joined the B1G in 1953, IU has just 8 seasons at or above .500, and ONLY ONE in the 22 seasons since his firing. At a historically difficult – to put it mildly – place to win, Mallory built a consistent winner.
He racked up that record with very few empty calories on the schedule. Mallory never played a 1-AA school and for the most part played an 8 or 9-game B1G schedule, Kentucky and another major conference opponent each season. Sure, he caught a little break in the late 80s when Michigan and Ohio State had simultaneous down-turns, but having an opportunity is one thing. Seizing it is quite another. He beat Michigan and Ohio State IN THE SAME YEAR.2 Since Mallory left, IU is a combined 0-32 against Michigan and Ohio State.
And perhaps most importantly, he beat Purdue seven times, while only losing six, doing his part to even a historically lopsided series.3
That resume would be worthy of recognition even if the person compiling it was a scumbag. When the person behind it is Bill Mallory, it is worthy of reverence.
Which leads me to my final point: IU’s Athletic Department needs to do more to honor Bill Mallory. Fans should see his statue in a prominent location outside Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers should be playing on Bill Mallory Field at Memorial Stadium. His record as a football coach justifies that level of respect. His record as a person demands it.