BLOOMINGTON — Kevin Bush wouldn't do it. The Indiana defensive end and former Homestead standout had a chance to make an early case for the qualities he wants in the next football coach.
“That's above my pay grade,” Bush said.
As an Iraq war veteran, he'd used that phrase often when facing a situation he had no control over. Athletic director Fred Glass talked to the team and said they would have some input as he searches for the new coach to replace the fired Bill Lynch.
“Coach Lynch was a great guy,” Bush said, “so hopefully it's someone who has his traits, hopefully someone who will bring the right things.”
For offensive lineman Justin Pagan, the No. 1 trait would be bringing the sense of family that Lynch did.
Players said they'd get together and discuss it with the team's leadership council before deciding on recommendations.
Bush said Glass told them he wouldn't rush to name a new coach, but that it would be done quickly.
Players indicated there would be no mass exodus, although most were upset by Lynch's firing.
“A lot of us were surprised,” Bush said. “No one saw it coming.
“I was shocked. It was such a high Saturday night after winning the Bucket, and then Sunday morning … there was a lot of confusion.”
Glass fired Lynch on Sunday, the day after IU beat Purdue to win the Oaken Bucket. Some thought that would be enough to save Lynch's job, but his 19-30 record and three straight seasons of 1-7 Big Ten records were too much to overcome.
Lynch met with the players Monday afternoon. It was a grim atmosphere — until Lynch burst into the team meeting room at Memorial Stadium holding the Oaken Bucket. He jokingly told players gathered around the podium to ‘Get out of my podium.'
“It hit home with everyone,” Bush said. “Everyone was down and then he came in. It was emotional. It was tough for a lot of people. If anyone kept his composure, it was Coach Lynch. It was good for all the guys to see him in good spirits.”
Lynch's message was clear — continue to represent the university well, finish the semester strong academically and work to get your degree.
A transition team that includes director of football operations Mark Deal, former IU All-American Anthony Thompson and strength coach Mark Watseka will handle workouts and recruiting until a new coach is named.
“You're going to hit some bumps in the road,” center Will Matte said, “and you've got to keep going. I'm encouraging guys as far as doing the right stuff every day. Keep encouraging guys to stay together.”
Added Pagan: “It's a time where you don't want to do anything, but you have football so you've got to keep going, keep working, keep going forward. That's what Coach would want us to do.”