Ekeler leaves Indiana for Southern California

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson confirmed on his Twitter account Friday night that linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator Mike Ekeler has left Indiana to be the linebackers coach at Southern California.

“Mike Ekeler has accepted a job at Southern Cal,” Wilson said on his Twitter account. “He is an excellent coach and we appreciate the contributions he made to our program. We wish Mike, Barbie and their family continued success at USC. We will take our time to find the best fit for #iufb and Indiana University from what we know will be a strong pool of candidates.”

Ekeler spent two years with the Indiana staff after three years as the linebackers coach at Nebraska. Though the IU defense struggled in his tenure the former Kansas State linebacker developed a reputation for his energy and his recruiting ability, especially on the JUCO circuit.

He is the second member of the defensive staff to leave this offseason for a more traditionally successful program. Defensive tackles coach Mark Hagen left for Texas A&M last month and was recently replaced by former Oklahoma offensive line coach James Patton.

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  • Higgi says:

    Lane Kiffen is a total tool and likely to be fired after the upcoming season…perhaps Coach Ekeler is gambling that he will be elevated to Defensive Coordinator when Kiffen is ousted. Seems like Coach Ek would have had more credibility in helping turning around IU’s Defense before moving on to another program, but the lure of LA is often had to resist – it’s where many dreams are realized…and even more dreams are obliterated. Good luck Coach Ek!

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    This hurts and makes losing Hagen hurt even more. He has experience playing/coaching LB’s and could easily have moved to that position. Maybe even as the co-DC. This makes it easy to see Coach Wilson knows quality personnel for IU’s staff. We can expect more of the same for a couple of years. If Ekeler can put up with Kiffin’s BS he is even tougher than I thought.

  • WaltD says:

    This will be Kiffin’s last year at USC. Maybe Ekeler thinks he has a shot at replacing him. However, when Kiffin goes, the AD will ensure everyone goes.

  • Chet says:

    Kiffen must be one of the greatest interviewees of my lifetime. He consistently gets jobs he’s unqualified for, does a terrible job, and then gets hired for a better position.

    He was spectacularly bad this year. Maybe someone paid attention.

  • AustinL says:

    Chet, I was thinking the same thing. It’s a shame to lose Coach Ek. The players seemed to really like him. I hope CKW can find someone that can match Ek’s recruiting skills and enthusiasm. I’m genuinely excited to see our guys play this year for the first time in a long time.

  • Podunker says:

    To me, the issue is not coach Ekeler, or before him, coach Hagen, it’s that IU seems unable to prevent its assistant coaches from being hired away by programs with greater wealth, even after they offer to match the other school’s offer.

    Ekeler’s move is stupid. I’m sure he got a bigger salary to move to LA, but most of the difference will be gobbled up in the excessive CA state taxes, real estate prices, and much higher cost of living. LA is in major decline, as is most of California. And the USC football program is as weak as its been in years. As previously stated above, Ekeler’s likely to be fired after the 2013 season along with the head coach and top assistants. He’s rolling the dice big time, and I assume he’s doing that because he feels he needs the greater exposure that comes with a traditionally strong program located in a major sports market. But his quality of life will suffer living in LA and he may be relocating his family again a year from now.

    But the main issue is why can’t IU keep it’s top assistant coaches? Is it just money, or is something else causing these guys to justify their departure before their mission has been completed. I think everyone knows that their is very weak fan support for IU football. Memorial Stadium is hardly ever sold out unless OSU fans buy up all the spare tickets, and after decades of disappointments and terrible management on the part of university administrators, IU fans have been conditioned to have extremely low expectations regarding IU football. Too few IU fans buy the tickets, or they don’t attend the games, so the revenue required to hire and retain the type of coaches necessary to turn a perennial loser into a competitive program is simply not there.

    Ekeler was not around long enough for anyone to determine he was a good coach or not. His linebackers did not seem to be very effective in the two years he coached IU, but look what he inherited! He seemed to be able to recruit, but that’s relative. But really, whether one liked him or not is irrelevant. If Wilson wanted to keep him, but could not, that’s a big red flag. I suggest Mr. Glass examine the issue carefully and make some changes, quickly. Or the momentum we appear to have created last year, and especially with this recruiting class, will be forfeit, and the negative cycle could start all over again.

    Buy tickets, go to the games, go into the stadium, stay past half time, and make some noise. Write a check from time to time. The power to transform IU football lies within The Hoosier Nation, and we will get the football program we deserve.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    Plenty of IU $ are available for a quality staff, there is no red flag. Take a look around the country and see other programs with more notoriety have lost coaches this year also. Meatchicken just lost their DL coach to Oklahoma. The Sooners also stole 1 from WVU. Just look around it is everywhere. Even a team who would produce a 12-0 season could be fertile soil for the pros coaching needs.

  • Big Hoosier/Ben says:

    I was sad to learn this, but it dont surprise me at all. My feelings on this is as follows: IU has plenty of cash, but until we can constantly win, maybe a bowl every other year, and get out of the celler, we will continue to lose coaches.

    Though I agree, money is the biggest factor.

    We will never know if Eckler improved the defense. It may have been marginally inproved. Had he had better players to work with, it might have been a different story. We will never know. He came in, when IU football was at a extremly low point.

    Wilson has proven he can lure known coaches. I expect a solid replacement. The culture is changing, and I can see IU Football slowly inproving, may it be recruits, and a coach who isnt afriad to be an ass when needed, unlike Lynch.

    Though remember this. When IU starts winning on a constant basis again, we will lose oaches. Winning=better opprutunities. Coaches neer left Lynch, because, well….. We were no good. I would love feedback.

  • Chet says:

    I doubt it was just a bigger check. I’m thinking he sees a higher profile program as the next step to a HC position. I concur with several previous posters that his timing sucks. It’s hard to imagine that anything short of a title run will save Kiffen. Remember, this train wreck he coached this year was the preseason #1 in some polls.

    I gotta admit that, while I generally like the guy, it’s been amusing listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN radio make excuses for the guy. He has become friends with Kiffen and he’s gotten too close (and, IMHO, to smitten) to admit what a spectacular failure he’s been…well… everywhere. At this point he’s got to turn on a friend to admit the truth.

    Kiffen is one of those “Being There” people. The stars aligned and all he had to do was show up and look pretty (see Sarah Palin). We should all wish for such a fate…or not.

  • Big Hoosier/Ben says:

    Your probably right Chet. I just wish he had better talent to work with when he was at Indiana. My question is this Chet. If his goal is to become a HC, why did he even bother to come to Indiana? Did he expect a miracle with our defense? Seems logical he would have stayed at Nebraska, and built his résumé from there.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Big Hoosier/Ben- I am not sure what I am looking at, but I do have ideas.

    I remember three (four-the time just prior to Lynch’s last season) years ago when we all thought the defense had to be addressed and it became clear the survival of the Lynch staff depended on doing what had to be done, period. We were then the laughing stock of the Big Ten for our defensive play.

    It was even pointed out to him that if it was not addressed the likely consequences was the probability that the entire staff would be dismissed; so even out of loyalty to his assistants(those who would have survived changes) he had to take action.

    He didn’t. He and his entire staff were fired (and no one really blamed the offense).

    This year I thought something similar; CKW would have to address the defense, it would be completely self-defeating to not do so. And, given its performances, it had to be fairly radical changes. I tried not to fool myself. It seemed to me it was not only a matter of personnel. Now, however it was done, the circumstances forced significant personnel changes and restructuring. And, to our benefit, they come in a relatively quiet, low key way.

    I have a lot of confidence that CKW knows what he is doing. He does not appear to be the type to be shy or postpone hard decisions, a mark of good leadership. I believe he has taken charge and is doing what, in his best judgment, he needs to do to improve the program. He should continue on course to give us the best staff and team possible.

  • iulongago says:

    Maybe it’s as simple as this…If you are a football coach and can choose between IU and USC, which one do you pick? Though this can be ‘parsed’ many different ways, it just may be that simple.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Re JP’s comment, I think it’s a style issue. But either way, I appreciate the fact that we don’t have to wade our way through 10-15 unbearably gross and insulting comments to exchange diverse thoughts on our Hoosier way of life and love.

    On another, much more pleasant front:

    How about that. You’d think that someone would have noticed that for all practical purposes, we took a ‘virtual’ three game lead over the second place team in the B1G. (Two wins and a ‘tie-breaker’ over MSU. Which means if we win at Minny (or any one more game) we are ‘virtual ‘champs. Since OSU beat Michigan, only Wisconsin (and that’s dangerous enough) is in a better position than MSU.

    How ’bout ‘dem ‘dar Hoosiers!

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    IULongAgo…(and I always think your posts are amongst the best). It doesn’t make sense and nurturing a high level coaching career has to make sense.

  • Big Hoosier/Ben says:

    Thanks Tsao. Good feedback. I was under the impression IU had to win 3 of the next 4 games to be assured Big 10 champions?

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    This all makes sense. Word has it USC made an offer to Ekeler last year with a muti-year contract and he turned them down. No doubt they made a better offer this year. He loses the “co” title but gets a large increase in salary and maybe a multiple year contract. The “co” is still on his resume and it is pretty easy explaining why you leave IU for USC to the next future employer. USC is still huge in CFB even with Kiffin as HC.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    Possibly; however, I thought someone (HT?)had published Ekeler had denied an offer last year. No matter. If after 1990 years the Vatican can survive the resignation by Pope Benedict XVI, IU can survive the resignation- for whatever the reason- of Coach Ekeler.

  • Hoosier Clarion says:

    Correct, losing the continuity of the staff is a stutter step but there are many good LB coaches who are at a program not at IU level who can excel in Bloomington.

  • iulongago says:

    Thanks Tsao but I just think that if your football coaching resume says USC it means significantly more than if it lists IU in the same time frame.

  • You.Me.We says:

    So we lose two defensive coaches for the worst defense in the league(by far) and we act like the world is coming to an end?

  • Chet says:

    Where did you read that? The posts I’m reading say just the opposite, basically, ‘Don’t let that door hit you in the butt on the way out…’

    It’s been more of an exercise in the question, ‘why leave for USC when their head coach is hanging by a thread?’

    I don’t think many are out on a ledge. I could be wrong.

  • You.Me.We says:


    My comment was based on what I’ve been seeing around the web at all the IU news sources. There are a lot of people saying these departures are “crippling” or “sting” or “this really slows our momentum”. If you haven’t seen any of these sentiments out there then you haven’t been looking very deep. Personally, I am in the “don’t let the door…” camp.

  • Jim says:

    When Indiana goes 9-3 next season, Coach Wilson himself will be the next to leave for higher salary/better opportunity.

  • TsaoTsuG says:

    You, me, we…I think in general people accept that assistant coaches on the rise look for opportunities to push their careers forward. Some think they do so through short stays at any one place but I doubt their ‘gypsy’ life style results in serious, professional consideration.

    On the other hand, you have the example in Coach Wilson himself who served extended stays in jobs that spell out a professional resume of seriousness, innovation, loyalty and accomplishment; how else do you explain Miami(O), Northwestern, Oklahoma over a career spanning 20-some years. It was this history that got him noticed and recommended by a top industry-respected, athletic consultant. It was this serious approach that made him an immediate and outstanding candidate that easily stood out to A.D. Glass.

    I generally believe that a staff, like a building, needs to ‘settle’. That is exactly the expected process and the adjustments that I perceive is going on. We, as fans, need to let it happen while we remain confident Coach Wilson is in control.

    Much of the problem at Indiana is and has been that- when it comes to football- we don’t have a history that allows for confidence. Generally, any event we don’t fully understand raises a waterfall of angst over options and a tsunami of second-guessers. Many who raise it see themselves as alternative athletic administrators qualified to do coaching searches and define program strategies. Nothing could be further from the truth. Notice the numbers of suggestions sending in specific names for the vacancies left by Hagen and Ekelar through all sorts of open forums.

    Let’s be honest and let’s be loyal to the Hoosiers; the opposite is true and it is the basic reason why we are not very good at making athletic policy or doing a job search, especially in football.

    Glass, Wilson and Indiana are well served if our recommendations are ignored. In exchange, we’ll get well selected, well schooled, well structured, well coached athletic teams that we can then brag ‘depended on our collective coaching ability’ to achieve success.

    At some point we need to be honest with ourselves and leave the program’s leadership for those who know more than we do, beginning with Coach Kevin Wilson in this case.

  • Double Down says:

    Some of these comments are truly odd. I can’t believe that I am reading that IU football fans are “concerned” that we lost an assistant coach to one of the top 5 programs in the nation? This sucks for us, but how is this a surprise.

    I like Coach Ek and wish him the best. But at least now we’ll have a single DC, instead of sharing the duties with Doug Mallory. Mallory can be held accountable and run his D.

    On the flip side, while our defense was really bad last year, at least we saw them hitting hard and playing with intensity. Wonder how much Coach Ek played in that and if we can keep it going?

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