Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Rumors of a curse?


I hear rumors and whispers that Purdue is now cursed! People are telling me that ever since Burke announced Purdue Pete would be changed, things haven't been going well for Purdue athletics. Here are my thoughts.

Curses, to me are merely the excuses of losers. All kidding aside- I lived in Boston a few years before they made their amazing comeback from three games down...back then, the Sox faithful loved their misery and reveled in whining about why and how they lose. Cubs fans are the same- being a lovable loser has become their identity. More times than not, the Red Sox have limited post-season success because they're in the Yankees division...and the Yanks win at all costs. Similarly, the Cubs don't win pennants because the Cardinals own them and the division. Shockingly, success, or lack there of, has little to do with goats, a traded pitcher or a mascot change. Similarly, schools that make winning a priority (get this), win games.

The argument that Purdue can't win because of proximity to aOSU, UND and Michigan is asinine. TCU wins in Texas because they have an AD that made winning a priority over a decade ago and have had two coaches that have been creative in their recruiting. Atop that, the university has backed the program fully giving them the tools they request to win. Iowa was a doormat for decades, but Frye took a big step forward with the help of a good AD and Ferentz has helped the Hawkeyes take the mythological, if not ethereal "next step". Remember, Iowa has always had to recruit against Nebraska. Heck, even look at Northwestern...bad facilities, high academic standards, close proximity to one of college football's historical giants...and instead of dwelling of the on-going effects (and potential "curse") of Wheeler & Walker's deaths, they're simply succeeding.
One thing Joe Tiller did very well early in his years in West Lafayette is he thought differently and approached problems from a new angle. Can't run v. the mosters of the BT? Short passes, hot routes and bubble screens. Can't get the recruits from the Midwest? Go after guys in Texas who aren't coveted by the big boys. Danny Hope's attempting to do the same down in talent-laden Florida...I think it's a good tactic.
Burke has decided to focus on fixing something that's not broken (Pete)...and makes sure to run the athletic department like a business by perpetually focusing on the bottom line. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to keep the bottom line in mind...it's a very good thing, no doubt. But to me, it seems the focus should be on winning, and doing it the right way. He refuses to pursue the highest-caliber, most-qualified coaches, and instead settles for inexpensive options with heavy Purdue ties. Matt Painter has turned out to be a brilliant hire. But, remember, Matty only had one year of head coaching under his belt when hired to God's country. He's already lost assistants because his budget is too low...and worse yet, he has an out clause in his contract after this season that might allow him to leave town...all because Purdue and its athletic department's focus doing things on the cheap.

Hope was an inexpensive option with moderate success at his previous job...but had Purdue ties. He's currently the second-lowest paid coach in the BT...and more than that, his staff is extremely-low paid. Worse yet, many of them coach like it. Whether or not Hope was the perfect fit for the job at this point, matters little. What does matter, is he needs all tools at his disposal to be successful.

So is there a curse? Perhaps...but it's not caused by the sports gods smiting our Boilers...This one is self-inflicted. It's definitely not caused by Pete's imminent exit...but instead, Purdue athletics will be cursed as long as this entity continues to think small time and has a fanbase that does the same. I think you break sports curses pretty simply- if something isn't working, try something new.

But, keeping with tradition simply because that's the way things are done is a disease that Purdue's athletic department has been infected with with for decades. It's everywhere- from crappy fans who get angry at those who have the audacity to cheer and stand at games (gasp!!), to alums and ticket holders that accept .500 (or worse) records as a bi-product of us simply being who we are...to coaches and administrators that focus on Purdue's limitations instead of trying to do things creatively and differently than their competition.

The culture must change in order for the real curse to be lifted.

22 comments:

4thandshort said...

Can't say I've read much on here to say I disagree with you. Your right, Purdue does do things on the "cheap" side, at least compared to the rest of the Big Ten. But everytime there is an article in the local paper about coaches salries people pipe in on how the coaches are getting paid too much. Many were displeased when Painter got a "raise" but of course at the same time thay want a good program. People don't want their ticket prices to go up but want a good team year in and year out. Well something's got to give and the crappy fans and overall culture do need to change but I highly doubt it will anytime soon.

PWS said...

Dead on, Boilerdowd....Its been my largest gripe for awhile.

zlionsfan said...

Actually, there's a better argument for the Cubs not winning, and it ties in better with your point (much better IME) ...

The Cubs don't win because they don't need to. They are a highly profitable team (they posted a $21M profit in 2007; given how I imagine MLB teams post their financials, their real profit is likely higher) because people will go to Wrigley no matter what. For a long time, they've been owned by people who cared simply about making money, so that's what they did. On-field quality and off-field decision-making were not requirements.

The same could be said for the Red Sox; people going to Fenway no matter what, poor decision-making (not signing black players, poor deadline trades), unwillingness to do what was necessary to win.

When new ownership and management changed that approach, their results changed, both in Boston and Chicago: no, the Cubs haven't won a Series recently, but that isn't the sole indicator of franchise quality. Lots of good teams don't do that (ask the Yankees). They have won division titles, three times in six years. Pretty impressive for a franchise that had won two division titles prior to that.

When you take over a middle-tier program, I think it's important to start building for the future. Unless your school has a history of success (say, Nebraska), you don't have the resources to go toe-to-toe with the top teams yet. Doing what Tiller did was a good start: if you can't beat them, do something different. Same thing could be said for Burke: if you can't spend with them, save up.

However, at some point, you do have to confront the top teams. Wisconsin has become a regular contender by playing power football, recruiting OL and RB that would have probably fit in nicely at UM, OSU, or PSU. Iowa did the same thing in the Fry years, and you could make the argument that if they can't sustain that level of success, it's because they've been unable to adapt to the type of football that is successful now, even in the Big Ten. (Most teams run some form of the spread.)

I think the problem that Tiller had was that he never seemed to get enough talent. When the spread was new to the conference, it was more successful, even with average talent, because other teams weren't prepared for it.

Now that defenses are getting quicker and reading better, the spread itself is no longer a guarantee of success: slow, sure-handed receivers aren't marching a team downfield 6-8 yards per play. To be successful with a spread, you have to have talent, and neither Tiller nor Hope seems to have acquired enough of it so far.

At some point, Burke has to invest those dollars he's been saving. Hope doesn't necessarily need to be replaced, not if Purdue is willing to hire and retain good assistants, and then spend some money to send them out to recruit more players with talent who also fit what Purdue expects of its student-athletes.

They're certainly willing to do it in other sports, even if it's (much) cheaper to do so. Women's basketball has been successful for almost 25 years: their last losing season prior to 2009-10 was 1984-85, in part because they were willing to hire quality coaches and in part because they were willing to fight to recruit top talent.

And of course if you are successful in the money sports, it's easier to be successful in the other sports. Profit from football and men's basketball can be used to support other sports as well as the big two: look at the Directors' Cup standings and see what some other schools are able to do with those profits. (Certainly that's not the only thing that makes a school successful across sports - Stanford, for example, isn't making millions from football - but it certainly helps.)

I guess I can live with a change to Purdue Pete ... as long as he doesn't become train monkey.

Ben C said...

Brilliant. I hope Morgan Burke reads this post.

E said...

"Making winning a priority".....is that code for lowering academic standards?? I think that has been the case in the past for Northwestern. Probably other schools out there as well. Regardless, what happened to all the bowl money Tiller got us? Was it spent on the new buildings around campus? I don't understand this "cheap" philosophy. You make all these changes to the stadium, raise ticket prices every year...and then not spend it on coaches and recruiting? Makes me not want to pay any attention to Purdue football anymore.

MrAnonymous said...

Slow news day, huh?

J Money said...

MrAnonymous -- Great comment. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

Oh, for the record, we're not a "news" site. Been around for four years and yet we still get this kind of comment sometimes... we're not here to break news -- we're here to provide commentary, analysis and breakdowns on Purdue (and other) sports. And to make fun of Notre Dame.

Grassy-ass.

Callie said...

Word....especially the part about the fans not cheering!

BoilerUpAT said...

What has there been to cheer about lately? Seriously, I'm as die hard as they come, but with all the mediocre seasons in the past several years, strings of bad luck and close home losses (i.e., '08 Oregon, '09 ND, etc) we have pretty much become accustomed to the great letdown.

Its hard to sustain the will to cheer wildly for this team. I was a student from 00-03 and I can tell you this fan base knows how to cheer. Give us something to cheer about, give us something to look forward to. We know how to make it loud, we know how to cheer. Sure, there are old fogies in the stands that just suck ass, believe me, I know. But, every place has them so don't just say its Purdue. Ever go to a game in the Big House? Exactly. If you're not near the student section, then you better be sitting down and being quiet. So, enough fan bashing-quit flipping the blame on the fans.

Put a product on the field that won't let your fans down in dramatic fashion over and over again, and you will sustain an energetic fanbase. Its simple

boilerdowd said...

BoilerUp, I've been to 8 of the 11 BT stadiums, a few Big East venues and UND. You're nuts if you think the alums over the age of 40 are a die-hard bunch. Michigan's fans are pretty sorry, no doubt...but they're there in force, something that Purdue fans are not.

When cheering, outside of the student section becomes the norm, I'll stop banging this gong. When I don't have people pissed at me for cheering in the lower bowl of Mackey, or on during defensive series in football, I'll stop...until then, I'll keep stating the fact that Purdue's fans are part of the problem. We received a message from a reader who said she was asked by SECURITY to stop standing and cheering recently. Unacceptable. Here's the deal- those guards get their marching orders from the athletic department.

I agree there hasn't been much to cheer about, but to say there's no problem in the stands is wrong- check out the other commenters, we're not alone in our sentiment.

Plang said...

What fixes these sorts of problems is the fan base, alumni, and boosters telling the school that they want a good team, and putting their money where their mouths are. It really is that simple. I agree with BD - even in 1999 there were a lot of fans that sat on their hands. That has been Purdue fans for as long as I have been going to games.

If you want the teams to be great, the folks with the money have to talk with their money. It is sort of pathetic for this to be the case with college (non-pro) sports, but it is the truth. So, until people tell the school and the athletic department they want a better program or the money is going to dry up, well, nothing is going to change.

BoilerUpAT said...

Ok well I do understand the fans on the hands scenario at Ross Ade. Maybe it just makes me sick knowing I cant do anything about it so I try to look for other solutions.

I don't think it is the fans responsibility to make the AD put a good product on the field. I think it's the AD responsibility to put a product out that makes people clamor to go and watch. You think the AD cares if there are 75,000 people screaming their heads off vs not having the people there at all? They care about tickets sold, not the amount of vocal support given by them. It is about money. Selling tickets makes money, and you don't sell tickets to a team that is mediocre and expect to make maximum profits.

To me, the cheering is a by-product of having something worth cheering for. Build a championship program and the people will come. Win big games, and they will be loud.

Don't mix two issues. One is the number of people in the seats, and the second is how much noise they make.

zlionsfan said...

It's not even the tickets; it's the revenue. If Purdue makes $60K from one luxury box and $60K from 230 regular season tickets, it's all the same to them. (In a sense, they might prefer to sell the luxury box, given the choice, partly because the market for the boxes is so much smaller, particularly these days.)

The part about security telling people to sit down is disheartening, but hell, they do that in the bleachers at Wrigley, at least until the ninth inning. The part about the non-student fans being quiet, well ... most of that is on the fans. (Some is team-related, sure. In general, people will root more loudly for teams playing well.)

I don't really know how to motivate the old people, though. I think that's come up on this site before (with respect to Mackey and lack of crowd noise in certain sections). There are probably seats you could fill in Mackey if you booted some of the quiet ones there, but there's obviously not a waiting list at Ross-Ade. Quiet people don't help the team much on the field, but they do help to pay bills. I suppose in that sense, they're better than nothing.

Andrew said...

I'm wary of the "win at all costs" scenario.
I don't want an Ohio State/USC/North Carolina/Florida State scenario where they school said "to hell with academics, we want to win".

The purpose of a University is to provide an education. Athletics is secondary, which is as it should be. However, I do believe that the two are not mutually exclusive.

It's certainly tempting to take the easy way out, but that can only lead to heartbreak. Northwestern and Stanford manage it pretty well, as does Georgia Tech. The hard part is having the will to do both. It's very easy to take the Duke (or Vandy, to a lesser extent) route and accept mediocrity, or to make the win-at-all-costs choice (which is the one that really scares me).

Morgan Burke needs to figure out what he wants. Maybe he should call Bob Bowlsby (Stanford) or Dan Radakovich (GT).

boilerdowd said...

We don't want winning at all costs either...we want it to be more of a priority. Northwestern and TCU are both used as examples in the post for that reason.

My quote was:
"But to me, it seems the focus should be on winning, and doing it the right way."

The last part of the sentence is important to me.

It can be done though.

ATL_Boilers said...

Hey, that's me in the picture, sweet!

BoilerGirl said...

Andrew,

I am not sure how OSU fits into your, "...I'm wary of the "win at all costs" scenario." As they are not a USCum or a Free Shoes University. OSU is actually ranked pretty closely to Purdue in most recent overall academic rankings. As for their football fan base though, it is rabid and Purdue lacks that.

Purdue does not have a coach like Tressel and does not appear to want to pony up the funds to do so. As an Alum, I am grateful that we have a Keady-coached man in Painter, but until the football program takes priority and the geniuses handling recruiting look elsewhere than the over-tilled soil of Florida, we will have more of the same for a long, long time.

Boilergal said...

For fans to cheer, you have to have an entertaining product on the field. Last Saturday, watching Toledo march down the field throwing 5-7 yard pass after 5-7 yard pass with absolutely no adjustment by our defense, well that to me is not entertaining. It is much more worth my time to tailgate with a cocktail than sit there and watch TOLEDO kick our butts as we roll over and let them. Purdue now has my money for the football season, but unless I see something on the field that vaguely resembles effort and adjustment, it is not worth the stress to stay in the stands and cheer for a pathetically-coached team. My time is more valuable and it just gets to the point that being miserable is not a good use of that time.

Purdue had better pony up some more money to keep Painter. Regardless of his Purdue ties, Burke needs to pay him what he is worth. If not, he will prove that his emphasis is on the bottom line and not on winning, and the basketball program will really suffer. I am not sure what the financial status of the athletic department is, but I do know that I paid $100 more per b-ball ticket this season for the renovation. I believe that was about a 30% increase from last season. I certainly hope that Burke also recognizes Painter's value and allows him to be the one that gets to use that as a recruiting advantage- Get Matty more dough!!! Of course, that will probably lead to another $100-200 bump in tickets.

BTW, I see we now have a Boilergirl on here... Welcome!

David said...

Great post, everything is dead on. I completely agree with the salary issue, and frankly, it scares me. I wouldn't mind seeing Hope gone, but it would be very unsettling if Painter left. I've said from the beginning of Hope's tenure that Purdue should have gone for someone more high profile. I guess it never really dawned on me that the main roadblock there was $$$. (I'm stupid, I know....) Let's all just imagine for a moment that Purdue would be willing to pay someone like Nick Saban or Jim Tressel what they're worth. Can you imagine what our program would be with guys like that at the helm? wow....

Ben said...

I'd sooner renounce my degree and tattoo my taint than have Nick Satan anywhere close to our program.

zlionsfan said...

agreed. I dislike Sweatervest because of where he coaches, but I respect what he has done there, and as far as I can tell, it has been the Big Ten Way.

Saban, on the other hand, seems to fit in very well in the SEC. That is curious, given that he didn't seem nearly as interested in bending rules like Cirque du Soleil performers when he coached at MSU. Maybe that's what it takes for him to succeed at Alabama ...

but anyway, agree with the larger point. It would have been nice to be able to consider other coaches instead of committing to Tiller's selection. Given the current state of the program, I'd rather give Hope enough time to clearly demonstrate that he can't get it done here. Let's not be a Notre Dame. (How ironic: prior to Willingham, they'd always given coaches enough time ... times have changed in South Bend in many ways, I suppose.)

UAZip said...

Boilerdowd, you gotta admit that it may be more than mere coincidence that all these ACLs started tearing when they announced their plan for changes. I think a curse may be behind this whole thing!

Seriously, though, I've had old farts yell at me for standing up in Mackey at a women's game when they were mounting a comeback. I've been told to sit down by someone at Ross-Ade who didn't like that I was trying to exhort the crowd to help make noise to stop the other team from scoring on us right there in the north end zone (I'm in the front row). And at the Ball State game, the security goon stopped me and my buddy at the gate because (and I quote) "hardhats are not allowed in the stadium!" It took getting his supervisor, who mouthed off at me too, to get that straightened out. Being an enthusiastic Purdue fan is NOT easy, and the administration isn't making it any easier!

PurdueBill (known to Google as UAZip)