Monday, December 26, 2011
We've been called fanboys, we've been told we're too hard on our alma mater's Athletic Department and I think that shows that we've been balanced...the re-up of Hope is another post that we're catching flack about, so I'll expound a bit right now about a few points since the Christmas presents have been unwrapped and the house is cleaned up.
Since Purdue beat aOSU, we thought it would take a catastrophe to push Hope out. Burke's history with football and basketball coaches is that he just doesn't like firing people as he seems to want to avoid a costly buyout and the messy fallout of a coach being thrown out. So in spite of heavily-lagging ticket sales, the carrot of beating the Buckeyes seemed to be enough to buy Hope at least one more season. Remember, at that point, we weren't in accord with the idea, we just believed things were as they were and we would be forced to live with it.
After watching the Iowa debacle in person, I felt like Burke might go either way depending on what happened in Bloomington. Purdue had a chance to grab a solid bowl with a win over a mediocre Iowa team...instead they rolled over and pooped the bed. That one pissed me off because of its predictability. Hope has repeatedly not been able to motivate this team in the wake of a victory...no matter how big or small, the team seems to think it is one of the nation's best following placing a V in the left column.
After Purdue beat a flat-out crappy IU team in meh fashion, Purdue had earned a 6-6 record. This decidedly-middling record is just good enough to scrape into a lousy bowl game. But coming into this season, I predicted a losing season. So I'll take my lumps- I thought they'd beat Rice, SEMo, Minny, and IU...and that's it. I thought MTSU would have a better season...I was wrong. I thought Illinois would have a good season behind Scheelhause...I was wrong. I thought Purdue would be home for the holidays...I was wrong.
Predicting outcomes of a season prior to seeing a team play is tough for a guy who does it for a living. Prognosticating as a side project when you work in the real world is foolish. Thus, I'm foolish...time and again.
As we watched the season there were some things that were obvious. First off, this team was simply not ready for the pre-con coming out of camp. That's on Hope. We've said that a million times...and it's a recurring them. But, after a few games, improvement was pretty obvious. You could see that Purdue was a much-improved running team and had a few tools on the defensive side of the ball that, if used correctly, could wreak havoc in the B1G.
Sadly, not much havoc was created. The top of the conference dominated Purdue...with the exception of PSU. For the record, in a conference that suffered from inept offenses, PSU's was notably feeble. Sure, their defense was what it usually is...but you have to score an offensive TD every now and again to be considered good. After PSU, Purdue showed it belonged squarely in the gray blob...the big boring middle that included Illinois, Northwestern, aOSU and Iowa.
So that's where we stand now; Hope's team isn't great...and it isn't horrible. Purdue's fanbase, myself included, feel apathetic about the program. We all hope for more, we all want more, but it's been 7 seasons since Purdue was a solid football team. Burke blamed the ticket sales on the economy...I'd blame them on season upon season of unimpressive, unimaginative, uninspired football. I'm not saying it's good or right for Purdue alums in the Indy and Chicago areas to simply never go to games...but I absolutely understand why people don't want to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in the product.
But due to BTN contracts and Hope's league-smallest salary, Purdue is now standing pat.
At the season's advent, Burke said that he wouldn't talk about Hope's contract until the season's end. He followed that by saying a bowl game was the goal. In my opinion, that was kind of pointed talk from Burke as he usually doesn't talk about tangible goals to the public. I have no idea what Burke promised to Hope behind closed doors...but the above seem pretty obvious. Burke's goal was for the program to take a step forward and get to a bowl. I'm positive that the goal wasn't to barely get into one of the worst bowls...but I guess specificity might be in order in the future.
After the regular season ended, I had my eye on Houston's Sumlin...who seemed to be a no-brainer fit for Purdue. Outside of Sumlin, I liked Beckman at Toledo who had been given a horrible situation at Toledo, but had done pretty well in spite of it. Other Boiler fans liked Leach (who would have never been hired by Purdue) quite a bit.
But after a crazy two weeks to kick off December, all was quiet from Purdue and Burke...but Leach, Sumlin, Beckman, and other fast-rising coaching prospects had been snatched up. Hell, even Bob Davie and Charlie Weis found new HC positions...But Burke, Hope and Purdue stood pat.
In good conscience, could the Purdue fans demand Hope be out as HC at the end of November? Perhaps some could. A five-win, three-win and six-win season does not, by anyone's standard spell success. But, is it good, fair or right to push a coach out after three seasons? Many argue (myself included) that Tiller had left the program in a pretty tough position at the end of his tenure. In the closing seasons of his time at Purdue, he had clearly become weary of seeking the higher-touted talent. Plus, he didn't seem to ready to jump in the rental car and drive further than a few hours to watch and pursue a player. Purdue was left with some high-character kids predominantly from the Midwest...but missed out on a lot of local talent due to multiple reasons...and Texas, that had been a stronghold for Tiller was no longer the focus for his coaching staff.
I know it's en vogue to throw a coach out on his ear in the programs that have deep tradition and deeper pockets. But Purdue, while having some history of success still only boasts of one double-digit winning season...two conference titles...and just 15 bowls...11 of those coming under Tiller.
If you think Purdue should have fired Hope after a six-win season, there's really nothing I can say to change your mind, and it's already too late to change. But the guy who holds the cards and the contracts disagreed- and you and I both knew that. Since it's his standard practice to act slowly on contract extensions, he did so this year. While doing that he lost out on a ton of potential candidates. Some of you wanted Burke to make the decision following the bowl game...a good idea. But, with 20-or-so coaching changes in the month of December, where would you go for the guy to turn the program around.
With ticket sales in the can, you'd need to make a splash with the hire, right? An unknown coordinator wouldn't generate ticket sales...and that's part of the reasoning. So without a huge chunk of cash, it'd be tough. In this scenario, the athletic department would have been buying out Hope (which isn't a huge amount of money when compared to some other contracts), but the cash to get a name would have been large...and Purdue's history with hiring big name coaches wasn't great and was astoundingly-unlikely.
Plus, agents and coaches alike have the right to turn Burke and Co. down. Sumlin and others turned down multiple jobs before landing in the place they wanted...and money was only part of the equation. Coming to Purdue with poor ticket sales, an AD that's near the end of his time in the position, cold weather and a tough recruiting location is far from ideal for many coaches.
It happen this season. But for those of you/us that aren't sold on Hope (which seems to be about 85% of the Purdue fanbase) rest assured, this most-recent contract extension is a show-me contract. Hope simply had to be extended to avoid additional negative recruiting by opposing coaches. And the incoming recruiting class looks to be the best in about a decade.
Next year will be year number four for Hope and co. regardless of what happens tomorrow evening. In year four, his recruits are the upper classmen...the team speed should be exactly as Hope had envisioned. Injuries to quarterbacks, RBs and any other back cannot and should not be an argument for why the team doesn't succeed as these coaches should be prepared for about any injury situation by this point.
I thought this season was a make-or-break campaign for Hope. Turns out, it was merely a maybe things are getting better year for the coach. Six wins in '12 will not be good enough for Hope to keep his job this time next year, because his program simply must continue to progress. But sadly, this season good enough was just that.