Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Non-Winner Mentality

In the wake of our commentaries over the weekend, we've received some very nice feedback from many of you, who seem to feel we're publishing what your heart and mind have been feeling for quite some time. While we're selfish bastards who do this for our own entertainment and catharsis, it is always a nice ancillary perk to know we've hit the mark with so many of you.

Naturally, there were some who disagreed with our takes, but it's interesting how few actually took umbrage with it. We put forth some pretty forceful opinions and by and large, the responses were "right on, handsome devils."

Believe me, it gives us no pleasure to acknowledge how futile the direction of the football program is. But it was something that we felt needed to be addressed.

I've been thinking about it more in the past couple of days and I think I know what part of the problem is. It's a mindset issue that exists among the fanbase and, most likely, also among the athletic department and coaching staff. I'm sure nobody would admit it, but I certainly will.

I don't want to call it a loser's mentality, because that sounds a little too harsh. Maybe it goes back to that word I kept landing on over the weekend -- mediocrity. Once mediocrity becomes acceptable, you're toast. If excellence is the goal and you fall short, you might still have something to be proud of. If mediocrity is your goal and you fall short, you're sadly raising a pizza bowl trophy over your head in front of a 60% full, cold-weather venue on a Tuesday in late December.

The issue here is that so many people associated with Purdue athletics look at things from the "Look, it's setting up for us!" perspective. How many times have we heard that the division is there for the taking this year? How many times have we heard people talk about Purdue "sneaking" into the Big Ten championship game? Why can't the Big Ten title game be the goal no matter what kind of foes are on the schedule? That's the goal for good teams in all conferences: Win. Be better than everyone else. Work harder until you are.

It is not "Win some games, maybe surprise a couple teams, write off the hard ones, and hope to back into a nice finish to the season."

Yet, at Purdue, isn't that what we're all cheering for? That Purdue can somehow beat a good program like Michigan or Wisconsin, avoid anyone being hurt at Ohio State (Hey! We'll sacrifice our pride, though!), and then hope to cling on to a 4-4 or 5-3 conference record to squeak into the Big Ten title game? Is that really what we should be cheering for? To get lucky?

This is a problem that has seeped its way into many programs. You get used to your place in the order of things. You accept that you'll never be a powerhouse. You put out of your mind the idea of competing in ways we haven't seen in decades.

I, for one, reject that out of hand. Sure, it would take some serious re-evaluating of what's important in West Lafayette. It would take a complete and utter mindset change. And along with those things, it would most likely mean a change of mentality from the very top on down.

Well, President Daniels takes office in January. And while there are some people who naively think that he's going to cut funding and budgets because of his deficit hawk ways as Governor, the fact is that you have an aggressive, success-minded leader coming in who knows the value of a dollar. Mitch Daniels the Purdue University President will be a different man than Mitch Daniels the Governor of a state with an $800 million deficit when he took over.

Let's hope he starts by evaluating everything and deciding how to make Purdue stronger in every way.


01Boiler said...

I'm tending to agree with your assessment of a Daniel's administration shaking things up. I suspect he will se the revenue losses from the lackluster football program and likely put pressure to turn that into a revenue generator ASAP.

BoilerByBlood said...

I've always said that the largest sign in the weight room should read-- ONE GOAL:PASADENA. The Rose Bowl should be our number one priority each and every year, and unfortunately, it's not. The athletic department's mindset seems to be that just making postseason play is our goal. Sad.

boxercr said...

Didn't Tiller say in his last couple of years something along the lines of "manage your expectations"? Hope definitely acts this way. Starting CTB instead of Marve or Henry is a "playing not to lose" mentality. Game managing?? Why not, "Score lots of points"? Why not, "Push them down and step on their neck"?
Is Hope just too nice a guy to be a winner?

J Money said...

Tiller did indeed talk about managing expectations... but at the beginning, in '97, he simply said "we're going to compete for championships."

Want that guy back, whoever he may be.

Boilergal said...

I think Daniels is going to be a great president for Purdue. Plus, I believe that he sees just what an asset a really strong athletic department is to the university. He would be a fool not to realize what revenue is not being earned with a lackluster football program. Regardless of the "self-sufficient" nature of our AD, I think that Daniels will show a lot of interest in the role that the AD plays in the university as a whole. He will definitely show much more support than the current pres that shows up in a black and gold pantsuit merely for a photo-op.

zlionsfan said...

I don't think Daniels has a choice. The money simply isn't there, and it isn't ever going to be, not unless he is able to find someone like T. Boone Pickens.

Even with a season of sellouts, Purdue would be more than a quarter of a million tickets behind the top of the conference, and something like 100K-200K behind the next tier of stadiums. That's no less than $3M to $6M in revenue that they have no way to collect; of course when you get beyond the cheap seats, it turns out to be a lot more than that.

In 2010, Purdue's football revenue was a little under $18.4M, dead last in the Big Ten. You can probably see where this is going: Indiana's was about $24.2M. Iowa, in the middle of the conference, was $44.5M. Penn State and Michigan topped $70M.

Basically, the conference elites make $60M-$70M ... but that's the result of decades of planning, support, and success. Beaver Stadium's capacity exceeded 80,000 in 1970; Ohio Stadium in 1960; Michigan Stadium in 1928. They were both lucky and wise, Michigan in particular: it was a lot cheaper to expand stadiums in the '50s and '60s than it is today. (Of course, renovations of a 100,000-seat stadium are expensive, too.) And it doesn't make sense to proceed with Phase II and III of the Ross-Ade expansion when Purdue doesn't even sell out now.

I think it's reasonable to not be satisfied with catching and dominating the middle of the pack, but even for that, money is going to have to come from somewhere. Higher attendance will make up a little of the difference, but that still translates to IU- or Northwestern-level revenue. High-end JPC members can kick in some money. Where's the rest going to come from?

In 2010, the cheapest adult ticket to the highest-demand home game cost $46. This was about 25% cheaper than the mean Big Ten price for similar games (right about $60). So now you see the problem. Revenue is suffering because of a lack of success, relative importance (basketball's obviously first here), and other factors. Raising attendance by dropping ticket prices is tricky: you don't want to lose revenue just to try to fill the seats. Raising prices isn't going to work unless you can point to a specific plan, and really, would we believe Burke if he laid one out? Hiring a marquee coach isn't going to happen without the revenue, and even a second-tier coach will think twice about coming here unless there's a plan in place to boost attendance ... which generally is going to require increased success.

Burke deserves criticism for not trying harder to build the program with the money he has available (Purdue had about $7M in "profit" from the 2010-11 season; no telling what it was earmarked for, though). Extending Hope because he'll work for next to nothing was a bad move. The root of the problem is deeper than that, and as much as it pains me to admit, it's likely beyond the ability of Burke and Daniels to change.

boilerdowd said...

zlions- send me an e-mail-
boilerdowd @ yahoo dot com
(spaced and spelled out to thwart bots).

chevys10 said...

Exactly right. Purdue always seems satisfied with mediocrity. That's the case with the entire athletic department, fans, and even the athletes. Hell, without Matt Painter fighting for good players and somehow molding the 3 star ones into stars, the basketball team would be in the same position!

Plang said...

The word I would use is apathy. At least that applies to me when it comes to Purdue football. Not basketball - I still yell at the TV, no matter who Matty's boys are playing. But with the football team - meh! I'll watch the game, float over to a different channel for a few minutes, float back, watch, get a snack, go to the bathroom, and then watch a little more before getting up to do something else. The result of the game is the result - nothing more to me. Sure, I get upset when I see bone-headed things happen, but if they win I don't get very high and if they lose I don't get real low. Kinda sounds like apathy.

KevinB said...

I think we all have to be real here. We can all go back and look at what we did with Drew Brees and how we went to the Rose Bowl. But that season we went there OSU and Mich were down, and we still had two losses in conference. I don't think Purdue Football can have a "Championship or bust" mentality until we have built up a few years of winning consistently. Can we have that mentality in basketball? Yes, because we can get the 4 start recruits, and we have good history. And Mackey is sold out and people are going crazy.
Should we be happy with winning the Pizza Bowl? I think so. That is a step in the right direction. Should we be paying our assistants more money? Yes. That is why the SEC and all the big programs do so well. Is Brady Hoke that great of a Coach? It helps that he has great assistant coaches.

J Money said...

Lots of great comments here...

The only rebuttal to zLions I have is that while I totally understand the revenue issue, I don't think you need money/revenue to begin to change the mindset. You can always think bigger, even without the money. Yes, without the money and expansion that you so eloquently detail it'll hard to ever be a top-tier program... but being a contender once every 5-10 years SHOULD be possible, even on a shoestring. At least I think so. And so did 1997 Joe Tiller.

01Boiler said...

I found it amusing that your argument pretty much displayed the loser's mentality that J wrote this entire piece about. It wasn't that many years ago that our basketball program couldn't make it to the tourney, but the general consensus never shifted to "oh well, we're only Purdue" Likewise, it wasn't that many years ago where our FB team was a regular presence in the top 25, with occasional flirtations in the top 10. Suddenly we go soft for a few years and we think that level of success is only attainable in down years.

4thandshort said...

With the upcoming change in leadership people are hoping maybe this will also change some of the perception within the athletic dept. Unlike most Big Ten Schools, Purdue Athletics operates independently from the university or at least finically it does. Something the department is very proud of but in this day and age something I bet they didn’t have to deal with. People complain about the Presidents being void of the athletic program but really why should they? Other than to act like they care for the alumni. Athletics runs itself, is its own little thing. Really it seems like the university just doesn’t want any rule breaking, good grades and oh maybe you might win a few. It’s like with a child, a cup of milk, a pat on the head and don’t break anything inside the house. Can you imagine if this was the attitude in the south?

Now I’m proud to say I went to Purdue and when people find out from outside the Midwest I did they look at me like I just told them I went to MIT because I was bored with Harvard law. But why can’t top notch academics and athletics exist? Many other universities in the Big Ten find this, why can’t Purdue? I know Purdue copied its colors from Princeton but Purdue is not a private college as much as they want to be.

Also is it fair that athletics gets zero money from the university but the university has no problem with getting money from athletics to build some multi-million dollar building that wasn’t really needed in the first place? Lots of big schools get money from athletics but they also contribute into the program.

Now Burke gets a bad rap and while I don’t agree with everything he has done I feel many times his hands are tied behind his back because while athletics operates itself he still has to answer to the university. He’s trying to do the grades, rules, win and all of this on a low budget, something that happens very little in professional sports and even less in college sports.

So until that changes…don’t look for changes

KevinB said...

With basketball we have a history that shows us we can be a top tier team. The consensus never switched to "We are only Purdue" because we knew what we were capable of and we have seen it at Purdue. We know that we can recruit the better players due to Indiana being a hot bed for basketball. We knew that Mackey was a great place to play and players would want to come here to play hoops.
With football, we have no history. We had a stretch of about 10 years when we were able to compete with the best teams in the conference, but even when we were one of the best, we couldn't win more than 6 games in conference. Our football team flirted once with being in the top ten, then Wisconsin happened, and it has been down hill ever since. I just think that we can't have the "We have to win championships" mentality with football. I think J had it right in his response that we can expect to have a contending team once out of every 5 years. We can say that the recruiting rankings don't mean much and that you have to coach people up, but the athletes that OSU and other powerhouses lead to championships.

Kara said...

I don't know that Daniels will really have anything to do with the athletic program. I read an interview with him somewhere (I can't remember where) and he said that he really liked that our athletic program is self-sufficient and that he thinks Burke does a good job in keeping in the black. He also said that he thinks it's ridiculous that coaches get paid such high salaries. A university is there for education and not athletics. It sounded to me that he probably would let the athletic program do its thing so as long as it kept in the black and didn't interfere with academics. I can't see him really getting too involved with athletics if he feels that way.

TheFarva85 said...

Let me start by saying that I'm a proud 2010 Purdue Alumni going to graduate school in the Heart of Football Country: Texas(Stephen F. Austin State University).I think that alot of the problems that happen with Purdue Athletics are the result of both fans and the administration itself: Apathy.

In terms of the administration, mediocre to pathetic results in athletics, has been something that has apathetically viewed for many, many years. Even when the product on the field has been epically bad such as the Akers, Colletto Error, the administration does not seem to care because of the fact that the athletics department has banked on revenue from opponents fan bases such as ND, O$U, UM, and the IU while just scraping by enough from other games until the sales are so bad that their is an obvious revenue decline. As much as we put into academics (and by that I mean effort which it should be)If we even harnassed just a quarter of that energy on athletics, Purdue could be an athletic juggarnaut. I think part of this problem is that alot of us here are diehard fans are very adaptable to alot of changes to make it possible for a football changes to be successfull (LIGHTS,LIGHTS,LIGHTS), alot of the money that is poured into the program from donations is from older people that aren't as willing to change, and from what I've noticed is that alot of the money and people the one time I sat up in the Buchanan Club was very much older money that is passed down to the youth. The administration that alot of problems that happen with binge drinking and tailgating happen mainly when we suck so bad, you got to have something to forget it.

Now, the second part of the problem is the fan base in that while everyone here is a very die-hard fan (I mean for God's sake I went to the Rice debacle last year) their is not enough of them. Even though Texas A&M fans are like Kentucky basketball fans and Notre Dame football fans on crack in terms of delusion, almost all of them are passionate and unified. It blew my mind when I was at Purdue to have the number of Notre Dame fans that went to Purdue or IU basketball fans that would openly root against Purdue. I guarantee you if your a fan of UT and you go to A&M, you best be hiding your clothing if you want to live. As fans, we also need to actually give a crap about both of the major sports at the same time, not when one is up or down. I also think though that the fan base has been burnt so many times though that it's the same old story when something goes wrong thus leading to apathy.

Just my two cents here, Boiler Up! A&M sucks!

Mommatried said...

First, I hate smart phones.

Second, some interesting thoughts here. I agree MJB has put the other programs in a better place than they were. I also think he's done a Hoosier's job managing football and basketball.

Every school has to contend with Title XII. Purdue has to put its pants on the same way as EVERY other school...to use this as an excuse is just that.

If revenue were the only impetus...Urban Meyer would not have an undefeated Utah team. TCU would never play in a Rose Bowl...and Boise State would be flat awful too. Given- none of those schools play in the conference with "powerhouse" programs. To be honest, I don't think any of those teams would give 2 shits if a team in their conference made 10 times what they did. They win ball games because they practice like champions. They work harder than everyone else. They execute. They believe they can win. Winning is an expectation....

And then there's Purdue where we're told to "MANAGE" our expectations. Again, EFF that.

When the head coach is not out coached every game, when players learn from their mistakes and quit committing the same mistakes (on and off the field)- I just am not one to BUY on Purdue's program now. I thought our defense was better than it showed- and it probably is if given a coaching staff that puts the talent in position to win...

The Michigan game look like we had just come back from Summer break- not a marquee matchup with the chance to seize B1G destiny by showing up against a team that got rolled against ND.

There are just too many damn holes to even break out the epoxy. The damn thing is half sunk. Send MJB and all his false machismo on to retirement- and get somebody with the brass to grab the proverbial bull by the balls.

Meanwhile Kevin Sumlin has led to different programs to the Top 25. And we hired away Eastern Kentucky's powerhouse coach...

james brooks said...

Guys, in full disclosure, I'm on the alumni board. In our meetings last week, we were told President select Mitch Daniels has already seen the sports program. He was a bit surprised at the size and at how much money was being spent on the program. It was explained that Purdue must spend to compete for recruits because that is the expectation for potential recruits. He was a bit more relieved to learn the program was self sufficient with regards to costs. Don't expect Daniels to have an impact on the way things are now. If there is a way revenue could be increased to pay for other things on campus...great. I think the trustees did a great job selecting Daniels but don't expect him to be too involved with the sports program (at least that was our initial take away).

zlionsfan said...

Thanks, that's good info. I'm a little concerned that he had no idea about Purdue's athletic department budget when it's publicly-available information (of a sort; at least, we can see what they file with the DoE and how they respond to any FOI requests), but if he's going to be a hands-off president, that's better than digging in when he doesn't know how things work. We already have one guy doing that ...