Some Purdue fans don't get it...and you can't really blame them. They don't understand why or how the players are upset that Hope is gone. Many of the people commenting probably didn't play a ton of sports...and I'm not discounting their opinion because of that fact. But from their perspective, there's not a ton to like about Hope's tenure at Purdue.
The inconsistency led to some pretty awful Saturdays for the average fan. Many of these fans drove for hours or flew half way across the country. They got to see their friends or family and do so with a Purdue game as the backdrop, but many times, the game was horrible and felt like a waste of time and money. That's why these people wanted Hope gone. One of their favorite diversions from the stresses of real life, Purdue football, had become less and less important in their lives and simply not fun. Anger had become apathy...and they didn't like feeling that way about their alma mater's team. So on the flip side this coin, the players probably don't understand the average fan's perspective.
The interesting part for me, as someone kind of in-between these two ends of the spectrum, is I understand a bit of both perspectives. Granted, we never played football past high school, but our love for Purdue sports has pushed us to read, research and get to know the program more than the casual fan.
Like J and I have said, we've met Hope...and we like the guy. His high-energy, high-enthusiasm personality made it pretty difficult to not root for him to succeed. And those personality traits made him a guy that players wanted to play for. Drew Brees said he'd run through a wall for the guy and Matt Light pretty much credits Hope for making him into an NFL lineman...those statements aren't too far off from what the current players have been saying on Twitter. But Brees, Light and others are not talking about Danny Hope the head coach...they're talking about him as their coach. And the distinction is important.
Most of the head coaches of successful D-IA football programs act a bit like CEOs. After all, they're running an organization with a ton of moving parts and never-ending problems to overcome. Their attention to detail is astounding. Their organizational skills are incredible. Their ability to make the right and difficult decision sets them apart from your average joe. They're not universally loved...in fact, some aren't even liked by many, but they do the job they were hired to do quite well. No one ever wanted Danny Hope to be some cold, calculated robot...but the program probably needed a guy who wasn't always their best buddy, but could make make the very hard calls.
Hope loves the guys that have played for him...and while he has a son, I'm sure he thinks of these kids, these men, as his other sons. His loyalty to his players drove him to show up other coaches in defense of his players (remember the first time he played Michigan?). His enthusiasm for his guys drove him to act like a kid toward opposing crowds (remember the game at Oregon his first season?). And his belief that so many of his players were really good probably stunted the growth of the truly great ones within his program.
Many of Purdue's players were given opportunities by Hope that no one else would have given. From a walk-on that became a starter to a small-town kid who was given one D-IA offer, a lot of these guys feel like they owe Coach Hope. He gave first chances to guys who didn't look like they had a shot, and second and third chances to some that didn't really deserve it...and that's why these guys love their coach.
If you ever watch Brian Kelly or Nick Saban on the sidelines, you can see these guys aren't touch-feely...in fact, they're flat-out cantankerous toward the very guys that they recruited to play for them...but, they win...a lot. And that in itself is endearing to players- probably after the season's over more so than in the heat of the battle. These coaches earn respect because they demand greatness. Conversely, Hope has earned the love of his players because he cared greatly for them.
In the past few weeks, Hope espoused the bunker mentality- the world was against him, so he was going to regard everyone as the enemy...except for his players. He took shots at the media for scrutinizing too hard, the athletic program for not giving him the resources he needed, his agent for not getting him a contract that gave him leverage and the fanbase for being losers of low character because they...we...had the gall to want to see a better-prepared team each Saturday. But, Hope didn't throw his guys under the bus...and they have noticed that each time he's stayed loyal. So today's news cuts them pretty deeply.
Hope's teams lost more games than they won...but many of the Purdue players that he coached are focusing on the lessons that they learned off the field, than the victories they earned on it. Those life lessons are important...and I hope all of the guys that played for him are better men for doing so...that would make the last four years of Purdue's football program worthwhile.
And while many of the players don't want to hear this right now, I hope they eventually understand, it's probably a very good time for the program to change direction. My hope is that Hope's guys who stick around will be rewarded with a coach who is also loyal...but willing to make the tough decisions that his predecessor would not. I hope they get to play for a coach that cares for his players enough to let them know when they're not playing to their potential. I hope they get to play for a coach who represents their university well off the field...but makes them into champions upon it.