The win in Iowa was fun for a lotta reasons...Purdue broke a 20 year drought in Iowa City, the offense played like a different unit at times, the Special Teams came through in the clutch for the first time this season and finally, Purdue won its first B1G game in 6 tries while breaking a five-game losing streak...and most of the reason the Boilers have a game in the left column is because the Senior class carried their teammates; well-played, gentlemen.
All that said, the damage on this season seems to be done. I've heard from a few sources that the wheels are already in motion for Purdue to find a successor for Danny Hope. Shellackings at the hands of good and not-so-good teams have led many fans to stay home on Saturdays...and the lack of enthusiasm in the fanbase is crushing the bottom line of the Athletic Department. If the rumors of a transition away from Hope and his staff are true, ticket sales probably have everything to do with it.
Morgan Burke has hired two head football coaches during his tenure at Purdue...and the most-recent was supposed to be a smooth transition from the winningest coach in the history of the program to a hand-picked successor that would take Purdue back to being one of the best teams in the conference.
But let's be real honest about Burke's first hire before we move on to the second- Burke lucked out with Joe Tiller. Burke's first choice was Bob Davie, but UND stepped in before Purdue could pull the trigger. Davie's traditional style of play didn't work with well even with UND's soft schedule and deep talent pool. But, Cowboy Joe's basketball on grass was the perfect antidote for Purdue's 13 year bowl drought. Until nearly a decade into his time at Purdue, much of the B1G couldn't catch up with Purdue's pass-happy offense that put pressure on defenses to stop 4 or 5 receivers nearly every down, and put pressure on the opposition's offense to try to keep up.
Cowboy Joe was brilliant at keeping players positive and changed the outlook of the program. Right away his Boilers seemed to believe that the improbable would happen and they could win games that they had no business winning. Early on, he said there was no reason that his program should strive for anything less than championships...and within just a few seasons, Purdue was in contention for the Big Ten title regularly. Tiller had changed the culture of Purdue football.
As he did, his pay began to reflect that his program was one of the best in the league...and many programs tried to copy the offense he had learned out West. And get this, as Purdue beat the best, Purdue fans changed. They began planning their vacations around the bowl season, traveling to road games and filling Ross-Ade. The ticket sales fueled a renovation of the stadium that made one of the dogs of the conference into a stadium that had a big time feel...and Morgan Burke thought there might be more in store. Burke eyed Purdue reaching ticket sale marks they had never seen...and talked about expanding Ross-Ade...but we all know now, that never happened.
Tiller got older and Cowboy Joe was replaced by Fisherman Joe. Tiller was sick of the difficult recruiting battles and sick of disciplining the guys on the team. Arrests went up, overall discipline went down and the program stopped believing that it belonged among the elite. I knew things had changed with Chaney and Tiller both began saying that all Purdue needed to do was win by one point...and the next season, Tiller openly admonished fans who wanted to see more out of the program, as he famously warned them to "manage their expectations."
As Tiller's outlook changed, he became looser-lipped with his tact in the media. Tiller was once a master of the room during press conferences, but he became increasingly-annoyed by the grind of jumping through their hoops and trying to please a fanbase that wanted more innovation from a guy who had turned a conference on its ear.
But as it happens for many, as Tiller turned 60, he didn't want to focus on details as much on the job, and the product suffered from it. The culture that he had changed began to fade back into its old ways. Jan. 1 bowls were replaced with cold weather bowls...then those were replaced by no post-season play at all. The program that Tiller re-built had slipped back into habits of old.
From 1956-2012, Purdue has had nine head football coaches. Three of them won more games than they lost- Mollenkopf, Young, and Tiller. That's it...that's the list. Jim Young is the only coach to win 10 games...and Mollenkopf and Tiller each took Purdue to one Rose Bowl...Purdue's record in the Grand Daddy of them all, is of course, 1-1. The point of this quick look back over our shoulder is to remind us that Purdue's football culture, especially in the modern era of football (let's call that from the early 1980s forward), is generally an unsuccessful one.
Purdue's favorite coaching son is currently coaching at Texas A&M. And while he learned the college game in God's Country, and cut his teeth as a coach for some mediocre and fair programs, he really learned how to run a program from a traditional power: Oklahoma.
Traditional powers have some inherent advantages over programs like Purdue.
Before I go any further, make no mistake that I'm not making excuses for why Purdue doesn't succeed with regularity, but I'm trying to offer a solution that will allow my alma mater to do so.
Traditional powerhouse programs have coaching trees with deep roots. If they want to rectify a problem, they can often look within their own ranks...I don't think Purdue can say that. Even if Purdue wants to go back a few decades for advice and help on a change of direction, there just aren't many options that have the resume that garners respect.
This might be why Purdue is in the shape it is right now. From what we understand, Tiller and a committee of ex-players and coaches helped Burke decide on Hope as the coach of the program in 2009. But Purdue's philosophy wasn't the only hinderance, obviously...the boss was a factor as well.
We've talked about what we think of Burke's philosophy for his athletic department ad nauseam...so we're not going to rehash that here. Burke answers to the President of the university and the board of trustees. This cabal has never made championships their number one priority. I'd wager a guess that championships are actually pretty far down on their list. But Purdue is what it is because of these pillars...and like the columns of the Parthenon, these aren't budging either. So as fans, alums and boosters, we all have to strive to change the culture within these parameters.
I had the chance to speak to a parent of an ex-Purdue football player...and he presented a solution that might change the trajectory of the football program: the next coach needs a mentor.
This idea works well in business and the sports world alike...but Danny Hope and most Purdue coaches before him haven't had anything like this while trying to build their program. Who can Hope go to as things get out of control? Burke hasn't given him the budget to hire assistant coaches with a ton of experience, and, outside of Joe Tiller, there aren't many coaches within the Purdue family that could/would present ideas and critiques...The next guy, whether it's Doeren, Kingsbury, Dykes, Helfrich, Sumlin (one can dream) or someone else, should be given the tools to succeed...and one of the most cost-effective ways of finding success might be a Director of Football Operations.
(That's right Mr. Burke, I said cost-effective...listen up, won't you?)
This Director could be a CEO-type of guy. He wouldn't need to recruit, he wouldn't need to be on the sidelines on game day...heck, he wouldn't even have to be on campus most days. I'd see this guy having an office that was occupied a few days/month...and he'd also have great seats for each game in a comfy glass-walled box. His responsibilities would be simple, but significant: offer guidance and expertise based on a wealth of knowledge that few could counter and fewer can match. Purdue couldn't afford to pay him what a head coach would make, but would help lessen his load by flying him in and out of West Lafayette with one of the university's planes.
The ideal candidate would either be out of football in retirement or would be out of football due to unusual circumstances...but still wanted to be involved in the sport. Here are a few that might fit the bill:
I wouldn't want him running the program, but I do believe his attention to detail and understanding of the game would help about any head football coach. Mentioning his name to recruits surely wouldn't hurt either. Plus, we know he's willing to take lower-paying jobs as he was a paid consultant for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011...Midwestern guy.
Cowher has a job in broadcasting that pays him well...he could keep that job and take this one as well. He understands organization and is a winner.
A guy of high character who is also a tremendous motivator. He has heavy connections to Indianapolis, another form of income as a broadcaster and is humble, but extremely successful.
He's intentionally stayed away from FSU as to not overshadow Jimbo Fisher...he's the winningest coach of all time and he's still a knowledgeable football guy.
Knows how to change mentalities for teams...ridiculously-deep resume...retired, well-respected, lives in the Midwest.
Currently an analyst, but has expressed interest in getting back into football.
He's a perpetual top candidate for every job that comes up...but very few entities, pro or college, are willing to match his hefty MNF salary. By taking the position with Purdue, he could still be a broadcaster, but would be able to get directly back into football...which he's said he hasn't ruled out.
Not nearly as successful as many on the list, but a tremendous judge of talent and, as we eluded to above, he's the winningest Purdue football coach ever. If nothing else, he understands the job.