While the basketball program is experiencing some changes that border on "upheaval" (seriously, I hope the Boilers have enough guys to field a team next year at this rate), the program in general remains respected. Matt Painter alone is someone who many pundits and analysts will openly praise as a giant bright spot for Purdue, even in down years such as '12-'13. The football program, however, was not in such a good state during their recent down year(s).
As has been noted on this here site, we feel that has changed and will continue to change in the months and years ahead. Darrell Hazell was the right man for the job and as months have passed since his hiring, I've continued to think about the decision Purdue made as well as the decisions they didn't make (other potential hires, etc.) and even the decisions other programs made (Tennessee, etc.). And the truth is, I don't know if Purdue could have done any better given the situation they were in.
Coach Hazell represented -- and represents -- change for the Purdue football program. The thing that is pleasing me lately is that the change is wholesale -- it's not just for show, for example. He has begun changing the mentality and the effort. He's a supporter of these guys but he's also busting their asses. Ricardo Allen commented on how hard even the dinged up guys work on the sidelines, as opposed to under the previous regime. And one thing to keep in mind with regard to that kind of stuff -- you can't rely on these players to think that's necessarily a "better" thing or not. Think back to yourself at 18-22 -- you probably wanted to exert yourself as little as possible. If you played a sport and had a coach that went easy on the condition/running stuff and always was your pal, you probably loved him. You also probably lost a lot.
You know what else? It's okay to say things needed changing. That doesn't make you a disloyal fan or a bad Boilermaker. It's great if you supported the recent teams through thick and thin. That's wonderful and in some ways, you're a better fan than many of us who became disgusted with the Hope regime. But it's not an indictment of your fanhood or your loyalty to your alma mater to say you think the program needed a good scrubbing. It did and it's not getting it.
Changing the thinking is obviously one of the biggest components of the overall change that is needed in West Lafayette, and that's already at work. Could it have been effected this quickly? No, probably not. But with leaders like Rob Henry and coaches like Coach Hazell, Coach Hudson, Coach Freeman and Coach Shoop, it appears thus far as though the pieces are being put into place. There is a clear focus on one team with unified goals and a preliminary understanding of the level of work required to become great. I love seeing that and I hope we get to continue to see it develop.
Seeing it is all key to this change as well. Another big difference that has been documented is the openness and willingness to let us all peer into the program. There have already been more open practices than I can remember under Danny Hope. Darrell Hazell is a confident man who believes in what he is doing and has nothing to hide -- the way any successful practitioner of their trade should be. He does not feel everyone is out to get them and even if he did think someone was, my feeling is that he wouldn't care. He's going to do things his way until he is told to stop. If winning follows, I don't suspect anyone will tell him to stop.
The visibility should also comfort anyone who worries about Coach Hazell's tutelage under the OSU football factory. Sure, there were some improprieties there but if you have a coach who wants the fans and media to see much or all of what they're doing, that's at least a good sign that you're not the kind of guy to hide things. Obviously, I'm not naive enough to think it's not still possible that cheating could occur -- but I like the visibility as a first step in ensuring we all feel well-informed on the football program we love to support.
Change has trickled to other facets of the program as well. Music is played at practice and it's a variety of themes, styles and volumes. They work hard, but they're also going to enjoy their time together. Ross-Ade Stadium has also been bestowed the moniker of "The Furnace," which whether you like it or not, makes sense the the Boilermaker mascot -- something on other school shares. And why not try to give the bland Ross-Ade some personality in any way possible? This is a place that hasn't been a home-field advantage for many years -- but it actually can be. Those of you who were there in the '98-'04 timeframe know that. It may be among the smaller Big Ten venues, but it doesn't have to be a quiet one.
|The paint was shipped in from Iowa City. What? We got a deal!|
The colors aren't completely right, but they haven't been right on most Purdue uniforms for over a decade-plus now. Would we like Nike to learn Purdue's colors? Of course. But they haven't yet and Purdue hasn't forced them to, so in the meantime, adding some menacing black to the stadium instead of the welcoming white would be fine by me. For comparison:
It seems only natural that this theme of change might also extend to uniforms. Joe Tiller stripped the names off the back of the unis immediately (among other changes that were already happening to the jerseys) upon his arrival. Danny Hope put them back on and allowed the team to choose combos (black/black, black/gold, etc.) regardless of whether they'd earned that sort of right. Darrell Hazell brought back retro Kent State uniforms for their bowl game this past January, which was something he had promised his players if they made a bowl -- something Kent hadn't done in 40 years. Might that mean a black alternate helmet or other uni tweaks? You know we'll keep beating that drum.
Change looks like it will continue to come to Purdue football. And as long as the program turns back in the direction of something we can all be proud of, I think the fans will come back and I also think the team will be supported regardless of record in 2013. Effort is something that is evident in football, as is preparedness. If this team and coaching staff shows effort and preparedness, then the future is indeed bright.