Purdue fired Darrell Hazell after a thrilling 5-33 run against FBS programs. They are now looking for a new coach. Early carousel talk is bound to get people excited. Names will be thrown out there.
But, it’s important to remember Purdue may be the worst Power 5 job right now (or at least in the discussion). There are clear limiting factors. Think on a much smaller scale.
You’re Butting Against History: Purdue is not a winning program. It has seldom been close. The Boilermakers have one double-digit win season, ever. They have not finished above .500 since 2007 in a regular season. Purdue was bad, through a period where the B1G was historically bad.
It’s Very Hard To Recruit at Purdue: The B1G is full of big state schools, reasonably fun cities, and classic college towns. Purdue is a tech school in the middle of nowhere. If we consider Chicago/Indianapolis as a recruiting region, Purdue is the 5th best program (Notre Dame, Northwestern, Illinois, Indiana) in that region.
That’s before we get to Wisconsin, Nebraska, and Iowa. Both Michigan schools recruit there. Ohio State. Penn State. P.J. Fleck arguably out-recruited Purdue at Western Michigan last year. Purdue has ranked either 13th or 14th in the B1G per the 247 Composite the past four cycles.
Purdue Doesn’t Spend Money: Money matters in college football. The major reason we’ve seen doormats such as Baylor and Ole Miss rise is investment of increased TV revenue. Purdue does not spend money. Purdue’s president is Mitch Daniels, a spendthrift conservative governor from Indiana. Here is his view of college athletics.
Daniels told Lamb that the prospect of going from Indiana governor to university president was nearly derailed by the thought of “out of control” Division I programs “filled with excess, money, often hypocrisy, double standards.” He said that if he hadn’t been convinced “that Purdue is an outlier to that, I couldn’t have come here.”
That’s when he laid out his expectations for the Purdue athletic department: 1. Hold up high standards of conduct for everyone involved. 2. Guarantee that student-athletes are expected to be students first. 3. Pay for itself. 4. Then, and only then, Daniels said, “I really want you to win.”
His attitude about placing football in a proper perspective may be commendable. That’s not inspiring if you’re a prospective college football coach there. Purdue more than doubled it’s head coach expenditure to bring in Hazell.
Daniels and Purdue have probably realized football is the front door to the school for alumni, prospective students, and media. Having an awful football program overshadows everything else. They may spend more. But, does that mean bumping the head coach salary, improving assistant coaching budgets, providing ancillary recruiting funding etc. enough to become a major player in the conference? Probably not.
Purdue Is Not a Stepping Stone: Purdue isn’t a desirable destination. It’s not a stepping stone to get you to one. This is a major conference schedule. Purdue’s next coach faces Louisville, Missouri (away), Michigan, Wisconsin (away), and Nebraska before Halloween. Everyone else outstrips you when it comes to resources. It may take a very good coaching job to get Purdue back to 6-6. No program wants to hire the guy who went 6-6 at Purdue.
If you’re Lincoln Riley, do you go to Purdue because it’s a Power 5 job or do you take over for Tom Herman at Houston, win for a few years with a solid recruiting setup, and line yourself up for a bigger job? The last two coaches have done pretty well for themselves.
It’s a broad conclusion. Purdue could shock everyone. But, most likely, anyone with other options is not going to Purdue. They aren’t getting the hot young head coach du jour. P.J. Fleck will have better offers. It may not be enough to tempt someone with a rock solid, well payed coordinator job, i.e. Lane Kiffin. It’s also worth remembering Purdue just crashed and burned hiring a MAC coach.
Experienced coach desperate for another shot as a head coach is one plausible route. That could be Les Miles. His stock may crater enough if LSU closes strong with Coach O. Greg Schiano could fit into that category. Those appear to be smoke signals emanating from the Bo Pelini camp. It’s tough to argue any of those would be a bad hire.
The other is to go for a B1G assistant, a la Rutgers and Maryland. Per Dan Wolken, a significant portion of Ohio State’s staff will be under consideration.
The danger with those routes may be hiring someone who tries to out-B1G the B1G again. It’s hard to beat Michigan, Wisconsin, and Iowa at being B1G teams. Picture Les Miles running his preferred offense with less talent than just about every team he will play.
Purdue’s last strong run under Joe Tiller came when they zagged to everyone else’s zig running a passing spread offense (and finding great quarterbacks). The trouble is it’s not certain what that move would be in 2016 – the spread is ubiquitous – or whether Purdue would have the willingness and latitude to take it.