Osipoff: Hope ends with disappointment
By MICHAEL OSIPOFF firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @MichaelOsipoff November 26, 2012 11:12PM
Purdue head coach Danny Hope runs off the field following an NCAA college football game against Indiana in West Lafayette, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012. Purdue defeated Indiana 56-35. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
Updated: December 28, 2012 6:23AM
Danny Hope’s effort, dedication, commitment, passion, and feelings for Purdue were beyond reproach.
And there’s no questioning Boilermakers players’ strong feelings for him.
But the team’s uneven, inconsistent results, as well as continued declining attendance at Ross-Ade Stadium (beginning before Hope’s arrival), justified his dismissal.
In Hope’s four seasons at the helm, after one as coach-in-waiting under Joe Tiller, the Boilermakers produced both electrifying wins and stupefying losses. They stunned then-No. 7 Ohio State in 2009 and knocked off Michigan that same season for their first win in Ann Arbor since 1966, as well as tripping up the Buckeyes again in 2011. They also lost to Northern Illinois in 2009, Toledo in ’10 and at Rice in ’11; put this season’s rout at Minnesota in the vicinity of that category.
Purdue posted a 22-27 record with Hope, including 13-19 in the Big Ten.
Athletics director Morgan Burke said the Boilermakers have lost about one-third of their fan base since 2007, dropping from an average of 54,000 in paid attendance that season to 37,000 this season.
Hope generally mishandled the quarterback position (beyond the no-doubt debilitating injuries at that spot; overall, a rash of injuries will always be part of the fabric of his tenure, clearly a hindrance), and had issues with game management (including the hotly debated timeout against Notre Dame in 2009).
This season began with such promise for the Boilermakers, with experienced talent (the most returning starters in the Big Ten, it was trumpeted), and a down and watered-down (the postseason bans of Ohio State and Penn State) conference, seemingly making them Leaders Division contenders. But after a 3-1 start, with that lone loss coming in narrow fashion at now-No. 1 Notre Dame, it quickly flamed out, with an unsightly five-game losing streak.
If the blowout loss to Wisconsin at Ross-Ade, on the heels of the blowout home loss to Michigan the previous week, didn’t seal Hope’s fate, then the shellacking against the Gophers probably did. A three-game win streak to close the regular season against Iowa (even if it was the Boilermakers’ first win in Iowa City since 1992), Illinois and Indiana — probably the three worst teams in the Big Ten — to make the team bowl-eligible wasn’t going to save his job.
Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins, who has been serving as offensive coordinator since Gary Nord seriously injured his back before the Iowa game, was named interim coach as the Boilermakers prepare for their second straight postseason appearance, likely the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1 at the Cotton Bowl, or the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Dec. 28 at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Last season’s Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, a win against Western Michigan, was the program’s first bowl game since 2007.
For at least several weeks, Purdue has been in the process of attempting to raise in the neighborhood of $4.5 million to hire a new coach and staff, according to GoldandBlack.com, a competitive dollar amount given the current conference and national landscape. Hope’s $950,000 salary was the lowest in the Big Ten, and he previously had said the total pot for assistants was some $300,000 to $400,000 less than the next-lowest staff in the conference.
Among the names that have been bandied about include Cincinnati coach Butch Jones, whose Central Michigan teams played Purdue three times in about a year, including the 2007 Motor City Bowl; Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes; Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren, the former Wisconsin defensive coordinator; Kent State coach Darrell Hazell, the former Ohio State wide receivers coach (Northern Illinois and Kent State play each other in Friday’s Mid-American Conference championship game); Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich; and Illinois State coach Brock Spack, the former Purdue defensive coordinator and linebacker.
Burke said a candidate with head coaching experience would be a “plus,” but it’s not a “must;” and likely one who is “offensive-minded,” understanding the program’s “Cradle of Quarterbacks” tradition. Ties to Purdue could be “tiebreakers,” he said, not “prerequisites.” Former Boilermakers players Ryan Grigson, the Highland native who is the Colts general manager, and Rick Smith, the Houston Texans GM, as well as former Colts executive Bill Polian, are serving as advisors in the search.
This hire is a crucial one for Burke and Purdue. And it seems as if this pool of potential candidates is relatively deep, with perhaps several having the ability to flourish with the Boilermakers. Of course, ultimately it’s a matter of choosing the best of the bunch.
“Make no bones about it, we want to go back to Pasadena,” Burke said on Sunday. “That’s what it’s about. We’ve got to put ourselves in a position to do that. The infrastructure that has been built I think will be very attractive.”