Since I live within walking distance of Mackey Arena, I decided to go to the press conference since I have yet to focus on any of my homework. I thought it would be on the court like Painter's conference after Paintergate in 2011.
Nope. The lights in the arena were all off, but the scoreboards were still on from the UNC-Wilmington game. Soon, my friend and I found our ways into the
dungeon's renovated basement of Mackey Arena and found Morgan Burke outside the press room getting ready for the media.
I'm not going to lie, I was quite nervous because it was so inclusive that I felt like I shouldn't be there. But my friend and I took our seats and listened. I thought about asking questions, but I figured all the other questions being asked were touching what I had wanted to cover, and I didn't want to embarrass myself and H&R in front of all this media coverage.
Here's my takes/observations from the press conference:
- Burke said there was no "tipping point" when it came to firing Danny Hope. This contradicts what GoldandBlack.com said earlier today regarding the Wisconsin game as a tipping point. He did discuss about being at the Minnesota game and witnessing the poor performance. Burke was saying that Coach Hope worked hard but couldn't perform at a high enough level as they were not consistent. Burke may be only telling the partial truth to still be classy towards Hope, but I am willing to bet the Minnesota game put enough pressure on him, as Purdue could have still turned things around before that game. Burke decided not to keep Hope for the bowl game as it puts too much pressure and focus on the coach during the long time period before the game and at the game and takes it away from the players. In the end, Burke said it was "the right thing to do."
- Burke also said they are willing to compete with the rest of the Big Ten in terms of salaries, hence this $4.5 million figure we see circulating the internet. Burke acknowledges that Hope's salary was lowest in the Big Ten, but he started off at the same level as Bret Bielema when he began coaching at Wisconsin. Burke's plan was to steadily raise Hope's salary, like he has with other Purdue coaches, as he continued to improve. Obviously, that never really happened as Hope's extensions were always small and really just for recruiting purposes. Burke is setting up more money now as he wants to compete with other starting salaries in the Big Ten and across the nation. I don't think this means he will go for big name coaches, but it would seem like a big promotion for a successful MAC coach or coordinator at a successful BCS school.
- Burke also recognized the decreasing attendance and that they have lost a third of the fans, but that the decrease has been happening since Tiller's last year with the decline in the program. He wanted Hope to re-energize the program, but that didn't happen. As a financially independent program, $3 million lost in revenue is a big problem and hurts the department.
- As for the coaching search, Burke will have a search committee as he focuses on that. He wants a coach that recognizes Purdue's traditions, such as being the Cradle of Quarterbacks, and remind them that they are an "offensive minded program." Burke says that the new facilities over the last couple of years will help attract potential coaches, as well as a competitive salary. I'm willing to be Burke will go to a coach who is a proven winner in a non-BCS conference, like the MAC. Burke says he wants someone with head coaching experience, but a Purdue connection is not a prerequisite.
- As for the players, interim coach Pat Higgins said they need to focus on finals and then the bowl game. Hope had set out for this being the best academic semester, and it seems like it will happen. Higgins also said that this is a learning experience for players on how to deal with difficult situations, but that the players are committed to doing the best they can within the next month. Burke said that he is not surprised the players were shocked as it is part of the process. He said there are 4 stages, from being shocked, to denial, then acceptance and finally moving forward and that every player has to go through that process. He said it was always disappointed to see the players after a lose, and that it was one of the worst things that he sees. He wants this program to do well and return to the Rose Bowl.