Geez, I try to go and shop for some groceries on a Sunday afternoon and Purdue has to go and fire its football coach. Special thanks go out to Juan for covering for me as I madly texted him updates that I got on Twitter. He gets credit to finding the news first, from GBI:
GoldandBlack.com has learned that #Purdue coach Danny Hope has been fired.— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) November 25, 2012
Hope leaves with a 22-27 record that started with a lot of promise, but ultimately was not enough. As we begin the post-mortem lets look at each season of the Hope era:
2009: Purdue goes 5-7, but this was a genuinely fun team to watch as Joey Elliott has a solid season at quarterback and Ralph Bolden started the year looking like an eventual Heisman candidate. The offense was both inventive and potent as the new of Robert Marve's transfer looked like a smooth transition from Elliott to Marve would build great things.
Ultimately, this team might have been Hope's best, but mistakes did them in way too often. At Oregon, Purdue handed the Ducks 17 points on two defensive scores and a field goal after a fumble, plus a missed extra point led to a two-point loss. A seven point loss to Northern Illinois the next week was caused by two fumbles on punt returns. The infamous timeout gaffe against Notre Dame was another mistake. Against Northwestern, Purdue had six turnovers, including three that handed the Wildcats 10 points just before halftime.
This team shockingly upset No. 7 Ohio State at home to break a five game losing streak and won in Ann Arbor for the first time in 43 years. A three point loss helped by a fumble-six on the first play from scrimmage) to Michigan State prevented a bowl game, but this was a 5-7 team that was really a handful of plays from being 10-2. Things were looking up.
2010: This is when things began to turn. Marve lasted just four games before re-tearing his ACL, but Purdue looked off on offense from the beginning. Hope and Nord went ultra-conservative at Notre Dame in the first game of the season despite having Keith Smith back as an all-Big Ten receiver. He would get hurt in addition to Marve, but Purdue would claw to 4-2 behind Rob Henry before everything fell apart. Still, a bowl could have been achieved if not for a blown 4th quarter lead (again) at Michigan State and at home against Indiana. Purdue finished 4-8, but Hope got a pass because at one point Purdue was playing its fifth string quarterback after Marve, Henry, and Justin Siller all got hurt and Caleb TerBush was suspended. Bolden and Smith, the two biggest offensive weapons returning from 2009, played a total of six quarters.
2011: The tide turned against Hope even though Purdue went 7-6 and won a bowl game. This was the beginning of the dreaded planned QB rotation. Hope completely mismanaged the end of a loss to Rice which probably should not have been that close anyway. We also started to have the infamous blowout losses in big home games, starting with a primetime home loss to Notre Dame. Purdue went from competing with the likes of Oregon and Ohio State to not even being close to a good team.
A 6-6 regular season could have been easily 8-4 if not for a blocked field goal at Rice and a few special teams mistakes at Penn State. The Boilers were blown out at Wisconsin and Michigan as well as at home against Notre Dame and Iowa. It was improvement though, so Hope got a pass.
2012: After a 3-1 start that included a very close loss at Notre Dame things looked good. Purdue was looking like the favorite to represent the leaders Division in Indianapolis and it faced the most critical three-game stretch under Hope in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio State all in a row.
We all know what happened next. As we see now, a major mistake was made in rotating quarterbacks at Notre Dame, one that probably cost us the game as we essentially no-showed on offense behind TerBush in the third quarter before Marve led us back (and yes, I know TerBush threw the tying TD pass, but Marve got us into position for it before getting hurt).
What frustrated fans the most about the mid-season five game losing streak was not the losing I can understand that because we played some good teams. In four of those five games, however, Purdue looked completely and totally unprepared. The offense went stagnant by trying to run the same ineffective play over and over again. Hope and Nord bristled at the fans too, further turning sentiment against him.
As expected, three straight wins over the three worst teams in the Big Ten (and the only three to not be bowl eligible based on record) was not enough to save his job. Hope said yesterday that he didn't see it as a stepback season, but when you beat fewer bowl eligible teams (zero against two in 2011), finish with a worse conference record (3-5 instead of 4-4), and don't contend in a weaker conference despite having you "most talented team", it is a step back.
I still don't understand why Sally Hope said that the media wished for her husband to lose. That cannot more false. I wouldn't even be doing this site if I wanted Purdue to lose, so it is absurd. It's not like Danny Hope was a big, infamous name that the national media had a vendetta to take down because of some nefarious actions. Most national football fans only see Hope as the latest Purdue coach with a 'stache. We at Hammer & Rails, Boiled Sports, The boiling Points, The Black Hammer, and The Railroad Tie wouldn't do what we do if we wanted Purdue to lose. hope was also a genuinely likable guy when I have met him, even yesterday after the game as he went to the locker room.
This move had to happen now because you cannot go into the critical December recruiting season with a coach's status in limbo. That means there is no time to wait for a bowl game result to make a decision. Too many other programs are also making moves, so you can't let them get ahead of you in the search process, either.
According to GBI, this has been in the works for awhile:
GoldandBlack.com had learned that it was the second of those blowouts, a 38-14 loss to Wisconsin Oct. 13, that essentially sealed Hope's fate and compelled Purdue to decide a change would be made following the season.
And in recent weeks, Purdue, as it did a year ago prior to extending Hope's contract, mobilized for a coaching search, researching potential candidates and asking for monetary contributions, seeking to put together a war chest of a targeted amount of around $4.5 million for its pursuit of its next staff.
As far as I know, it means that there will be an interim coach for our bowl game, wherever it may be. UPDATE: It will be Higgins:
GoldandBlack.com has learned that #Purdue wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will serve as interim coach for bowl game.— GoldandBlack.com (@GoldandBlackcom) November 25, 2012
The bowl game is still important because the returning players need the extra practice time. With 70 teams getting that extra time to work on things you can't afford to be in the group that doesn't get those practices for long. I have no idea who the interim coach will be. Gary Nord is likely out because of his back injury, so if I had to guess it would be defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar or Patrick Higgins, who has filled in admirably for Nord the last three weeks.
Then you have the coaching candidates. Based on GBI's report I am betting that the Tressel rumors were more about him being a consultant than anything, mostly because of his show-cause order through December 2016 that makes hiring him very difficult. Here are my rankings of the targets:
1. Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois - I honestly think we can have a ton of success next year with a guy that has the Huskies in the top 25 and they are a point away from being undefeated. Jordan Lynch is a first-year starter at QB that has 2,750 yards passing with 23 TDs and four picks. He has also rushed for 1,611 yards and 16 more TDs. Can you imagine what Rob Henry would do in a similarly styled offense? Purdue would have a pseudo-revenge game set up when it hosts NIU next season.
2. Sonny Dykes, Louisiana Tech - I've cooled on him in recent weeks, but his Louisiana Tech offense has scored a ton of points and was on the verge of a BCS bid for awhile. Unfortunately, with at least four openings in SEC country they may go after him much harder than Purdue.
3. Butch Jones, Cincinnati - This has some added drama with Purdue opening at Cincinnati next season. In three years since taking over for Brian Kelly at Cincy Jones has had some solid teams. He also coached Dan LeFevour, who put the fear of God in us three times.
4. Mark Helfrich, Oregon - Helfrich is the Oregon offensive coordinator, but how much of that blur offense for the Ducks the result of Chip Kelly? We may found out.
5. Trent Miles, Indiana State - Yes, it is another FCS hire, but you have to understand how bad the Trees were before Miles got there. They were generally considered to be the worst FCS team in the country, which is way down there. He had them on the verge of this year's playoffs and they upset No. 1 North Dakota State on the road. The fact he even made that program competitive after they were getting blown out by Division II schools is impressive.
So, that is what we know. Goodbye Danny Hope. Please take Gary Nord with you. I am sure there will be much more about this later.