Friends, Boilermakers, countrymen, lend me your ears. I come to bury Hazell not to praise him. The losses that coaches have live after them, the wins are interred in their buyouts. So let it be with Hazell. The fans have told you that Hazell is evil, brutish, incompetent, and uncaring. If so it is a grievous fault for a head coach. And grievously has Hazell paid for it. Here, under leave of the fans I come to speak at the burning of Hazell's effigy. He was my friend, a solid hire, and a promising young coach. But you all say he is incompetent and you are people on the internet.
Okay, enough Julius Caesar. There's no getting around the fact that things are bleak for Purdue football. Forget the ides of March, Purdue football has struggled for the past three plus years. In my lifetime things have never been as bad for Purdue football as they are right now. Under the three seasons that Coach Hazell has been at the helm Purdue has won a total of 6 games and lost 30. To put it simpler, Purdue has lost 5 times as many games as they've won under Hazell. So how in the world am I defending this guy? It's a multi-pronged approach and I hope you'll follow along.
First, Hazell hitched his wagon to the wrong coordinators. John Shoop is a lot of things but a college level offensive coordinator he is not. The guy has been absolutely abysmal. He has taken Elite 11 QBs and turned them in to trigger happy turnover machines. Some of that is on others on the offensive side of the ball but Shoop is the coordinator and therefore in charge of the offense. If Hazell is going to stay, as Burke has already said he is, then John Shoop has to go. The play-calling for Purdue was nonsensical at times. I get trying to keep the defense off balance but you also have to understand the situation your team is in and play to that. Shoop tried far too often to play cute football instead of trying to figure out what, if anything, this team was good at and refining it. The offense has talent. I think everyone can agree that Markell Jones could be the best running back Purdue has had in years. I think everyone would agree that if given some coaching and time to improve either Appleby or Blough would be a good QB for this team. Though not world beaters in the receiving corps I think guys like Yancey, Domo Young, and even Posey can be solid playmakers. Sadly, for whatever reason they haven't developed into the players we thought they would be. Again, that's on the coordinator. So step one for the improvement of Purdue football is Shoop is out.
Step two is completely up to Hazell. Until a couple weeks ago I wanted him to keep Hudson as the D-Coordinator. The defense did some good things this season. They slowed down the Wisconsin run game. They slowed down Michigan State and Iowa for nearly the entire game before getting gassed. Today though the defense looked not only incompetent but undisciplined. Purdue had six personal fouls called on them. There's no excuse for that kind of undisciplined play. Hudson needs to be given an ultimatum in the offseason. I'd be fine with him staying or going to be perfectly honest.
The second reason that keeping Hazell is the right move is because Morgan Burke is still around. I've always been a Morgan Burke supporter. I've defended him to numerous people numerous times. I don't think I can do it anymore. It's obvious that Burke will be back next year. Burke's current contract runs through 2017. As we head into 2016 I would imagine the search is ramping up for a new AD. At Burke's age I can't imagine they would offer him a contract extension. Nor can I imagine the president and board would allow Burke to make the next football hire on his way out the door. Burke hasn't had a great history as of late with football hires. He hired Danny Hope on the cheap because he was a Purdue guy and the football program began to slip. He then went after the young up and comer Hazell and as a result the program began to sink into the mud. Why would you want a guy like Burke to make the next hire? For many of the people out there they view Burke as the main problem with Purdue Athletics. The bitter pill is Burke isn't going anywhere at the moment. If you don't trust Burke to make another hire you have to think giving Hazell additional time is the right move.
On a more personal level it just doesn't make sense to fire a football coach after just three season regardless of how abysmal those seasons have been. People on the internet always want to say that if they performed like Hazell has at their job they would've been fired long ago, and that's probably true, but it's not a fair comparison. Hazell's job is not like your job or my job. Hazell's job is an entirely different animal. If you view Hazell as the CEO of the football team you need to think of his staff as the management team and the employees as the workers. Hazell has 85 scholarship players that are his workers. Coming into the job he didn't have the best players in the world but unlike in the real world he can't simply walk in and fire everyone he doesn't like. Hazell has to work with what he's been given. Imagine if Hazell had walked in and pulled the scholarships of 50 players. What kind of message does that send to anyone looking to come into the program? Progress is slow in a football program due to the lag in recruiting.
When Hazell came in all he could do was fight to hang on to the players already committed that Danny Hope recruited. I'm not sure if Hazell wanted any of those players or if he would've recruited those players on his own. It doesn't matter because he needed players. Hazell has recruited two classes all of his own. Those players are at most Sophomores in the program. We have no clue at this point what a team full of Hazell's players would look like. The recent history tells us it certainly wouldn't be great but I honestly have no idea since a large group of those players haven't yet seen the field. Given the time and the coaching could these players turn the program around? None of us can honestly say.
My last point is that if Purdue does fire Hazell and Burke is left in charge of hiring the new coach who do they go after? What's the budget after spending $6.5 million on a buyout? Who can they afford and more importantly who would want the job? The current crop of open jobs out there will easily suck up the most qualified candidates. There are jobs open at USC, Miami, South Carolina, Iowa State, LSU, hell, even Hawaii has the advantage of being in Hawaii. What can Purdue offer any big name candidate out there that would lure a top talent to West Lafayette over any of these destinations? Before making a big decision like this looking at the market is a smart move and right now the market doesn't look good if you're Purdue.
In order to build something sometimes you have to go straight down to the foundation. Purdue football has hit the foundation. Now they have to rebuild. If you think Morgan Burke is the problem you have to applaud Hazell staying. If you'd rather have Burke make another football hire, or you happen to have $6.5 million dollars for a buyout and ability to influence the hiring of someone who can turn this around, you have to want Hazell fired. There are really no great options for Purdue at this point. I don't think many people are till onboard the Hazell Express (patent pending) but how many are on the Let Morgan Burke Make Another Hire Express? Honestly, those are your two options and neither look particularly rosey.