As Juan posted last night in a FanShot, Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell will be retained at the end of the year and will return for 2016. This is not a surprise given the nature of the Purdue athletic department. Despite a river of money coming in the next few years coach Hazell is returning mostly because of a $6.7 million buyout. As Mike Carmin of the Journal & courier points out, though there is no official word from Purdue, it raises some questions:
- Will Hazell make changes on his coaching staff? Offensive coordinator John Shoop has come under fire by fans for his play-calling and the lack of production prior to the win over Nebraska. Hazell and Shoop have made an in-season quarterback change each year based on performance, creating instability at the position.
- Will the school extend Hazell's contract to help in recruiting, despite only three victories over FBS programs and a 2-18 Big Ten record? Most coaches want four or five years on their contract to show recruits they plan to stay through the duration of their careers.
- Also, will Burke attempt to renegotiate Hazell's buyout, which is hefty by Purdue standards? Burke awarded former coach Danny Hope a two-year extension in December 2011, but fired him following the 2012 season and hired Hazell. Hope's buyout was $600,000.
Let's try to answer each in reverse order?
Will Burke try to re-negotiate Hazell's buyout?
Let me get this straight: Hazell has performed very poorly at his job, only has to continue breathing and he gets paid $6.7 million even if Purdue loses its final four games by 135 points each. Burke can try to renegotiate, but I can tell you that Hazell (or any sane person) will have a two word answer: "Fuck no!"
Will the school extend Hazell's contract to help in recruiting?
What the hell has Hazell done to earn an extension? Even if you give him one it is worth only the paper it is printed on. We proved with Hope it means nothing and any semi-competent recruit knows that a coach can be fired pretty much at any time. If a miracle happens and Hazell leads Purdue to 15-0 next year and a national title he could be gone anyway when some other, bigger school buys him away. That's not going to happen, but you get the point. These kids aren't stupid. They know coaches change all the time. An extension means diddle-squat and Hazell has not earned one by any measure.
Will Hazell make changes on his coaching staff?
This is the most likely scenario, but it depends on how Purdue finishes the season. The first move of the doomed coach is to fire coordinators and promise things could be different. The thing is, given Shoop's track record before Purdue and what has done in three years at Purdue, it might actually make a difference. The offense has been terribly under Shoop's watch. If Hazell replaces him with someone competent it actually could make a difference. Greg Hudson at defensive coordinator has only been slightly better in the way that explosive diarrhea is slightly better than bleeding out of your eyeballs.
That said, the schedule is there for Purdue finish at least 4-8, which would be improvement because it would mean three conference wins. Is that enough to save Shoop? What if Purdue goes 5-7 and pushes Iowa in Iowa City? Personally, I think Shoop should go regardless of what happens. He has been a disaster from day 1 and I don't want him ruining David Blough like he did with Danny Etling and Austin Appleby. Blough looks like he could be something special. Let's not blow it.
As for Hudson, I like that he has drastically improved Purdue's linebackers. The defensive line is also getting better. His work and positioning with the secondary is a huge concern. He has a little more leeway than Shoop, but not by much.
What if Purdue Fires Hazell Anyway?
In short, we swing and try again. Some have said that Purdue might be scared off at the number of big name coaching changes already in store for this year. That's crap. There isn't a single thing that says next year will be any better. Yeah, Purdue would be competing with Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois, Miami, South Carolina, and USC to hire a new coach. Who is to say that next year it is not UCLA, Indiana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn, and Texas? It is absurd to think that Purdue is going to hang on to a coach simply because a lot of other schools are looking.
First off, I am not going to hope Purdue loses the last four games of 2015 just for change. That is a disservice to the players and quite frankly, I have had enough losing. I want to beat Illinois, I want to get a road win, and I want to get the damn Bucket back where it belongs. If this staff can do that, great! It means that maybe, just maybe, things really are turning around.
That's what makes the Illinois game a big one for this staff. It is a game Purdue has every chance to win and perhaps even should win, mostly because a team looking to take the next step needs to win a game like this. Should Purdue come out and lose (and especially if Illinois wins easily) the Nebraska game meant nothing.