As of June 18th, 2015, Purdue has 18 varsity sports, the fewest among other Big Ten Conference members. Even the University of Chicago had 19 varsity sports at one point before departing the B1G and focusing on academics. As much as we want to speculate and form conspiracy theories around Morgan Burke and Mitch Daniels, athletics isn't going anywhere for Purdue, but we also shouldn't expect an increase in varsity teams. Purdue runs a very tight and independent athletic budget, and as much as it annoys us at times, has been able to stay afloat somehow.
But let's say, for the sake of this article, that Purdue could add two new varsity teams, one for the men, and one for the women. What sports could Purdue add to its varsity line up? Well first, it's important to see which sports Purdue doesn't have. Since Purdue's current 18 teams are all under the Big Ten Conference, let's only look at the other sports the B1G sponsors but Purdue isn't a part of. (Sorry women's hockey, fencing, rugby, men's volleyball, etc. fans.)
So our first take away from this is that of the sports Purdue is not a part of, other B1G schools also opt not to participate. This is good, as Purdue is not an odd one out in any sport (I'm looking at you, Wisconsin Baseball, and inb4: Minnesota has a baseball team). Next is determining what sports Purdue could add. Again, we're going to assume we can only add one sport for each gender, but I still want to have a little fun. For our first scenario, let's say Purdue still has a bit of a limited budget, but just enough to support an extra team. In the 2nd scenario, we'll look at which teams could be added if money wasn't an issue.
Men's: Soccer. This to me seems to be the obvious choice. Purdue already has brand new soccer facilities with the new sports complex northwest of campus, and soccer is a relatively inexpensive sport to sponsor. Outside of the usual costs for any sport (coaching salaries, travel expenses, recruiting), you'll just need a few balls, some cones for practice, and a few goals (which Purdue already has). Now, I'm probably underestimating the costs, so please don't be insulted, soccer fans. My point is that compared to the other 3 sports, soccer would be cheaper and Purdue already has the facilities to support it. Plus, 9 other B1G schools have men's soccer, so there wouldn't be a lack of opponents. In addition, if Purdue could built a good program, it would make the rivalry with IU even better given their historic men's soccer program.
Women's: Rowing. If field hockey was a spring sport instead of a fall sport, I'd pick that as the soccer field could be converted to a field hockey field in the spring. Our next best option then is rowing, in my opinion. Purdue already has a decent rowing club (Purdue Crew) that participates in national competitions and already has relatively new facilities on the banks of the Wabash. Perhaps they would need a few upgrades to get up to B1G competition, but I'm sure it wouldn't be too much of a hassle. Besides, imagine a B1G competition on Wabash with many folks gathering on the pedestrian bridge to cheer on the Boilers as they cross the finish line. Lacrosse is also an option here, but given that there are few B1G teams participating (need more non-con games to fill out schedule), and there's not much interest given that it's mainly an East Coast sport, I think rowing is the best option here.
It Ain't About the Money Scenario
Men's: Hockey. The state of Indiana needs more hockey. You have the Blackhawks dynasty over in Chicago creating more hockey fans in the state, and Purdue already has a decent hockey club. But unless you live close to Chicago, South Bend, or even Fort Wayne, you can't really get a good hockey fix. Unfortunately, Mackey is too small to hold a hockey rink, so a new facility needs to be built. It needs to be somewhere on campus and not out at the sports complex because you want the students there to create a strong home environment. And given that the B1G is already scrapping the bottom of the barrel with 6 teams, adding Purdue to the mix could at least boost the conference. And just like men's soccer with IU, Purdue could build on its rivalry with Notre Dame in hockey after they gave their program a boost a few years ago.
Women's: Gymnastics. Okay, so this could have gone under the realistic scenario. However, since I'm not sure if Purdue has a big gymnastics club, I'm just assuming they don't have the facilities or resources to quickly field a varsity team effectively, compared to rowing at least. For gymnastics in this scenario, Purdue could easily use Mackey and/or IAF for competitions, as that is what other teams typically do. There is a decent amount of equipment to buy (at least from what I can recall from the 3 combined times I've seen gymnastics in the last 3 Olympics), but since we're in the spend all the money scenario, it doesn't matter! Field hockey could also go here since Purdue could build a new field for them.
What sports do you think Purdue could add under either of these scenarios?