When Purdue fired Danny Hope at the end of the 2012 there were several prime candidates available. Morgan Burke said he was going to open the coffers, learning his lesson by going cheap before. Hope set fire to his bridges on his way out the door, leaving Patrick Higgins, the wide receivers coach, in charge for the disastrous Heart of Dallas Bowl that feels like it never happened. What followed was a coaching search that seemed to name all the big names that were changing campuses. Sonny Dykes, Butch Jones, and Dave Doeren were among the names that Purdue was seriously considering. At the time, the hire of Darrell Hazell looked like a good one, but we're now 2.25 seasons in and the rebuilding continues.
So what of the other top targets out there? Here is a quick look at all the Power 5 conferences who hired new coaches in late 2012/early 2013 and how they have fared.
Arkansas - Bret Bielema (11-17, 2-14 SEC) - Bielema certainly talks a big game, but after going 3-9 in his first season and getting Arkansas to a bowl game last year he was supposed to have a big year this year. It won't happen. Before even getting to SEC play the Razorbacks have dropped home games to Texas Tech (not bad, as they are at least Big 12) and Toledo (EEP!). You don't last long in the SEC if you're losing to the MAC, especially in year 3. Bret only has one more guaranteed win on his schedule now with Tennessee-Martin, as the SEC slate begins this week with #14 Texas A&M.
Gus Malzahn - Auburn - (22-8, 11-6 SEC) - The first year could not have gone better, as Auburn was within a play or two of winning the National Title. Instead they went 12-2 and finished second. Since then... well, not good. Auburn was 8-5 last year and is so far 2-1 after getting flattened by LSU and needing overtime to beat FCS Jacksonville State. That was with a preseason top 10 ranking, too.
Steve Addazio - Boston College (16-13, 8-9 ACC) - Someone with a winning record! Addazio has guided BC to consecutive 7-6 season with a bowl loss in each. Last season his team knocked off No. 9 USC and pushed Florida State before falling 20-17 on the road. His teams are playing tough defense and refuse to get blown out most of the time. This year he is 2-1 with a pair of FCS wins and a 14-0 loss to Florida State. He is not flashy, but Boston College loses more than it wins and is competitive.
Sonny Dykes - California - (9-18, 3-15 Pac -12) - This was my personal favorite choice and before this season, Dykes' projection was right along with Hazell's. Dykes also went 1-11 in year one, but improved to 5-7 last season. That included an insane two week span that had a 59-56 win over Colorado and 60-59 win over Washington State. His teams don't play a lick of defense, but man, that offense. It make's Joe Tiller's basketball on grass look like the triple option. Already Cal is 3-0 with a 45-44 win over Texas last week. This is a team that could be bowl eligible and 6-0 in a few weeks.
Mike MacIntyre - Colorado - (8-19, 1-17 Pac-12) - If anything, Colorado was in a worse place than Purdue when this hire was made, so we can look to them for a good comparison. The overall numbers are not good, especially with a dismal conference mark, but so far Colorado is 2-1 with their only loss being a controversial one at Hawaii. They just won a rivalry game over Colorado State and should easily get to 3-1 with Nicholls State visiting this week. Can he get three more wins and get the Buffaloes to a bowl game for the first time since 2007? Maybe.
Kentucky - Mark Stoops - (9-18, 3-14 SEC) - The Wildcats were close to a bowl game last year, but a close loss to Florida in triple overtime prevented a 6-0 start. They crated to lose their final six games. Kentucky has already lost to Florida again (because they always lose to Florida), but the schedule is ripe for four more wins and a bowl game thanks to Eastern Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Charlotte, and Louisville.
North Carolina State - Dave Doeren - (14-14, 3-13 ACC) - Many viewed Doeren, who was at Northern Illinois and beat Hazell for the 2012 MAC Championship, as the top choice for the Boilers. In Raleigh he has at least done well out of conference, going 11-1 with a bowl win last year over Central Florida. Inside the ACC is a different matter. Since having #1 Florida State on the ropes early last year the Wolfpack only beat Syracuse, Wake Forest, and North Carolina. They are 3-0 this year with as soft of a non-conference schedule as you can ask for against Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, and South Alabama. Even Indiana is man enough to play Wake Forest.
Syracuse - Scott Shafer - (13-15, 6-11 ACC) - Syracuse was Shafer's first stop as a head coach and in year one they went 7-6 with a win in the Texas Bowl. They then fell to 3-9, but are off to a 3-0 start this season against Rhode Island, Wake Forest, and Central Michigan before hosting LSU this week. Since LSU and Florida State are the lone ranked teams they face a bowl game is a good possibility.
Tennessee - Butch Jones (14-14, 5-11 SEC) - Well, we know he can beat Bowling Green, so maybe we can borrow him this week. Jones came from CinCinnati and has been decidedly mediocre since, but that did not stop many from viewing Tennessee as a preseason dark horse. Last season he was 7-6 with a win over Iowa in the TaxSlayer (nee Gator) Bowl. His best win was in his first season 23-21 over No. 11 South Carolina, but they recently gacked away a sure win over Oklahoma at home.
Texas Tech - Klif Kingsbury (15-13, 6-12 Big 12) - Kingsbury started strong with an 8-5 record in year one, winning the holiday bowl. Last season slipped to 4-8., but this year the red Raiders are 3-0 coming off of a nice win at Arkansas. Kingsbury is only 36, one of the younger coaches at a Power 5 conference. A huge home game against TCU on Saturday could see his stock rise even more.
Gary Andersen - Wisconsin - (19-7, 13-3 B1G) - Andersen gets an incomplete, because after two years he left for Oregon State. In that time he did take Wisconsin to a Big Ten West crown before getting annihilated by Ohio State in his last game.
Darrell Hazell - Purdue (5-22, 1-15 B1G) - Either way you cut it, Hazell's record amongst his Power 5 brethren is the worst. The closest is McIntyre at Colorado, and he has still won 8 games, beaten his top in-state rival twice, and took over for a guy who was 4-21 after the coach before him was 16-33. The Buffs were a smoldering crater even deeper than Purdue, but they are at least fighting to get out of it now. What makes things even worse is that three of Hazell's five wins have come against FCS competition. McIntyre only has two such wins, and those came in year one when he went 4-8.
Now, I have to say that I still like Hazell. I like the way he is a disciplinarian that has cleared out a lot of underlying things, but it is not getting done right now. Unless Purdue goes 1-11 (which, hey, it is possible now), I think he gets a fourth year, but it is clear John Shoop needs to go at this point even if only to give us a look offensively without him under Hazell. The biggest problem in the 2.25 years so far has been a dreadful offense on most days, and that is at the feet of Shoop. If Shoop goes and Purdue doesn't get any better I doubt we will see year five of Hazell.