This has not been a fun football season. Purdue has been a national joke, so much so that the popular Shutdown Fullcast made (deserved) fun of Purdue for about 10-15 minutes today. A prime example about them is laughing about how long it has taken Purdue to get something as simple as lights (yet there are still people here that think it is a bad idea). It is no secret that Purdue has rarely been great, and it is a terrible place right now, but I do have to praise the power that be.
First, I offer praise for Mike Bobinski. He came into a tough situation and has only been on the job for about 7 weeks, but has already been forced to make a major move. He knew the situation coming in and still made a difficult, but necessary in-season firing. It was a move that surprised many because I think we were resigned to Hazell languishing the rest of the season and getting canned on November 27. No that his fate is known we actually get a jump on the hiring process. We have half of a season to evaluate candidates and see what is out there. If Gerad Parker pulls off a miracle and wins the last six games even he becomes a candidate.
I also credit Bobinski for pushing the facility improvements with the lights. Sure, it looks like the Big Ten had a stronger push, but the sense I have gotten from Bobinski, at least, has been one of “What do you mean this simple thing hasn’t happened yet?” They need to be done. There is no question about that, and they are getting done.
it seems like Bobinski is doing the fighting to get something that needs to get done. He is not talking in platitudes and dismissing fan concerns like his predecessor. He is going to be judged more on who he hires as Hazell’s replacement, but so far he has actually gotten some things done. Would Burke have done the same in this spot? I think we know the answer.
That is where I also give credit to the Board of Trustees. They have heard our cries, mostly because we can’t get much louder. That is why the fans need to keep up the pressure. In the span of 48 hours they committed more than $10 million more to the improvement of Purdue football in the form of the lights and the Hazell buyout. Was it because the Big Ten forced their hand on the lights? Probably. Was Hazell getting fired just a common sense measure? Yeah. They are still positive steps. They are necessary measures that the program needed to go forward when for so long we have been held back by similar financial concerns. While we still have a long way to go to overcome “the Purdue image”, the Board has still taken at least some positive steps here.
And let’s be blunt about the Purdue image: It is that those in power do not care as long as the Big Ten welfare check keeps coming. The numbers are clear that the other 13 schools in the league can do so much in addition to the big check, so the model is there, but for too long Purdue has not had that initiative. The often cited Penn Live article here is a prime example of what Purdue is compared to the rest of the Big Ten. We’re never going to be Ohio State or Michigan, but there is zero reason we can’t be somewhere in the middle of the conference in terms of revenue and investment in the program. The “Purdue is cheap and doesn’t care” image needs to change now.
Finally, I have to credit Daniels in much the same way I am crediting the board. Again, these two moves were common sense and probably needed to be made out of necessity as opposed to being made of their own free will, but they are getting done. Daniels and the board have most certainly been made aware of the situation. I have had many readers forward me letters written to the administration and they know we are fed up with the status quo. For now, they have taken some actual, tangible steps that needed to be made.
The biggest question is “Can this keep going forward?” This weekend’s moves mean absolutely nothing if the status quo returns and the football program does not get the support that 13 other institutions in our own conference get. They would be mere cosmetic touch-ups on an already bad situation. Right now Bobinski, Daniels, and the board stand at a precipice. They can see football for what it is: an opportunity to invest in the program, and have that investment returned. It will take a while. This is not something that will be fixed when the 2017 season kicks off. If the investment is made, however, the return can be huge. Just ask everyone else in the Big Ten. When the next closest school to us in football revenue is Rutgers (possibly a worse team right now) and they are well above Morgan Burke’s famous $5 million mark. there is a ton of potential there. In reality it is more like a $25 million mark, and all three groups need to see that.
It is going to take a lot of work and a commitment from all three levels. A critical measure is completing the proposed Ross-Ade improvements from the Football Master Plan. We’re getting part of them in the lights, but no matter who Purdue hires to replace Hazell, they need a definite, firm timeline on those improvements to be announced when they come on board. If there is not a timeline the new hire is still going to be at a major disadvantage.
Second, we need to make the right hire. It is the most critical hire in the history of the program. Right now Purdue is an absolute crater. The only thing it has to offer is potential, and that potential will only go as far as the commitment behind it. With the right person and the commitment from the University that can all be fixed, however. This three part team can achieve some pretty special things if everyone is on the same page. Bobinski needs to keep pushing for that commitment. Daniels needs to be convinced that it is in the greater good of the university to have athletic be a gigantic marketing arm, and the board needs to see the value and approve what needs to be approved.
The Big Ten check is really nice, but instead of relying on it we need to use it as a springboard to more. I hate to get political, but isn’t that the Republican ideal and Mitch, as a Republican, doesn’t see that? That Big Ten check, which will get even bigger next year, is a huge opportunity. when I spoke with the Nevada blog they could not believe we had the Big Ten money, but did not use it like a big Ten program. This group of three needs to see it as seed money to grow. Everyone else in the league does.
We have some positive momentum. Bobinski, Daniels, and the Board have done the right thing, but it all means nothing unless they continue to commit.