Here at Hammer & Rails we normally try to round up the top 10 stories of the year when it comes to Purdue. This year it is kind of hard. There were no Big Ten championships and a handful of stories were clearly dominant. When you hire a new AD and football coach those are going to dominate the headlines no matter what. When I looked through the top 10 stories based on traffic eight of them dealt with the firing of Darrell Hazell.
So what follows is our top overall stories, not the ones based on traffic alone. Otherwise it would be all about the Hazell firing since that drew all the national headlines. That story leads off our top stories.
Purdue fires Darrell Hazell, hires Jeff Brohm
There was little secret that at the beginning of the season Darrell Hazell was on thin ice. He needed a good start to the season and he at least beat the FCS team on our schedule. Then Cincinnati happened. I wrote then that the 38-20 loss was the death knell for Hazell. He survived Nevada, got absolutely destroyed at Maryland, then managed to keep his job for another week with the win at Illinois. Most coaches would have used that as momentum, but when his team came out completely flat at home on homecoming against Iowa that was it.
Hazell was rightfully fired. Gerad Parker finished the season, and Jeff Brohm was hired. There is little question that Parker had the team more prepared for his six games than Hazell did. Sure, Parker’s team lost all six games, but they were a damn lot more fun to watch.
Hopefully firing Hazell was rock bottom. His poor recruiting and even worse recruiting have set the program back years. Right we have that weird feeling of hope again when it comes to football. It’s nice to have.
Purdue hires Mike Bobinski as Athletic Director after Morgan Burke retires
Mike Bobinski has only been on the job four months, but he has won over Purdue fans mostly for being actually competent at his job. He has worked to completely change the culture of Purdue athletics and has been a breath of fresh air. It is telling that while Morgan Burke was in charge President Daniels had to make a statement that we “weren’t going to get involved an athletics arms race.” Now that Bobinski is on board there has been a real financial commitment. We have lights coming. We have a new coach that looks like he might actually give Purdue and identity other than “laughingstock”. We have a commitment to the program and Daniels even said, a year later, that the school would commit financially.
So far Bobinski has been light years better than Burke. He is doing some of the common sense things that Burke ignored for over a decade. The hiring of Brohm looks like a good hire and that would only add to his already great grade.
Doug Schreiber resigns
Schreiber gets a mention because he was Purdue’s all-time winningest baseball coach. He is a former player that took over at his alma mater and in 2012 got the program as high as it has ever been. That 2012 season was Purdue’s first Big Ten title in 103 years, its second NCAA Tournament appearance, its first ever NCAA TOurnament win, and it featured a school record 45 wins. He finished his career with a 485-510 record, but the 60-149 record in his final four seasons overshadowed what was a stellar career.
Mike Wasikowski will take over this coming spring, and after 18 years of Schreiber it is truly a new era.
David Boudia, Amanda Elmore, and Steele Johnson medal in Rio
This year’s Olympics was a very successful one for Purdue athletes. They won a total of four medals thanks to dominating the men’s 10-meter diving events. Boudia won his third and fourth career medals by taking the silver in the 10-meter synchro event and the bronze in the individual 10-meter event where he won gold in London. Johnson won silver with him in the synchro event for his first Olympic medal.
It was Elmore, however, that was able to hear the Star-Spangled Banner on the platform. She helped the U.S. crew team win the gold in the women’s 8’s by more than 2 seconds. It was the third straight gold in the event for the United States.
As I have described it before, it felt like five months of basketball and hard work was completely ruined in a 45-minute real time stretch against Little Rock in the NCAA Tournament. With 4:12 left Purdue led 63-49 and even had the basketball. The game was over, and I even made the comment to my wife of, “If they blow this, I don’t want to see it.”
Well, I saw it. We all saw it.
Just because it wasn’t a positive story doesn’t mean it wasn’t a big story. This was a complete and utter collapse that scarred me all summer. It made me not even want to watch Purdue basketball for awhile. Well, we’re all watching again. I hope March is much better this time.
Caleb Swanigan Returns
We waited for weeks, and in the final moments before the NBA Draft deadline Caleb decided to come back for his sophomore season. It has played huge benefits so far. Caleb worked like an animal in the offseason and it has paid off. He has laid waste to Purdue’s non-conference season and is a human double-double every night. He has Purdue as one of the best teams in the Big Ten and primed for a 23rd league title if all goes well over the next three months.
Volleyball knocks off National Champion Stanford
This year Purdue was a very inexperienced volleyball team. It lost a lot of matches it probably should have won, but still likely exceeded expectations. While the Big Ten season was rough, Purdue had a couple of marquee non-conference wins over Kansas and over Stanford. The win over Stanford was especially impressive because it came on the home court of the Cardinal and after Purdue was down two sets. While Purdue would beat Iowa State before losing to Missouri in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, Stanford would go on to win the national championship.
Much of this year’s team returns next season. The Big Ten will be tough once again, but they know they can compete. They beat the Champs on their home floor, and that will pay huge dividends next season.
Chukwuebuka Enekwechi Becomes All-American
Purdue Track and Field had several members compete at the NCAA Championships for both men and women, but Chukwuebuka Enekwechi had quite the experience. The senior was a four-time All-American combined during the indoor and outdoor seasons. He was the Big Ten Field Athlete of the Year and helped Purdue finish 13th nationally at the indoor championships and 15th at the outdoor championships. At the outdoor championships he was the NCAA runner-up in the weight throw.
Men’s Golf reaches NCAA Championships
Once there, Purdue struggled at the NCAA Championships, finishing 29th out of 30 teams, but the Boiler men made it after a very successful season. A fifth place finish at the Regional Championships returned them to the NCAA Championships for the second time in three years. It is the 28th appearance all-time for the program.
Women’s Basketball Returns to NCAA Tournament
It was a short stay after a 61-45 loss to Oklahoma, but the Boilers returned to the NCAA Tournament after a one-year hiatus. It was the first time Purdue lost its first NCAA Tournament game since 1996, breaking a 17 game winning streak in first round games. Second Round Sharon wasn’t even Second Round Sharon, and already people are upset after home losses to Southern Illinois and IUPUI and a road loss to Maine.