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Purdue Athletic Director Search: An H&R Roundtable

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The staff of Hammer & Rails weighs in on their choices to replace Morgan Burke.

"Those H&R guys, they have some good ideas. Listen to them."
"Those H&R guys, they have some good ideas. Listen to them."
Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

One of Purdue's top choices for a new athletic director in Josh Whitman, a Lafayette native and up-and-coming AD candidate with a lot of new, innovative ideas was hired away by Illinois. He was a favored choice by many including Jeff Washburn of the Lafayette Journal & Courier. With him off the board any other name is basically speculation at this point.

Those Illini: They take our Cannon, they ruin our basketball season, and now this. Maybe they are a rival.

Obviously, Purdue is still very early in the process to replace Morgan Burke. We don't even know what they are looking for in a candidate. As fans, we have our own ideas in mind, so I asked our others writers what they wanted to see in a new athletic director:

Juan Crespo

(Wrote this at around 2am last week. Pardon any random ranting/grammar/my writing in general)

I think the most important thing is hiring someone with previous experience in an athletic department that's in a P5/Major Conference. I don't want to hire a businessman who just wants a balanced checkbook at the end of the day to determine success. Championships determine success. Though I was barely walking when Burke was hired (yes I know, I'm the baby at H&R), reading how he was "hired from the stands" makes it seem like he was a cheap hire, which would explain many of his hires during his time at Purdue.

I doubt we could steal a current AD at a top school, but I'm sure Purdue could find an AD with experience at a bigger school who has successfully led an athletic program in a mid-major conference. A good internal hire would work too (like Brian Cardinal) but I think it's best to bring someone from beyond the banks of the Wabash. Purdue needs a new perspective. Being an alum would also be a big plus. Whoever it is, this person needs to not only have a vision, but achievable goals to make Purdue succeed. Burke had the former, no doubt, but he was never close to achieving most of his goals for Purdue Athletics (outside of facility renovations/construction), and most of that falls on him by not making the right hires and being a little late on some of the facility upgrades.

I think the new AD also needs to have a better outreach to the alums, especially the young alums and those farther away from West Lafayette. JPC is nice, but it's not exactly cheap (even w/ the young professionals discount just a few years after graduation) for a young alum still paying off their loans. It may not even be worth it for someone who may not even go to games on Purdue's campus since they don't live nearby anymore. However, I'm not sure what the best solution is though. Perhaps better coordination with the local alumni clubs throughout the country?

The various sports teams at Purdue travel around enough, especially in the Midwest, that most of us get at least one chance to see Purdue in our own backyard every year (I know I take advantage whenever a Purdue team is in Ann Arbor, and sometimes East Lansing). Especially in football, Purdue gets ~3,000 tickets when travelling in the B1G. Instead of selling those to JPC members, sell some of them to local alumni (through the local alum clubs) who don't have to drive far. Both times I went to East Lansing for a Purdue football game (2013 & 2015), the visiting section was quite empty of black and gold, as tickets were given back to MSU. I know Purdue was bad in those years, but I'm sure there were local alums who would quickly buy those tickets from Purdue just to see the Boilermakers play on local turf. The same could go for basketball, even though those seats tend to be limited to family and friends of the team.

A better connection to the alumni, and even those who aren't alumni and live in Indiana, could help bring in more money for Purdue. Maybe it'll help Purdue find that elusive sugar daddy T-Mill is always talking about. Ultimately, I want an AD who wants Purdue to win championships and will properly enable the teams to do so. This may mean going into the red for a little bit, but championships in football and basketball will bring in more money for the department. I'd also like to avoid NCAA violations, because as we've seen, they will creep back up when you're not even expecting it. Only thing worse than never winning a title is winning a title only to have it striped because you were caught doing something you weren't supposed to be doing.

Jack Walker (WBBFan)

I would like for the new athletic director to live in a world called REALITY.  Like it or not, college football supports every other sport on campus, for men or women, except maybe men's basketball which just might break even.  While it is good to improve "non-revenue" facilities like a new softball diamond, Mackey upgrade, baseball diamond, volleyball arena, yes, I like all of those things.  However, our soon to be past athletic director has trashed the one revenue sport while lavishly spending on the others while overseeing one of the worst declines in an NCAA team in recent history.  That is the decline of the Purdue football brand from Drew Brees and the Rose Bowl, to the laughing stock of a football program which is now worse than IU and headed for Kansas territory.  That is not only close to the unforgiveable sin, it is utter lunacy and stupidity.  Not all of this is the AD's fault.  The president and BOT are taking BTN money and funneling it into the general fund while the university is sitting on a $2 Billion endowment.  Money should be flowing in the other direction, and the return on investment would be gradual but certain.

Purdue is well known for the Krannert School of Economics and Management.  Well, do they teach anything at all about university economics as it applies to football?  Maybe in a perfect world academics would be at the forefront and athletics an afterthought.  However, that is not reality, whether you like it or not.  Sound economic policy is to invest every possible dime of money into the football program, and do it wisely, and the return on investment will be astounding.  Not only is that ultimately good for all of the non-revenue sports, it affects the overall image of the entire university.  The arms race is real, like it or not.  I need not list the examples of colleges who have applied this principle to take a mediocre at best football program and invest into it until the team is in the top 10 or 20 teams year in and year out most years.  In our conference look at Wisconsin, Northwestern, Michigan State as examples.  Purdue used to beat them on a regular basis.  OK, I am showing my age.  This investment means priorities, it means stadium lights, increasing seating capacity not reducing it, it means treating the fans and John Purdue Club members with the greatest of respect and goodness.  It means the kind of game day excitement that used to prevail on and off campus on game days when I went to Purdue in the late 70's in the Jim Young and Mark Hermann days.  It means spending the right amount of money to hire the right coaches and staff.  It means PRIORITIES.  Get your priorities in line with REALITY!

Some people might say, well look at Oregon or Texas A&M.  They got massive multi-million dollar donations from mega-rich people to boost their football team.  Well, how many mega-rich alumni are there who went to Purdue?  Plenty.  Why not give a few of them a reason to believe that massive donations would pay off in a major way at their alma mater?  Look at the recent contributions of Ryan Kerrigan and Drew and Brittany Brees.  If they can give that much to the joke of a program we have now, how much more might alumni give if they were given a good reason that their large donation would be spent wisely?  True that is unknown, but the atmosphere of responsible athletic direction is where that all starts.  True, the AD has to answer to the president and BOT.  However, the AD is paid a lot of money and given a lot of resources already.  That person needs to make the most of the money given.  That person also needs to realize the times in which we live and not live as if it is 25 years ago.  But that being said, investment in a university's football team has given great return for a lot longer than 25 years.  In fact, it has been true since Notre Dame figured out well over a hundred years ago just what kind of money a good football team can bring in to a university.

In summary, the Purdue Athletic Department and its new director need to stop crapping on their own fan base and donor base.  Plain and simple. Invest and prioritize to rebuild the Purdue Boilermaker football team into the power house it should be.  Call it the trickle down effect of college sports in the 21st century.  All of the other teams will benefit from that philosophy.

P.S. Tongue in cheek answer to our problems.  Find out who to pay off to get referee calls to go our way!  It works for Notre Dame and Ohio State!

Andrew Ledman (Jumboheroes)

What am I looking for? - I think there are two things I want in the next AD. First, I want someone who can be a bit more out front for the school. Burke was not necessarily a guy who was out in the public cheerleading. That's not a knock on him it's just a comment. He is much more of a behind the scenes manager which I think is incredibly important when you are running an organization the size of this one. I want the next AD to be able to go out and inspire. To go out and meet with fans and get them excited about football, basketball, or just Purdue Athletics in general. There's no one way to do this but it would be nice if we got someone who doesn't mind hopping in front of the camera and selling Purdue to the country.

The second thing I want is someone who can raise money and raise a ton of it. Purdue isn't a powerhouse school with some sugar daddy alumni who is paying the bills. Because of that Purdue relies on the smaller donations of a much larger group of people. That's certainly important and it's something that Purdue needs to build on. Right now the fan base is shrinking and going back to my first point if this person can go out and be the face of the department I would hope they would be able to inspire fans to donate money and come back to the fold. Having more money allows Purdue to make more advances all over the department.

T-Mill:

My disdain for the way things have been run is well known. Thankfully, Rutgers is now here so Purdue is no longer the historical worst athletic department in the Big Ten, but really, do they even count? We STARTED the Big Ten for crying out loud! We still have fewer conference titles than the University of Chicago!

I want someone who actually care about this enough to end it. I give credit to Burke for ending the facility deficiency, but I have heard enough about a balanced budget. It is not hard to balance the budget when Purdue sponsors the fewest sports of all 14 Big Ten schools and you're getting a large check from TV revenue every year. Let's stop acting like that is really hard to accomplish and start talking about how much better things could be if we had even a competent football team bringing in money.

In 2014-15 there was a Best in College Sports ranking, which is explained as follows:

The CBS Sports Best in College Sports award is weighed more heavily toward sports that generate fan and media interest. The poll rates five sports: football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and a "wild card" sport. The wild-card spot is awarded to the most successful among schools' other spectator sports: softball, men's lacrosse, men's ice hockey, men's soccer, wrestling, volleyball, women's soccer or women's gymnastics. Women's basketball, baseball, and the "wild card" carry normal weight, with men's basketball double and football triple.

Even with a team making the NCAA Tournament in basketball (which counts double) Purdue finished 93rd nationally and dead stinking last among 14 Big Ten schools. That is a flat out embarrassment.

Right now, the school higher ups do not care about competing as long as the budget is balanced. I want an AD that cares and can somehow work within the constraints put on them by Daniels & Co. to have success. Since Daniels is all about the budget, that means I want someone who can expand revenue, be it through donations, finding the infamous "sugardaddy", making football a top priority since it is a cash cow, and expanding a brand.

Mostly, I want someone new. I am inclined to go outside the "Purdue family", mostly because I have heard some rumors before of who the top person is to replace Burke and while that person is a good person, the announcement would be as exciting as dry toast. Purdue is in desperate need of changing its entire culture, and no one currently within the athletic department sees that as far as I can tell.

A year and a half ago I said that if Purdue was not going to bother being competitive it should leave the Big Ten. I stand by it. It is time to compete or admit that we're only here to collect paychecks and be the conference whipping boy.