With just over 11 months to go in the tenure of Morgan Burke an interesting question was raised to us on Twitter yesterday:
@HammerAndRails is it just me or is it wildly inappropriate for Burke to handing extensions to coaches. I know some deserve, but still— Matt Fonner (@mnfonner) July 21, 2016
He has a bit of a point. Here are the extensions Burke has announced in recent months:
- Matt Painter Through 2022 - We talked about this before, but this one is likely cosmetic and for recruiting purposes. Painter has done enough that he has at least a 3-year safety net before getting fired, and with his tenure it is wise to keep him "under contract" for recruiting purposes at least 4 years out. Love him or hate him, Matt Painter is not going anywhere for a while unless he get a huge offer elsewhere or does something egregious like killing a hobo to get fired for cause.
- Sharon Versyp Through 2022 - I have more of a problem with this one. Versyp's program has grossly underachieved in recent years and hasn't been past the first weekend of the NCAAs since 2009. She has become "Second Round Sharon" with no conference titles and only one conference tournament title in the last eight years. With multiple Final Fours and a National Championship we should expect more from this program. This is all the more frustrating when Vanderbilt got Stephanie White.
- Mark Wasikoski Gets Multi-year Baseball Deal - I like the hire and I know that the trend of college baseball is to get the multi-year deal, but Wasikowski broke new ground in being the first "Olympic Sport" coach at Purdue to get a multi-year deal.
- Lonnie Greene Gets Multi-year Extension Through 2020 - This is probably the one that will raise the most eyebrows. The big three of football and men's and women's basketball always have multi-year contracts for coaches. Signing a multi-year contract for baseball is not a surprise given the growth of the sport. But Burke REALLY bucked the trend here when he signed a track and field coach to a multi-year deal. Greene has done a fantastic job with the track teams, getting them to place well in the Big Ten and even nationally (the men's team finished in the top 15 nationally for the first time ever in both indoor and outdoor). It is an earned deal. Still, this is a surprising move.
We also can see what Burke will do as he has one more hire left in his tenure. Kim Schuette resigned as softball coach last Friday in a surprise move, meaning Burke has to hire a new softball coach before he is done. That is another area where a multi-year deal could be offered. Purdue has invested in that program with the new facility next to Alexander Field being only two years old. A multi-year deal could be a sign of further investment in the program.
There is one name I am surprised has not been mentioned in this handing out of contracts: Dave Shondell. Arguably Purdue's best coach across the board, Shondell is more than deserving of a multi-year deal as the head of a program that regularly sells out its venue and thus at least contributes some revenue to the school. Shondell has been at Purdue since 2003, longer than any other coach, I think, but he doesn't get a multi-year deal?
Fortunately, there is at least justification for most of these deals. The only one I really question is Versyp, just because her tenure has been so milquetoast and Stephanie White was right there in Indy to bring home. Burke has avoided the biggest hullaballoo by not giving Darrell Hazell an extension (though he clearly wants to). I don't know a single Purdue fan that wants Burke to have anything to do with football before he retires, which amps up the stakes for finding his replacement even more.
Purdue has regularly said that they want the replacement named by the time football camp opens in August. Well, we're at the end of July and we have been met with stony silence in terms of even candidates. Sure, there is plenty of heresay and conjecture to go with rumors. Some of the top ones out there are former West Virginia AD (and father to Colts QB Andrew Luck) Oliver Luck, former Purdue football player and 4-time Super Bowl champ Keena Turner, Brian Cardinal, and Ohio AD (and Purdue alum) Jim Schaus. They are what they are though: names as rumors. There is no official word on if any discussions have taken place, offers made, or anything else. Technically, if I announced I had at least filled out the public application that would be the most official news that has been released anywhere, with the second being Brian Cardinal's vague tweet a few weeks ago.
The longer this goes on, the more concerned I am. Today marks 43 days to the first football game and it is an absolutely critical season because of Burke's status. As I said earlier, no one wants Burke even touching football. The excitement for the program is at an all-time low, however. I truly don't see Purdue finishing better than 2-10 even though I can see ways it wins 7 or 8 games if it had even marginally good coaching. My distrust of Hazell is that high because he hasn't shown any signs of improvement in three years (minus the very small "peak" in the middle of 2014). The thing is, I can see the nightmare scenario unfolding: Hazell goes something like 2-10, Purdue does not have a replacement for Burke by December, and Burke punts by keeping him around for 2017 because he knows no one wants him to have a hand in replacing Hazell. Then you have a new AD who comes in and either A. has to keep Hazell for 2017 as the lamest of lame ducks, putting the program even further behind the rest of the conference if that is possible because the 2017 schedule is a lot tougher than this year, or B. fires Hazell at the worst time in the hiring cycle without a unique "Lovie Smith to Illinois" type of selection.
I really hope I am wrong on both counts. I hope this is settled in the next few weeks AND I hope Hazell miraculously turns things around to win 7-8 games this year (mostly because the weak schedule is right there to do it). My guard is up, however, because I have been following Purdue my entire life.