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Positives: Recapping Purdue’s “Plan 2020: 2015-16”

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Yes, there were some positives from Purdue’s review of the 2015-16 season, and we’re going to talk about those first.

IndyCar: Indianapolis 500 Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, Purdue released their recap of the 2015-16 athletic season and its relation to their “Plan 2020”, athletic’s 6-year plan for 2014-2020. I am going to highlight most of the items mentioned in yesterday’s release. First, the positives (contrary to popular belief, I am able to talk about the positive things regarding Purdue).

In 2015-16, 12 teams earned NCAA postseason opportunities...Our combined average finish in the Big Ten was 6.85, which ranked sixth, a significant increase from 11th a year ago and our best since we were fifth (among 11 schools) in 2009-10 at 5.75.

Five programs finished in the top 25 nationally - men's basketball (12th), men's indoor track & field (13th), men's outdoor track & field (15th), volleyball (17th), and women's swimming & diving (23rd) - while men's golf was 29th, women's indoor track & field 33rd, men's swimming & diving 43rd, and wrestling 52nd.

This is an improvement. Purdue Athletics has been down the last couple of years, but things have turned around for many teams, and even won the Governor’s Cup over Indiana without winning the football and men’s basketball games. While not great (given that no team won a B1G title), Purdue tends to finish in the upper half of the B1G across all sports according to this metric. However, I am bothered by this metric of “average finish in the Big Ten.” Some of the sports that Purdue plays do not feature all 14 B1G schools, such as baseball, swimming & diving, and track & field. So saying Purdue’s average B1G finish was 6.85 isn’t the truth. After all, Wisconsin finished 6th in B1G Hockey this past season, but there are only 6 hockey teams. Rather than it being reported as a last place finish, it was reported as a 6th place finish and helped boost their score (I assume).

Perhaps scoring final conference standings on a scale of 0-100 would be better, where a score of 100 = first place finish, 0 = last place, and the rest of the numbers are adjusted for your final standing in regards to how many teams participate. Let’s say your school finishes 2nd in Sports A and B, but Sport A only has 6 teams, so your score is 80. However, Sport B has all 14 teams, so your score is 92 (if my math is correct). Then you average the scores of all the teams and you get a more representative number of how the department finished across the conference. If the average is above 50, that means your teams average an upper half finish in the B1G across all sports.

Oh right, I’m supposed to keep this article positive and not rant about bad metrics that aren’t quite accurate. Anyways...

We accumulated 491.75 points in the Directors' Cup - our most in three years - and ranked 45th out of 351 schools, which placed us in the 87th percentile. When tallying only those sports that we offer, our ranking moved up seven spots to 38th. Last year, we finished 60th with 405 points, with an adjusted ranking of 48th when counting only our sports.

Purdue only offers 20 varsity sports, and Directors’ Cup points are accumulated, not averaged, which tends to lower Purdue’s score. Despite this, Purdue still finished ahead of 6 Big Ten schools, according to Gold and Black (Northwestern (50), Michigan State (53), Illinois (54), Iowa (62), Maryland (59) and Rutgers (83)).

Volleyball advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and both men's basketball and women's basketball earned NCAA Tournament berths.

We accumulated 53 total All-America honors (by 32 student-athletes). Ten Boilermakers combined to earn 16 first team distinctions...21 first team All-Big Ten selections...seven individual Big Ten titles...[and] Six student-athletes have qualified for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Though Purdue hasn’t won a B1G title for a sport in a few years (more on that later), individual athletes are carrying their weight and earning great individual honors.

Student-athletes maintained better than a 3.0 grade-point average for the 15th consecutive semester this spring, and they continue to regularly perform equal to or better than the student body....the cumulative GPA for all current Purdue student-athletes was a record 3.10 [spring semester 2016]. The current four-year average Graduation Success Rate remains at 84 percent, as we work toward our goal of 85 percent...Overall, 90 percent of student-athletes completing their eligibility at Purdue graduate, and student-athletes who graduated in May of 2015 realized a 92 percent job-placement rate.

A few years ago, Burke laid out his 25/85 plan, where Purdue teams would finish in the Top 25 and the GSR would hit and surpass 85%. While Purdue hasn’t been close to an average Top 25 finish, they’re realistically within range of an 85% GSR. Would be great to see Purdue surpass this and stay there.

This past year, we implemented a sports medicine leadership team

*please no more ACL tears*

We sold 6,791 Student Boarding Pass packages in the first year. That total is more than double the 3,269 Student VIP Cards sold in 2014-15.

This was expected. VIP Passes were limited to the amount of student seating for basketball (just under 5,000), but students could buy individual season tickets for football and volleyball if they didn’t want the VIP Pass (or if it sold out). As of last season, these individual season tickets and the VIP Pass were eliminated to create the $99 Boarding Pass for students, which gives them tickets for all home games. It naturally combined these two groups (along with basketball’s popularity) and led to Purdue seeing an increase in sales. It’s also cheaper than the old student football season tickets (~$120 IIRC), so it probably helps boost football attendance too. It will be interesting to compare the Boarding Passes sold for the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons.

The major renovation to the Ackerman Hills Golf Course is complete. Spearheaded by world-renowned golf course architect Pete Dye, who donated his services, the renovation has made the course enjoyable for all to play and suitable to host championship-caliber events.

I don’t play or follow golf, but this sounds like a good thing.

Edit:

Thanks to reader rbbaker for some more information regarding the golf renovations.

Pete Dye is one of the finest architects in the country, and the fact that he has Purdue ties is amazing. His courses are world-renowned and have hosted majors and Ryder Cups...The work he did to Kampen to make it the #11 University Course in the country (and host of the 2008 NCAA Championships) was incredible.

You can read the rest in the comments below.

Construction of the $65-million football performance complex began in April and is on schedule, with an anticipated completion date of August of 2017. The majority of the work completed to date includes the mass excavation for the building footprint and the embankment shoring associated with that area, as well as utility installations.

It probably helps that Shoop was taken off the project so that it can run efficiently.

In May, during the installation of the new water main line, it broke, causing significant flooding in Holloway Gymnasium/Brees Academic Performance Center and Mackey Arena. New competition floors had to be installed in Holloway and Mackey, as well as all other flooring in Brees (including the football locker room). All costs are covered by contractor insurance.

*embarrassingly remembers stupid rant of water break* Let’s move on, shall we.

We completed two major projects to enhance safety at Ross-Ade Stadium, including replacement of the last remaining original concrete in the seating bowl.

No word on if Purdue restored T-Mill’s seats in Section 128, or just refused to put them back and left 2 flashlights for him out of spite.

Okay, this article is getting too long and I’ve become snarky. Now for the money section:

The John Purdue Club had its most productive year of fundraising in its 50-plus years of existence. Net production as of July 1 was nearly $37 million. This sum more than doubles the three-year average...Our annual fund donations finished the fiscal year at approximately $6.5 million, up nearly $500,000 from last year. We believe that the Mackey re-seating event provided great motivation for donors to increase contributions to earn "more points" for better re-seating selection priority.

Our current [JPC] membership is 6,415, up 151 members from this point last year... the number of former student-athletes who are "paying it forward" through their membership in the Varsity "P" Club, a subset of the John Purdue Club, has increased from 796 to 893 members.

Premium Seating for Mackey is expected to increase by $1.7 million over the next decade. We anticipate an upward trend with the team's performance, recent recruits and the reseating of the arena....The Big Ten television dollars are expected to increase significantly over the 10-year period above the 2014-15 projections. The new television contract will commence with fiscal year 2017-18....The distribution received from the Big Ten bowl games is anticipated to increase by $1.9 million over the 10 years.

Not much else to say here other than hooray for more money coming in! (But in the next article, we’ll talk about Purdue running low on money. Oops, spoiler alert.) Every penny counts with Purdue being one of 12 programs without a subsidy from the university or government (and it has the lowest revenue among those 12 schools).

I still think JPC could do a better job in marketing to those who don’t attend many games. It’s hard to justify the minimum $200/year cost when you don’t attend many home games, let alone buy season tickets. The discounted rates for new alumni are helpful, but can still be out of reach for some and not worth the cost if they’re going to graduate school and/or moving well beyond the banks of the Wabash.

We will continue to work on the Football Master Plan. The phases are as follows:

Phase 1 - Ross-Ade concrete repair (completed at cost of $2.8 million in 2015-16)

Phase 1B - Ross-Ade steel painting

Phase 2 - Football Performance Complex, Brees Academic Performance Center and Mollenkopf Athletic Center retrofit (to be completed in early 2018 - debt payment for Football Performance Complex in plan)

The first 2 of 5 phases for the Football Master Plan are set in motion and look to be completed on time. Phase 2 is the biggest task as it reshapes the practice facilities for football and study areas for all Purdue athletes. While we want to see renovations and improvements at Ross-Ade, these facilities come first. The athletes use these facilities every day, so improving them could aid in recruiting not just for football, but all sports.

I’ll talk more about Phases 3, 4, and 5 in the next article.

If revenues allow, we will assess sport sponsorship in the future with a desire to add both a men's and women's sport.

While it’s great that athletics is thinking about adding a new men’s and women’s sport, don’t expect it any time soon. No timetable was offered, and, as we’ll discuss in the next article, revenues are not looking great. If Purdue were to add a sport, I would put my money on men’s soccer and women’s crew/rowing. The facilities are already in place, and Purdue already has a great women’s crew team at the club level. Sorry guys, don’t expect hockey unless T-Mill’s mythical sugar daddy arrives to build a new arena.

Those are most of the positives from Purdue’s recap of the 2015-16 season. I’ll have the negatives in the next post (TBD). Overall, it seems like Purdue is heading in the right direction, but it’s hard to say with one year of data. Sports like basketball (men’s and women’s), soccer, and wrestling are expected to continue their improvement, while sports like football and baseball (despite new coaching staff) are still iffy until we see results.

Based on this, I wouldn’t say this was a great year for Purdue, but if they can keep the momentum going and not fall back, this is a step in the right direction.