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Purdue Football Coaching Search: Who Replaces Darrell Hazell?

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ROW THE BOAT!

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Northwestern Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Barring a very surprising turnaround in the final 10 games of the year the end is near for Darrell Hazell. It cannot come soon enough, either. The thief of West Lafayette has robbed enough money from the athletic department coffers and Saturday showed he cannot prepare this team to beat even middle-of-the-road AAC teams. It will only get worse during the Big Ten season, so we begin a countdown to November 27.

On that day 74 days from now Mike Bobinski’s tenure as athletic director gets real. On that day he needs to decide if Darrell Hazell returns for 2017 and if we can begin digging out from this subterranean crater that Purdue football is in.

Since it seems imminent that Hazell will be fired it is time to start talking about replacements. With that, I have a caveat. Bobinski is doing more than hiring a football coach here. He has to begin cleaning up a mess that has been more than a decade in the making thanks to Morgan Burke. The new Football Performance Facility will help, but there needs to be more. A critical piece to this next hire will be a timeline for completing the needed Ross-Ade renovations such as the South End Zone, new scoreboard, ribbon boards, and lights. Purdue has a much better shot of getting a good new hire if it has a timeline in place for said improvements because they are absolutely necessary in the world of major college football.

There needs to be investment in the program. Even now, at the lowest ebb possible, there has to be a plan in place to at least get Purdue on the same level as the rest of the Big Ten in terms of facilities and the new football facility is only part of that. if said investments are not made Purdue will not improve.

With that in mind, here are some likely candidates:

P.J. Fleck – Head Coach – Western Michigan – I know, another MAC Flavor of the Week, but by the time Purdue would go after Fleck he would have twice as much experience as Hazell did when he was hired. Fleck’s first season was identical to Hazell’s in that it was 1-11 in 2013, but since then he has rowed the boat to some success. The last two years Western Michigan was 8-5 and 6-2 in the MAC, losing the West Division to Northern Illinois.

On Saturday Fleck will get a chance to tie Darrell Hazell for wins over Big Ten teams. He got his first in week 1 this year at Northwestern and this week the Broncos can beat Illinois. A win there would also make things very interesting, as it sets up a potential undefeated regular season for the Broncos. Their toughest games are in each of the next four weeks when they go to Illinois, host a good Georgia Southern team, open conference play at Central Michigan, then host Northern Illinois. If they get through all four of those games unscathed this team is probably undefeated when it hosts Toledo on November 25.

Fleck is a young guy, younger than me, even. He is also a decent recruiter. His classes have been consistently better than Hazell’s (at WESTERN MICHIGAN no less). His current 2017 class is ranked 41st according to Rivals. That’s ahead of Mississippi, Stanford, Wisconsin, Texas, UCLA, and Purdue (We’re No. 62).

I feel better going after fleck because he is more established than Hazell was at Kent State. I will feel even better if he wins at Illinois this week.

Brock Spack – Head Coach, Illinois State – Spack is going to get mentioned a lot because of his connections to Purdue, but did we miss the boat in 2009 when he probably should have gotten the job? Since taking over at Illinois State Spack has gone 58-29, highlighted by an appearance in the FCS title game in 2014 and a win at Northwestern on Saturday. He has built the Redbirds into a top 10 FCS program and pretty much has shown he should have taken over here in 2009.

Spack is 54 though, and can he recruit at the level Purdue needs right now? I feel like the reason he is getting mentioned is familiarity and because of the fond memories of the Tiller. Unfortunately, Purdue is in a far worse place now than it was in 2009 when he could have slid into place. Hell, it is at a far worse place than in 1997 when Joe Tiller took over. Does he have the energy and ability for a massive rebuild?

Jeff Brohm – Head Coach, Western Kentucky – The 45-year-old coach at Western Kentucky is known to be an offensive mastermind with his brothers. Greg Brohm is the director of Football Operations and Brian Brohm is the Co-Offensive Coordinator and QB coach.

Jeff is 21-8 as a head coach and that included an impressive 12-2 season last year with a bowl win. Their only losses were at Indiana by 3 and at LSU by 28. They won Conference USA and the Miami Beach Bowl. His team can score some points too. In 10 of the 12 victories WKU scored at least 41 points. The exceptions were a 14-12 win at Vanderbilt and a 35-19 win over Florida Atlantic.

So far this season WKU is 1-1 with a win over Rice and a 38-10 loss at Alabama. Brohm has NFL experience as a player, but his teams play an exciting, wide-open brand of football with a lot of passing. Last season his quarterback, Brandon Doughty threw for 5,055 yards and 48 TDs against 9 interceptions. The year before that he threw for 4,830 yards and 49 TDs against only 10 INTs.

Kevin Sumlin – Head Coach, Texas A&M – This is very dependent on if he is fired from Texas A&M or not, but he is an excellent recruiter who has a 73-33 record as a head coach. The only sin he has committed is that Texas A&M fans are batshit insane and he has not gone undefeated every year with a national championship.

Sumlin has the obvious Purdue ties and he has the most experience at a major level. If he is fired would he come home, however? What would Purdue have to pay even if he is canned? Purdue fans have wanted him for a while, but can he do the insane rebuild we need?

Chris Klieman – Head Coach, North Dakota State – Klieman is currently at the control of the FCS Death Star that is North Dakota State. That is both a good and a bad thing. The good is that he is 30-3 as a head coach and has won two national championships. The bad is that his successor, Craig Bohl, won three in a row before moving on to Wyoming, where he has struggled.

The 48-year-old Klieman has shown he can sustain the success Bohl had. Klieman was the defensive coordinator under Bohl. We can take a look at him this weekend when NDSU puts an absurd five-game winning streak against FBS level schools on the line at Iowa. That is very telling. Not only is NDSU dominant at the FCS level, they have more than held their own against FBS teams. They are a ridiculous 8-3 all-time against the FBS, and their last game was a 20-point win over Iowa State in 2014.

They aren’t beating the dregs of the MAC and Sun Belt, either. They have beaten Minnesota twice, Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas.

Art Briles – currently unemployed – PURDUE HIRING ART BRILES WOULD BE A TERRIBLE IDEA. I do not care that, as a football coach, he could be successful. He is a despicable human being on par with those that let everything happen at Penn State. If Purdue hired Briles I would revoke my JPC membership, not renew my season tickets, and shut this site down before supporting my school for hiring him.

******

Hey Everyone, Legend jumping in on this one for a few off the grid names:

Jeff Scott - Clemson Co-Offensive Coordinator / WR Coach - Jeff Scott is on the top of my list. Scott is a former walk-on wide receiver at Clemson that has worked his way up the coaching ranks from high school coach, to wide receiver coach, and finally to Co-Offensive coordinator. Scott is 35 years old, and happens to be one of the best wide receiver coaches and recruiters in the nation. His proteges include NFL players Nuk Hopkins(Houston), Sammy Watkins (Buffalo), Martavis Bryant (Pittsburg), Adam Humphries (Tamp Bay), Jaron Brown (Arizona), and Charone Peake (N.Y. Jets). Scott, has consistently been named a top 25 recruiter in the nation and was named by Rivals as the top ACC recruiter in 2015. Scott would bring with him the Clemson power spread offense and has an impressive coaching web (his dad, Brad Scott was a former F.S.U. offensive coordinator, South Carolina head coach, and Clemson associate head coach and offensive line coach) to help fill out a staff and actually bring in a system instead of a piecemeal staff of guys that happen to be looking for a job. Scott is going to be a head coach, and while he lacks experience, he would be an instant shot in the arm for Purdue in recruiting and enthusiasm. Scott has been an integral part of  Clemson's resurgence and is ready to take the next step. Purdue would allow Scott to skip the mid-major route and move straight to the Big10. That might be appealing enough to at least earn a look.

Tee Martin - USC Offensive Coordinator / WR Coach - Tee Martin won a National Championship as a quarterback at Tennessee, and has been steadily working his way up the coaching ranks ever since. Tee would bring a young (38), dynamic recruiter to Purdue with a solid offensive mind. Tee might not have quite as many connections in the coaching world as Jeff Scott, but I'm sure he could put together a coherent staff. Martin is another guy that will eventually be a head coach, and Purdue could give him an opportunity to skip a step in the process. He would bring some excitement to Purdue's moribund program and be instantly improve the talent on the roster. Tee isn't a "safe" choice, but he would be a bold choice, and right now, Purdue needs bold.

Gus Malzahn - Auburn Head Coach - Gus is on the hot seat after playing in the National Championship game just 2 seasons ago. If Auburn doesn't turn things around, it's quite possible Malzahn will be looking for a new job at the end of the season. Purdue would need to break out the check book, because a guy with Malzahn's credentials isn't coming cheap. On the other hand, hiring a guy like Malzahn would make Purdue the talk of the Big10, and that something that might be worth the investment. Malzahn would not come to Purdue without an assurance (in writing, not some sort of vague plan) that football is a top priority and that money will be invested, but if Bobinski wants to make an immediate impact, and hire a guy who would almost certainly pull Purdue out of the basement, and do so with an exciting offense, Malzahn (as much as I don't care for him) would do just that.