With the New Year fast approaching I’m sure many of us are looking ahead to how we can be better people in 2021. Maybe that means you’re going to try and be more patient with your loved ones. Maybe it means you’re going to get back to the gym (or whatever is open around you) so that you just feel better physically. Perhaps you’ll go after that dream job or dream degree you’ve always wanted for yourself. Whatever that is I hope you do it. In that vein Purdue athletics has some things they should resolve to work on in 2021. In the third part of a three part series we will see what the Purdue Athletic department generally should resolve to work on in 2021.
- AD Mike Bobinski has to figure out what is going on with women’s basketball. I know it’s not the top priority but the depths to which this once proud program has fallen is just maddening. In the 1990s Purdue won the conference five times and the National Title once and the final four a second time. In the 2000s the team won two conference titles and was the NCAA runner-up once. Sharon Versyp took over in 2006-2007 and since that time Purdue has won 0 Big Ten regular season titles. Under Versyp the team has missed the NCAA tournament five times after having not missed the tournament since the 1992-1993 season. In the last six seasons Purdue has finished 13th, 6th, 4th, 7th, 10th, and 9th in conference play. In that same timeframe Purdue has missed the NCAA Tournament four times with one of those seasons ending in the NIT. The team hasn’t advanced past the second round in either the NCAA or NIT tournament since 2008-2009 when the made it to the Elite Eight. In my mind Coach Versyp has to go. Her current contract runs through next season so it’s possible that Bobinski just lets her finish out the deal and then retire, but one way or another that program needs to be turned around and fast.
- Purdue must do whatever it can to keep Dave Shondell happy. The man is a great volleyball coach and a gem of a human being. During my time at Purdue I was lucky enough to work with him as a student intern and then as a graduate assistant on a number of occasions. The man is just one of the good ones. He loves Purdue and and is passionate about succeed in the Big Ten and nationally. Obviously that’s difficult given the talent in the conference but the man has done a great job. Purdue can’t let him go.
- The department has improved its graphics and web presence dramatically in the last decade plus. This trend needs to continue. For too long Purdue has had the reputation of a boring stodgy university that top tier athletes wouldn’t want to attend. Changing the perception begins on the field first but the way the university is packaged can make a huge difference. Purdue has grown by leaps and bounds in that area and they’ve got to continue to do so.
- Figuring out the budget after this financial nightmare of a year is going to take some wizardry. The department already furloughed and laid off a number of folks but figuring out how to survive this and come back stronger is going to be difficult. Purdue will need donors to step up and will need to figure out how to be smarter with each and every dollar and donation. I don’t envy the position Bobinski finds himself in but I trust him to steer the ship.
- One of the main complaints against Bobinski’s predecessor was that he didn’t focus enough on football and it hurt the department in the long run due to declining revenue. There’s more than a little bit of truth to that. Given the financial circumstances mentioned above Bobinski has to find a way to ensure the success of football. Unfortunately, due to the economics of athletic departments in this country if football fails it won’t be football that’s hurt. It will be swimming and diving, tennis, golf, soccer, baseball, etc. While it’s true that men’s basketball and football are my main sports in my Purdue fandom it doesn’t make the other athletes any less important. Bobinski needs to ensure the money comes in from football so that the additional sports can continue to find success.
- Last but certainly not least I hope everyone in the department finds a minute to take a breather. I know those jobs aren’t easy. While I was only a graduate assistant during my time in the department I saw the long hours, the lousy pay, and the hard work so many of the people in the department put in. This year will likely go down as the most challenging yet. With many being furloughed or let go and tough financial decisions being made up and down the department I hope that those in need of work find it and that those who are still employed know how much we fans appreciate everything they do.
Here’s to a 2021 that will be filled with happiness and many Purdue victories!