2014-15: The Year That Wasn't
It's August 2014. Classes are starting, athletes are returning to campus, and the hard work done during Morgan Burke's Seven-Year Plan has come to fruition. This is the year that Purdue will average a top-25 finish in every sport, right? Right?
I searched the Directors Cup fall results for Purdue. No matches. Searched again. Nothing. Maybe 180 DI schools recorded points during the first third of the year, and Purdue ... got none.
Cross country: 13th (men) and 10th (women) in the Great Lakes Regionals, so no NCAA appearance and no points. (This is, sadly, par for the course. Purdue has never recorded points in cross country in the 22 years of Directors Cup standings.)
Football: lol. Bowl losers who finish unranked would get 25, winners 45, and top-25 teams get 49 points and up. Since that was implemented in 2006-07 (from here out, unless mentioned otherwise, data goes back to that season, the first under the current scoring rules), Purdue has not finished the season ranked.
Soccer: the women did not qualify for the Big Ten tournament and thus earned nothing. They last earned points in 2009.
Volleyball: when your All-American setter suffers an early-season hand injury and you have little depth, it's a bad sign. Val Nichol was never 100% and the Boilers reflected that, dropping three straight 3-0 matches to close the season and miss the NCAAs for the first time since 2009. Only women's golf has produced more DC points than volleyball.
Hey! The Good Guys and Gals did things! After a horrid fall season, the Boilers picked up points in five of the seven sports they played during the winter, moving into a tie with Dayton for 70th. (Yes, I-AA Dayton. Making the Elite Eight in women's hoops and the second round on the men's side got them 123 points.)
Basketball: while the women nosedived after four straight second-round appearances, the men went dancing for the first time in three years. Even a first-round out is 25 points ... still not a top-25 finish though, Mr. Burke.
Swimming and diving: normally a strong suit for the Boilers, especially on the women's side (the ladies have earned 40+ points every season since 2004), the teams did not disappoint. The women finished 30th (44 DC points) and the men placed 17th (57 points). Look! A top-25 finish! That makes ... one. The good news is that the men's diving team pulled in two more individual NCAA titles, as Steele Johnson took the 1-meter and platform championships, the fourth time in six years that a Purdue diver has taken home two titles at the NCAAs. (That Boudia guy did it from 2009 through 2011.)
Indoor track and field: the weakest of the winter teams, the women didn't score any NCAA points; the men got 6, which was enough to earn 40 DC points. (This isn't unusual: generally, the Boilers rely on outstanding individual performances rather than all-around depth. If the star has a bad day, the team gets nothing. Track and field is rough, man.)
Wrestling: 4.5 points, 42nd at the NCAAs, good enough for 32 points. That seems like a lot, doesn't it? Remember, not everyone competes in every sport, so a lot of this is about participation. That's also why Purdue's decision to fund only 18 sports hurts them: there aren't any "extra" teams to help out their overall total. (DC points only count for your 20 best sports, 10 men's and 10 women's, counting indoor and outdoor T&F as separate sports. That means every one of Purdue's teams counts, but the top 10-20, Burke's supposed peer group, usually ends up cashing in across all 20 possible sports.)
This is known as "what did women's golf do?" Sometimes another sport will break the 50-point barrier (spoiler: it happened in 2015), but usually, women's golf is way out in front. They've averaged 71.8 DC points per season under the new system, and that counts 2014, when they didn't get any at all.
Baseball: the usual. Baseball and men's tennis have each earned 25 DC points once; these are not Purdue's strengths.
Golf: after rising as high as a tie for 5th after the second day, the women "fell" to 12th at the NCAAs, shooting +70 as a team (sounds like a normal 18 holes for me), good for a solid 64.5 points. To give you an idea of the dominance of this program, that's their lowest finish at the NCAAs under this scoring system. The men joined in as well, finishing tied for 5th at the regionals and earning 40 points.
Softball: the drought continued, as the ladies completed their sixth straight season without an NCAA appearance.
Tennis: the women essentially played to their seed, losing their first-round match to Duke and earning 25 points. The men were not as good - let's leave it at that.
Outdoor track and field: both teams placed in Eugene, the women finishing 20th for a whopping 50.5 DC points, and the men finishing 44th for another 27. It's their best combined finish in DC history. The women's finish was the result of excellent sprinting, including a Purdue and national* record in the 100m hurdles by Devynne Charlton and the two best 4x400 efforts in school history ... and everyone who contributed returns this year.
*Hey, she's from the Bahamas! Other countries count too. It's not hard to find references to her there, either ... she was a heralded track star in high school (and earlier!).
Stop scrolling when you've seen enough:
[table id=12 /]
Remember, we're looking for 980 to 1000 points, the number that a school with top-25 finishes across the board would record. If you look far enough down in that table, you'll see 405. Not even half the target. I guess we finished ahead of Indiana, so yay? (Rutgers. The market for TV sports is so crazy that someone actually thought Rutgers would be a fit in the Big Ten. (That won't be true much longer - the market part. Rutgers will never build a program that competes with their conference mates.))
The Boilers picked up 11 more points than in 2013-14, also not impressive. At the beginning of Burke's plan, Purdue was posting seasons in the low to high 500s; still well short of their goal, but somewhat respectable. Now, they're significantly worse. The Purdue athletic program is not only not growing, it's losing ground to its peers. Burke's recent comments and actions suggest that perhaps he understands the stakes of the game he's playing, but there's so much ground to make up, even if Daniels and Burke were replaced by people who would do whatever was necessary to build a truly strong athletic program, it probably wouldn't be enough.