At This Point, It’s Just A Matter Of Time
A year ago, I asked when it was the right time to pull the plug on Coach Hazell? I also threw in some candidates to think about then. (Some, such as Matt Campbell, were snatched up.) A year before that, I asked when it gets better. The answer has become clear: It’s not going to on Darrell Hazell’s watch.
After Purdue fell in colossally embarrassing fashion on Saturday at Maryland, 50-7, it felt as though we had reached a true point of no return. Losing is one thing. Showing absolutely no progress is quite another. Sure, the Boilers overcame a deficit and closed out a FBS team in Nevada the week before. But when those moments are sandwiched around drubbings by average teams, it sort of takes the shine off.
Critics will say that no real progress is being made – Purdue is still being destroyed by marginal teams. In the past, though, there were always a few voices telling everyone to stop being so negative. Now that drum only seems to be beaten by Brendan Murphy.
Make no mistake – being negative and angry right now is more than okay. Because your only other option is to be apathetic and just stop caring entirely. That signifies that you’ve completely given up hope – and you’d be within your rights to be at that stage.
I tweeted the other night that Darrell Hazell is the nicest person who I’ve ever thought should lose their job. That’s the only reason he’s made it this far without people throwing rocks through Morgan Burke’s or Mike Bobinski’s windows. He’s a good man who, it turns out, is just absolutely terrible at coaching football as the head man.
In his fourth year at the helm, Coach Hazell is 8-32 overall, 4-32 against FBS competition, 2-23 in Big Ten play, and has yet to post consecutive victories. He has lost to IU three consecutive times for the first time since WWII. And his recruiting is consistently at or near the bottom of the conference. You can blame some parts of any of these facts individually on things like Purdue not being a traditional power, or less-than-state-of-the-art facilities, or less fan support… but in the aggregate it is a damning and compelling case: It’s over.
The odd kink in this, of course, is that Purdue isn’t even under .500 right now. But remember, most fans were ready for Coach Hope to be gone in the season after a bowl game, a season in which the Boilers managed to reach another bowl game and go .500 in conference play. My point is it’s all about perspective. We knew it was time for Coach Hope to move on if this program was going to get better. That hasn’t changed. It’s unfortunately just gone backwards. That’s what a bad hire will cause at a school without limitless resources to buy themselves out of their mistakes. This isn’t Michigan, who can pay Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke to go away and pay Jim Harbaugh $7M a season. This is Purdue, where being perhaps the absolute worst Power 5 program isn’t enough to get you ousted because you have a buyout of just over half of one of Jim Harbaugh’s season salaries.
I’m all for patience and letting a coach implement his system, recruit his guys, and get his coaching staff aligned correctly. And I could even stomach it if you said in year four there still won’t be a bowl game…if I could see any semblance of progress. But we cannot. And your eyes aren’t deceiving you – there aren’t any scraps of hope there. Oh, sure, like I said, you could talk yourself into the win over Nevada being a sign of progress – but Purdue opened the 2014 season with a win over a mediocre FBS school and built absolutely nothing off of that, either.
The time has come, my friends, and there’s just that feeling, isn’t there? Even for Purdue, this one feels like it can’t go on much longer. There are those wondering why he wasn’t fired before he got back to the locker room on Saturday, but there’s a bit to figure out in these situations.
Even if a firing is occurring, the decision is made as to how much longer the coach will stay on – in college, sometimes coaches actually finish out the season. That seems unlikely here (if he were dismissed soon), since there is two thirds of it remaining. But you also have to talk to the coach or coaches you’re elevating, you need to speak with the team and, lest we forget, AD Bobinski would also need to get approval from the Board of Trustees to eat Hazell’s $4M+ buyout. If you think that’s a snap of the fingers, you haven’t been around Purdue athletics for long.
I suspect that somewhere, Bobinski’s decision has been made and that now it’s simply a matter of logistics, timing, approvals and conversations. We don’t have any inside sources, but reading the tea leaves tells us change is coming soon. How could it not?
The fact that news has not broken today of Coach Hazell’s dismissal may mean that he’s being given a chance against a relatively soft part of the schedule to right the ship. It feels silly to even say that since, as Aneesh documented, we’ve lost the ship already. But hey, here they go to Illinois, the scene of Hazell’s lone road victory in his tenure with the Boilermakers. Maybe the ghosts of Tim Beckman will lift the Boilers this weekend. And maybe not.
Even if it happens, though, is there an argument to be made that Purdue is heading in the right direction? I mean, sure, I’d take 3-2 (1-1). But would that mean Purdue is turning a corner or just that Illinois still has a ways to go in their rebuilding? I don’t know anymore, now I’m just sort of babbling.
It’s become clear to others that there is no progress being made. To the point where some who are paid to watch sports almost sound offended at the idea of being obligated to cover Purdue football.
Here at BS, we’re organizing our coaching lists and will begin to share with you our candidate thoughts, “reaches,” opinions and preferred targets soon.
As I said, it feels like it’s just a matter of time.