Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

Hope Deferred Makes the Heart Sick

God’s Country, 11 February, 2015

Promises of a change at the top of the athletic department earlier today lit my phone up like Clark Griswold’s house in December…but meetings and real work kept me from taking a look at this situation…Here’s the deal:

Morgan Burke’s contract that goes through summer of 2017 will be his last as Purdue’s athletic director. He’s the fourth longest-tenured AD in America and the longest in the B1G, by a lot.

Burke graduated from Purdue in 1973, got a masters from Purdue in ’75 and a law degree in ’80 before going into the Steel Industry (Inland Steel). His next job as Purdue AD was made official on January 1, 1993…when I was a Senior in high school…and he’s been at Purdue since. Rumors of his retirements swirled around 7 years ago, but the trustees would have none of it! His contract was extended at that point…then extended again (which we’ve talked about here at BS) last summer, in the wake of two of Purdue’s worst football seasons ever and on the heels of a few sub-par basketball seasons.

Now, many Purdue fans are having internet parties in the wake of the announcement that Burke will actually retire in July of 2017. I guess I’m not throwing any parties just yet.

The Board of Trustees made a great hire (in my opinion) by getting Mitch Daniels. This hire was perfect for the school and the state of economy due to a slowly-recovering economy and Daniels love for tight budgets and big thinking. BUT, no one that knew him told me he would be good for Purdue athletics…that has turned out to be true. In fact, it seems like he’s been pretty detrimental to the athletic departments as he’s openly stated that he wants no part in the ‘arms race’ that is currently underway in the B1G thanks to the massive injections of TV cash to each of the schools. 

As Purdue collects unprecedented dollars from this conference TV contract, football ticket sales areat all-time lows (for the modern era of Ross-Ade)…and it hasn’t affected how Burke was viewed by the trustees or Daniels.

So, color me skeptical as I look at the possibilities for the next AD.

The obvious choice would seem to be Xavier’s current AD Greg Christopher as he’s a Purdue grad who has run Xavier’s athletic department quite well. Problems with this hire are obvious- Xavier, a private school deals with smaller budget and fewer sports than Purdue…specifically, no football team.

That said, he’s a good candidate.

Here’s what I want to see- I want to see the next Athletic Director follow the model of Michigan State…as they have many of the same constraints as Purdue and the culture at MSU is similar to Purdue’s.

What I don’t want to see or even hear rumors about is Tom Schott or Nancy Cross taking the job. But knowing the trustees, they’re taking a long, hard look at this dynamic duo.

Believe it or not, things can actually get worse than they are…but really, staying the same course that Burke has directed over the last few years is historically-bad…specifically for the football program which, by the way, is the economic engine of the entire athletic department.

Olympic sports are nice…they deserve attention…but the don’t deserve the same attention nor treatment as football and basketball. Both must be a higher priority than they are now…too much is at stake for them not to be.

More than that, winning must be a higher priority. I’m not saying winning at any cost, I’m saying not accepting mediocrity…or worse, abject failure as the trustees, Daniels and Burke have with the football program.

There are lots of ways Purdue can do something really good with this change of situation…but plenty of scenarios in which they can do worse, believe it or not.

More to come…

Handsome Hour #93: Emergency Burke Hour!

Handsome Hour #93: Emergency Burke Hour!

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