Morgan Burke Takes Outside Opinion Personally
Morgan Burke gave a press conference this week regarding his eventual departure and the coming transition related to it. I took the time to take in the Notorious MJB’s deep thoughts and I’ll share some observations with you now.
First off, big shout out to the high quality video. Not sure if this is Purdue’s fault or the J&C, but come on. Can you imagine any other Big Ten university AD having such poor footage of this kind of a press conference? Maybe it's just one more example of the level of interest in Purdue athletics in general. If not for the local guys, I'm not sure anyone would have been there.
One of the first things Morgan mentioned was that as an athletic department, their goal has always been to be “Nationally prominent in all respects.” That’s semi-vague because you can debate what nationally prominent means, but we’ve analyzed this stuff before and it’s hard to see how Purdue athletics are nationally prominent in much these days. But perhaps I'm jaded by football a little too much. The less-visible programs are certainly respectable at times and basketball is of course a top 20 program right now. But we all know football is the cash cow that drives the train, to mix metaphors. (Now you're picturing a cow driving a train -- you're welcome.)
Morgan was asked what he’s most proud of? He said he’s had the opportunity to work with great coaches, great student athletes and great donors. Which is interesting, because three of the four football coaches at Purdue during Morgan’s tenure have been pretty undisputed failures, but perhaps I shouldn’t overfocus on football. Basketball has had respectable, successful – if ultimately not successful enough – coaches and other programs have had great people like Dave Shondell.
MJB did say he’s mostly been in it for the kids and enjoys young people coming to Purdue. Can’t fault this at all and I think it’s actually a great thing to focus on. The young people who attend Purdue and are willing to represent us by wearing the gold and black cannot be thanked enough.
When asked if there was anything he regrets, it got interesting for a second. He clearly – like many leaders – sees no value in looking back and having regrets because what can you do about it? But he did mention “maybe I should have left” briefly before moving on. It wasn’t followed up on but that little moment reveals a lot – Morgan maybe realizes that he overstayed a bit and while the facilities and some other items have certainly seen improvement, perhaps it’s as close to an admission as anyone who is looking for one will see.
Morgan mentioned their penchant for five year plans. While I get what he’s saying, I think in the modern day, five years is an eternity.
He did acknowledge that “Football is the elephant in the room… we all know that.” There was some energetic commentary by MJB towards the end where he restated that he's behind Darrell Hazell but that future decisions are most likely going to be made by the new AD.
When discussing accomplishments and what he’s proud of, he said “I’m proud that we’ve never added a nickel to student debt.”
This is one where I whole-heartedly agree. So many universities around the country basically add what amounts to an assessment (like country clubs do) to their students’ fees to subsidize their athletic department expenses. So, sure, if it meant Purdue was more nationally prominent in football if every student had to pay $300 per year on top of their tuition, some would quickly agree to it. However, there are many more who aren’t even aware that athletics exist at Purdue. So I’m fine with not surcharging students to be able to pay for athletics.
Morgan commented that “I’ve always been referred to as a guy who came out of the stands… so I’ll be going back into the stands.”
So for those who think someone could be plucked from the stands and do a better job, well….it’s been tried, I guess.
MJB was asked what the hardest part is of being an AD nowadays. “The flow of disjoined information…that’s given the appearance of factual stuff.” Gee, I wonder what he could be referring to. And then, to leave no doubt, Morgan went on and at around the 28 min mark discussed younger people vs older folks like himself. He said kids filter differently and that “some of us take it much more personal…They [younger people, like his son] look at blogsites [inaudible]…and think that’s just BS.”
I listened several times and can’t make out what he said about blogsites in general. Sites that…. “aren’t on message”? I can’t tell. But it’s clear that Morgy still hates blogs. I know, it’s a total bummer when you can’t control messages and opinions. But thanks for the shout-out!
To the bitter end, Morgan will fail to realize or acknowledge that people spending their personal time writing about and analyzing Purdue sports are among the most ardent supporters and dedicated fans. Doesn’t seem like a difficult concept, but old men are stubborn that way.
The subject turned to their favorite drum to bang: “Some universities, their athletic department is their professional sports franchise… and I think it’s really unhealthy.”
Look, I get the point here. And it’s not one I completely disagree with. The way in which sports rule the “universities” in the SEC or at Ohio State is not completely healthy and definitely strays from the general mission statement of higher education. That said, college athletics – particularly football and basketball – have exploded in popularity and to use a sometimes annoying expression, it just is what it is. That’s the direction of college sports. If you don’t think college sports should be “big time” then you simply do not belong in a position of being the AD at a Division 1, Power 5 conference school. There are definitely nuances once you go deeper than that and I think Morgan and I might line up on a lot of them – Purdue is not going to pay athletes, they’re not going to break rules, and as mentioned earlier, they’re not going to force people who may not be able to afford it to subsidize coach salaries and the like. But by the same token, you cannot give part of your BTN money booty away and while you can’t ask the academic side of the house to support athletics, you also can’t have athletics supporting academics beyond what is responsible.
As the presser wrapped up, Morgan suggests that we do an office pool for when the transition will be complete….and that the winner gets 10% and the other 90% goes to the John Purdue Club for scholarships.
What about using it for lights at Ross-Ade? Sorry, Morgan, couldn't resist asking again.