I hear rumors and whispers that Purdue is now cursed! People are telling me that ever since Burke announced Purdue Pete would be changed, things haven't been going well for Purdue athletics. Here are my thoughts.
Curses, to me are merely the excuses of losers. All kidding aside- I lived in Boston a few years before they made their amazing comeback from three games down...back then, the Sox faithful loved their misery and reveled in whining about why and how they lose. Cubs fans are the same- being a lovable loser has become their identity. More times than not, the Red Sox have limited post-season success because they're in the Yankees division...and the Yanks win at all costs. Similarly, the Cubs don't win pennants because the Cardinals own them and the division. Shockingly, success, or lack there of, has little to do with goats, a traded pitcher or a mascot change. Similarly, schools that make winning a priority (get this), win games.
The argument that Purdue can't win because of proximity to aOSU, UND and Michigan is asinine. TCU wins in Texas because they have an AD that made winning a priority over a decade ago and have had two coaches that have been creative in their recruiting. Atop that, the university has backed the program fully giving them the tools they request to win. Iowa was a doormat for decades, but Frye took a big step forward with the help of a good AD and Ferentz has helped the Hawkeyes take the mythological, if not ethereal "next step". Remember, Iowa has always had to recruit against Nebraska. Heck, even look at Northwestern...bad facilities, high academic standards, close proximity to one of college football's historical giants...and instead of dwelling of the on-going effects (and potential "curse") of Wheeler & Walker's deaths, they're simply succeeding.
One thing Joe Tiller did very well early in his years in West Lafayette is he thought differently and approached problems from a new angle. Can't run v. the mosters of the BT? Short passes, hot routes and bubble screens. Can't get the recruits from the Midwest? Go after guys in Texas who aren't coveted by the big boys. Danny Hope's attempting to do the same down in talent-laden Florida...I think it's a good tactic.
Burke has decided to focus on fixing something that's not broken (Pete)...and makes sure to run the athletic department like a business by perpetually focusing on the bottom line. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to keep the bottom line in mind...it's a very good thing, no doubt. But to me, it seems the focus should be on winning, and doing it the right way. He refuses to pursue the highest-caliber, most-qualified coaches, and instead settles for inexpensive options with heavy Purdue ties. Matt Painter has turned out to be a brilliant hire. But, remember, Matty only had one year of head coaching under his belt when hired to God's country. He's already lost assistants because his budget is too low...and worse yet, he has an out clause in his contract after this season that might allow him to leave town...all because Purdue and its athletic department's focus doing things on the cheap.
Hope was an inexpensive option with moderate success at his previous job...but had Purdue ties. He's currently the second-lowest paid coach in the BT...and more than that, his staff is extremely-low paid. Worse yet, many of them coach like it. Whether or not Hope was the perfect fit for the job at this point, matters little. What does matter, is he needs all tools at his disposal to be successful.
So is there a curse? Perhaps...but it's not caused by the sports gods smiting our Boilers...This one is self-inflicted. It's definitely not caused by Pete's imminent exit...but instead, Purdue athletics will be cursed as long as this entity continues to think small time and has a fanbase that does the same. I think you break sports curses pretty simply- if something isn't working, try something new.
But, keeping with tradition simply because that's the way things are done is a disease that Purdue's athletic department has been infected with with for decades. It's everywhere- from crappy fans who get angry at those who have the audacity to cheer and stand at games (gasp!!), to alums and ticket holders that accept .500 (or worse) records as a bi-product of us simply being who we are...to coaches and administrators that focus on Purdue's limitations instead of trying to do things creatively and differently than their competition.
The culture must change in order for the real curse to be lifted.