End of an Era – Morgan Burke Tenure Ends Today

End of an Era – Morgan Burke Tenure Ends Today

Morgan Burke will officially step down from his role at Purdue’s athletic director at the close of business today, Wednesday, August 31, 2016, after nearly two dozen years on the job. Purduesports.com has several retrospective, feting pieces about him today. It seems that those who worked with Morgan definitely feel he had the passion that I think sometimes those of us on the outside didn’t always find visible:

"Morgan constantly encouraged me to give every ounce I had to Purdue University, and because of that I will proudly bleed old gold and black for as long as I live," said Ashley Burkhardt, a former softball player and current volunteer assistant coach. "It was easy to give my all to this university every day because I knew he was giving his."

"Morgan is one of the most competitive human beings I have ever been associated with in my life," head women's basketball coach Sharon Versyp said. "He brings integrity, character and leadership to another level. He has been an amazing mentor, boss and friend to me. His passion for young people, those he works for, and this university has been demonstrated over and over again."

Head football coach Darrell Hazell appreciates the unwavering support that Burke has shown.

"He has been there since Day 1," Hazell said. "We have met once a week to talk about the issues and the things we need to do to return this program to national prominence. Beyond that, Morgan is unquestionably our program's biggest fan and supporter. He bleeds old gold and back. Each of us owes him our sincere gratitude."

"To me, Morgan is the perfect leader," said Bilal Marshall, a senior on the football team. "He is so relationship-oriented that he makes you feel important regardless of who you are. He knows every athlete by name, and that is something about him that is special. He bleeds old gold and black, and we all know it. He will always be in our corner wherever he is, and I thank him for that. He will be truly missed by Boilermaker Nation."

"I would like to congratulate Morgan on a tremendous career at Purdue. Morgan has a fervent passion for this place and approached every day with the mindset to make it better. He has represented all of us with class and dignity and is very well respected nationally." - Matt Painter, head men's basketball coach

"Morgan has led Purdue Athletics by his workman-like example and through productive encouragement and organization. He has been a leader who allows coaches to coach. He has never attempted to run my program or coach my team. His door has always been open, and he has provided the necessary resources and been a tremendous supporter of all Purdue athletes." - Dave Shondell, head volleyball coach

You may also recall Ryne Smith sharing his thoughts on this very website:

As for the athletic department as a whole, Purdue is first class. Absolutely a first class institution. I get the sense that people criticize Morgan Burke sometimes which is beyond me.  I didn’t hear anybody criticizing the 100 million dollar renovation to Mackey Arena….I fully believe that when it is all said and done Morgan Burke and his staff will be remembered as the masterminds behind the incredible improvements to Purdue sports. Not to mention the people who hired coaches like Matt Painter, Sharon Versyp, and Dave Shondell, whose résumés speak for themselves. 

I think it’s important to note among all this praise that not a single one of the people giving it is in any way objective.

Look, it’s no secret that we’ve been tough on ol’ Morgy. But that’s got a lot to do with the fact that we primarily cover men’s basketball and football, which have had their struggles during the ten years of Boiled Sports existence. That said, there have indeed been some positives. Morgan Burke plucked Joe Tiller away from Wyoming and oversaw one of the most exciting times in Boilermaker football. And had Burke left in 1997 as he nearly did, he might be a guy we’re currently longing for. But he stayed nearly another two decades. And for those pointing out the improvements and success during that time, yes, granted, there are some nice things to point to. But after 23+ years on the job…. shouldn’t there be? Or maybe I should ask… shouldn’t there be more?

Purdue women’s teams won national titles in basketball and golf during Burke’s tenure and the swimming and diving programs have turned out some nice athletes, including Olympic medalists. The facilities for baseball and softball are much improved and Mackey’s enhancements were well done (to a point – still having no A/C reeks of cheapness). Again, though, in more than two decades, isn’t it reasonable to expect some success to have happened? Isn’t it also fair to maybe say that improving athletic facilities to make them current with the 21st century is sort of… basic required maintenance? I think these are nice things to have accomplished and certainly something I’d also be proud of if it were on my watch. But I also think the argument can be made that these things had to happen.

And on the subject of infrastructure and what has to happen, Purdue is indeed finally improving the football facilities to keep up at least a bit in the competitive world of big time football, but Ross-Ade remains a bit behind the times. The South End Zone stands, you may recall, had to be demo’ed because they were unsafe. They were replaced with Morgantown™ (Trademark, BS), which has been the butt of many jokes.

We documented not long ago that despite the calling card of self-sustaining athletic departments and the influx of BTN cash, Purdue’s athletic department is, quite frankly, in deplorable condition when compared against the rest of the Big Ten. This should be considered, too, when you’re talking about the Morgan Burke era at Purdue.

This is also the man who has advocated for reconsidering whether freshmen should be eligible to play varsity sports in the Big Ten. And, of course, is famously against getting into an “arms race” with regard to big time athletics. I guess what I’m saying is…it was time.

Let’s be clear on a few things, though. We don’t “hate” Morgan Burke. This man is a lifelong Boilermaker who really had no interest in doing this kind of job anywhere else. He loves Purdue and is a former Purdue athlete himself.  Morgan is not dirty and clearly had no interest in getting down in the mud and bending the rules to succeed more. He did what he thought was right throughout his tenure and really didn’t care too much what others thought of those decisions. I can and do respect that.

But again, it’s time. Morgan Burke is a product of the early 1970s and this is reflected in his views, approaches and methods. We live in a more instantaneous world than people like Morgan want to admit. Purdue football hasn’t been ranked since current college freshman were about nine years old (and even that ranking was a one-week, fleeting moment). Basketball hasn’t reached an Elite Eight since current college freshman were toddlers. These are the visible parts of Purdue athletics and they haven’t moved forward in a relatively long time.

The “TV money” for this year is projected to be about $41 million per school. It’s time to start using that the way competitive programs do. Perhaps extending Matt Painter and thus making him a top ten (or higher) paid coach is an indicator of Purdue heading in that direction. Maybe the next step will be Mike Bobinski making his own football hire in the next few months. We’ll soon find out.  

Happy trails, Mr. Burke. The door is always open for you to come on our podcast. If not, maybe we’ll see you around campus sometime.

Hey, we could have a delicious draft beer in Morgantown.


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