2017-18: A Paean To Mike Bobinski
July, the month where you mow your lawn twice, once after each week of thunderstorms. The month where you cackle with glee over your football tickets*, wrap up renewals for basketball and volleyball, and then wait. And wait. And wait. (Or watch the World Cup. No, the other one, the one where we usually suck. The one we usually win is next year in France. Trivia: the only women's World Cup won by the hosts (USA in 1999) was also the only one where the final was scoreless.)
*yes I know we don't have them yet, but think about last year, read about this year, and tell me you're not excited as heck to take a four-day weekend and watch the Boilers tear up Northwestern. Wait ... you couldn't get out of work Thursday and Friday? Oh, man, I'm sorry. Using your extras?
To assist you with your patience, I bring you a much-delayed Directors Cup recap. I say "much-delayed" because I searched the archives and realized I didn't do one at the end of last year, or at least I didn't tag it properly. It's almost like we go into hibernation in April and surface in August. (Well, we did watch Purdue in the College World Series regionals ...)
Anyway, we use the NACDA Directors Cup standings as a general measure of the athletic program's success against its Division I rivals, both within the conference and overall. To set up comparisons more easily, I use the rank of each school within DI; this basically adjusts for different scoring systems, which actually does come into play for the year we just finished, 2017-18. Results are below.
Mostly this is a straightforward Excel table: mean rank since 1994, best rank, worst rank, then means for the last 3 years, last 7 years (the tan columns to the right), and from 1994 to just before that seven-year period, which means 1994-2011 now. Maryland and Rutgers are in light blue for seasons prior to Big Tenteen membership; if I showed the whole table, Nebraska's previous experience would be in yellow.
The last three mean columns are standard conditional formatting, where green is good and red is Rutgers. Literally. They're so far back that even the recent stumbles by Iowa (overall struggles), Maryland (change in conference) and Michigan State (karma) don't even come close. Basically, an athletic department that couldn't break the top 90 for the seven years prior to joining the conference had a rare "breakthrough" in 2016, then dropped back to its usual depths the last two years. If you thought they'd do better, you're either a Rutgers fan or Jim Delany. Hey-o!
Purdue moved up two spots to 39, breaking into the top 40 for the first time since 2009 (38th after three straight years at 35). That was only good enough for eighth in the conference, up one spot from last season, but Illinois was just 6.5 points ahead of the Boilers, so the top half of the Big Tenteen isn't that far away. With the Illini and Nebraska trending downward, Purdue and Northwestern may find themselves a bit farther up the charts next season.
The Old Gold and Black totaled a school-record 585.50 points, just ahead of the 581 they recorded in 2007-08, one of three times in school history that all seven winter sports scored NACDA points - and on all three occasions, Purdue scored in 13 total sports, also a school record.
Fall Results: Hello, Football
Last year, only volleyball kept the Boilers from posting their second fall 0 in three years (2015 was the other); this year, well, you may have heard about this hand-egg thing, it seems to be working out pretty well. In fact, 45 from that bowl win (for being unranked and winning a bowl) is essentially Purdue's second-best finish in football, with 2000-01 being the obvs best (but only 47 points).
Volleyball was bounced in the second round for the third straight year, but that was still good for 50 ... but the biggest surprise had to be the men's cross-country team, who posted their best finish since I had hair; fifth place at the Great Lakes Regional was good enough for 33.5 points, the only NACDA points they've posted. (Also, shoutout to women's XC Emma Benner, who's made the NCAAs both her freshman and sophomore year. Unfortunately, individual performances don't grant NACDA points.)
Overall, the Good Guys and Gals were 48th, right between Columbia and South Carolina, and 8th in the Big Tenteen.
Winter Results: Swimming in Points
You already know where men's basketball finished, and by the lack of posts from me about women's basketball, it'll be no surprise if you're just finding out they did not make the NCAAs. (Two of the last four seasons under Versyp have led to the WNIT; more troubling is the fact they haven't made it out of the second round since 2009.) Fortunately, the two most consistent winter sports, men's and women's swimming and diving, did their usual number, both placing 19th at the NCAAs. Marat Amaltdinov also became the first Purdue men's swimmer to earn Academic All-American honors, while the women's team had six women score in individual events for the first time in program history.
Women's indoor track and field did their usual number, grabbing 60 points thanks to a program-record tie for 14th at the NCAAs; the highlight was a second-place finish in the 4x400 that topped the previous Big Ten record by 2.51 seconds ... which was also held by the Good Gals, and broken in February at the conference meet. Wrestling rounded out the stellar winter with a 28th-place NCAA finish, giving Purdue 408 points overall and pushing them past IU for 32nd, one point behind Princeton.
Spring Results: Track and Field Again
You already know about baseball; you might not have known that women's golf and men's golf each made it to regionals but no farther. What you know now is that it was women's outdoor track and field who posted the best finish of the 2017-18 season, ending up 8th at the NCAAs. Brionna Thomas ran a personal-best and school-record :50.78 for third in the 400, while Chloe Abbott finished 5th at :51.87. Devynne Charlton ran a :12.77 in the 100 highs for 2nd place, and Symone Black went :57.22 in the 400 lows for 4th. The 4x400 team of Thomas, Abbott, Black and Jahneya Mitchell then went out and ran a 3:27.13 for 2nd place - both 2nds were the best-ever finishes by Purdue in those events.
In field events, Janae Moffitt qualified for the high jump but did not clear a height; Savannah Carson jumped 6.43m for 6th in the long jump. (Want to feel old? The meet record for the long jump is still held by Jackie Joyner, 6.99m in 1985.) Micaela Hazlewood posted a throw of 52.87m for 10th in discus, rounding out Boiler scoring. The Good Gals totaled 34; Iowa was the next-best Big Tenteen school, at 19.
Men's track and field tied for 55th, with Ashmon Lucas finishing 6th in discus to become the school's first All-American in that event.
A Little More Context
Since USA Today just released their athletic department revenue data for 2016-17, we can put this into better context, at least within the conference. (USA Today includes only schools who reported data: private schools do not have to and generally don't, also Pennsylvania schools didn't have to, but either Penn State chose to or that law was changed.)
However! Northwestern does report to the OPE, which means we do have numbers for them, and so do you if you want to look them up. Setting aside expenses for the moment, since anything can be an expense if you want it to, and keeping in mind that the revenue numbers are a year behind our NACDA results, let's take a look:
Yep. Purdue is 13th in revenue, about half a mil ahead of Northwestern, and $10M or more behind everyone else, including the two schools who don't even get a full share of TV revenue yet. No surprise to see Ohio State and Michigan far ahead of the pack; it is interesting to see how other schools are doing (I thought Indiana would be farther back than they are).
AND YET the Boilers are producing results that slot them firmly in the middle of the conference. (One might ask where all the Rutgers money is going. My guess is a singularity.) In fact, only Northwestern and Minnesota are getting more NACDA points per revenue dollar than the Boilers. Sure, at this point I'm almost taking arbitrary numbers and coloring them myself, but it's July and we don't have anything to watch for nearly six weeks, can you blame me? (Seriously, look at that Rutgers number again. Where is all that money going? Lawsuits?)
No, really. Yes, it's true that not all of this success can be attributed to Bobinski, since he didn't hire every head coach on campus and probably isn't making every single decision related to the success of individual programs ... but the idea behind hiring him was that he would be able to lift a moribund athletic program and at least give the Purdue faithful something to cheer about on a regular basis, not just on fall Saturdays. That, through two years, seems to be what he's done, and there is every sign that at least for the time being, the athletic department will continue to do that.
Choo choo, muthas.