Football Success Can Be Defined In Ways You’re Not Smart Enough to Understand

Football Success Can Be Defined In Ways You’re Not Smart Enough to Understand

I get a little tired of every remark Morgan Burke and others within Purdue athletics makes being a shot at fans and alums who simply want to see a non-disappointing football product once in a while. For those who haven’t seen it, the current issue of Purdue Alumnus (which, I don’t know how you get this – I’m an alum and I’ve never seen a copy) features a story about “Keeping Competitive Pace in Big Ten Football.” Oh, this’ll be a hoot, many alums must be thinking as the turn to the section. Of course, those who’ve kept Morgan Burke in his chair for more than two decades are probably nodding as they read the article by their fireplace in the library of their home, pausing to take the occasional puff on their pipe. “Good distraction,” they think to themselves. “The ol’ sweatervest really has things in order there.” Or something.

I encourage you to go read it and form your own opinions. Of course, I’ll bias you a bit by pulling some quotes out of it and I’ll spoil the ending a bit for you by saying that, basically, the philosophy of the athletic department remains… managed expectations. There is no desire to be championship caliber around here when it comes to football. Yes, there’s the understanding that football feeds the beast and you need the money football generates. But there is apparently zero connection in the collective’s minds that football success may lead to positive visibility outside of Purdue. I think the importance of positive visibility cannot be overstated. When you’re growing up and you see Purdue constantly getting their asses handed to them on TV, you form an internal opinion of Purdue as a weak sister. Are people capable of separate the academics from the football field? Of course they are. But seeing them being beaten senseless has an effect on your psyche when you’re 16, for example.

Anyway, on to the fisking.

Right on the title spread for the article, we have this subhead:

How to keep competitive pace in the Big Ten while maintaining proper perspective.


The article quickly mentions the windfall of cash from the BTN but just as quickly gets into excuses for why Morgan Burke doesn’t spend the way many would like.

In keeping up with … top dog programs, administrators might be tempted to scramble for coaches that could demand millions in salary or embrace a ‘spend to win’ philosophy by over-investing in personnel or facility upgrades.”

Not our AD! Nope, the last think Morgy wants to do is spend on competent staff or improve things. Yeah, yeah, the $60M facilities upgrade, I know. But remember, by their own admission, that isn’t being done with the goal of being a top-notch program – the stated goal is to keep up with the midpack. Hooray.

Burke is then quoted:

If all it took was money, the New York Yankees and Dallas Cowboys should win championships every year.

I know Morgan is a little out of touch, but who wants to explain the concept of a salary cap to him and how that makes it not matter so much how rich Jerry Jones is?

But if you don’t want to compete with the big boys, you become a Division III school.

Wait, wait, wait. I’m confused. I thought Purdue wasn’t going to compete with them… sort of proudly. So are you saying Purdue is a division III school, Morgan?

Perhaps the passage causing the most grinding of teeth is one from Jim Dworkin, the chancellor of Purdue North Central. Dworkin was a professor at Krannert for 23 years so clearly he’s an expert on football success. I kid. Dworkin has written extensively about arbitration, mediation and labor relations in professional sports. So he applies some of his pro opinions (his book, Owners versus Players: Baseball and Collective Bargaining, was published some 34 years ago) to the modern day college game.

Economists like to use a term called ‘irrational exuberance’ – a warning that a market might be overvalued. What works well at some of the elite football schools may not work well at all schools.

Elite football schools. You know, like Northwestern. (I’m just guessing.)

Also, how would you know if those methods would work at Purdue when they’ve never been tried? And further, why is Purdue standing around preaching about the irrational exuberance and bubble market of college athletics while other programs are succeeding, winning, recruiting and reaping the benefits? This is like someone in 2003 saying, “No, the housing market is just expanding to crazily… I know people are making lots of money and flipping houses for 50% profits after like two years but I just know the bubble is gonna burst… I’m not going to buy a house at all. Better to not even participate.”

Dworkin goes on:

Dworkin believes a Big Ten school like Purdue should have an appropriately successful football team.

If there is a better turn of phrase for capturing the mentality of Purdue University towards their football team, I haven’t heard it. “Appropriately successful football team.” Who defines what’s appropriate? I guess we’ll have to see the sequel.

But success is measured in many dimensions, though most fans would think of it in wins and losses.

Er, yeah, I think most fans would. So…. Not hitting the mark there.

Success can also be measured in attendance

No, not really, but regardless, failing there, too.

and levels of alumni involvement.

Many alums seem disgusted with how the football program is going, including former players.

You can also argue that you have a successful football program if your athletes are graduating.

Yes. Yes, you could argue that.

I can't quite figure out what the point is here. It seems like one of those propaganda pieces that's intended to make alums think, "Okay, yeah, there are other ways to look at the 3-30 crap-pile." But what points are made? There are other ways to judge a football season, sure. But Purdue isn't "winning" in any of those, either. Beyond that, it's just making excuses for why Purdue languishes at the bottom of the standings with sub-standard facilities and staff.

As I said, go check it out for yourself. It’s yet another example of the athletic department remaining tone deaf. As though you needed more.

Shout out to @boiler_em1007 for bringing the article to our attention.

Photo credit: Charles Jischke (@charlesjischke)

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