As expected, Purdue decided to part ways with head coach Danny Hope, firing him on Sunday. Athletic director Morgan Burke will address the dismissal at a news conference scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET.
Hope went 22-27 in four seasons at Purdue, recording just one winning campaign in 2011 when the Boilers went 7-6 and beat Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He went 12-19 in Big Ten play, including an 0-5 start this season. Rivals.com reports that Hope's dismissal has been in the works since an Oct. 13 blowout loss against Wisconsin. He will receive a $600,000 buyout.
Assistant coach Patrick Higgins, who took over the offensive play-calling duties late in the season, will lead Purdue in its upcoming bowl game.
Dismissing Hope was a fairly easy decision despite the Boilers' three-game win streak to the end the season. The hard part comes next for Purdue -- finding the right coach and investing in him. The school went the cheap route with Hope, a former Boilers assistant who returned to Purdue after coaching FCS Eastern Kentucky, his alma mater, from 2003-07.
He was the lowest-paid coach in the Big Ten -- making just $950,000 this season -- and had the lowest-paid staff. In today's college football world, you tend to get what you pay for, and Purdue got mediocrity.
Hope's career peaked with two home wins against Ohio State (2009 and 2011) and the bowl win last year. He touted the 2012 squad as his best at Purdue, but after a 3-1 start, the Boilers dropped their first five Big Ten contests, four in blowout fashion. Attendance at Ross-Ade Stadium had plummeted, and Hope had very little support among Boiler fans. Although Hope recently talked about needing more time and resources to implement his plan for Purdue, he had enough talent to compete better in a weak Big Ten this year and failed. He also made two defensive coordinator changes in three seasons and wedded himself to a quarterback rotation that rarely worked.
Maybe if Purdue made one more play Oct. 20 at Ohio State, things would have been different. But Hope's teams always seemed one mistake away and didn't show enough consistency in all three phases. This move makes sense.
Burke has been good at managing the bottom line during his tenure as AD, but he nearly lost stud basketball coach Matt Painter last year and certainly didn't shell out for Hope or his assistants. Another cheap hire likely will put Purdue in a similar place a few years down the line.
Purdue needs to reinvigorate its program and its fan base, which played a role in this move by not coming to games.
Purdue averaged 43,588 fans, a nearly 1,700 decrease from the 2011 season. The program has seen a decline in average attendance the last five seasons, including [Joe] Tiller’s final year.
It needs to aim for some big names, even if they don't seem realistic. Some are throwing out Jim Tressel's name as Hope's successor. While that would be a truly bold move filled with risks, it would get folks talking about Boiler football again. Cincinnati coach Butch Jones also has been mentioned, but Purdue would have to make a really good push to get him. We don't see either of those men ultimately taking the job.
I'm fine with Purdue looking to the MAC for its next coach. Some Big Ten fans thumb their noses at the MAC, but there are some very good possibilities out there in Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Kent State's Darrell Hazell and Ball State's Pete Lembo. A top coordinator like Texas A&M's Kliff Kingsbury or Michigan State's Pat Narduzzi would be interesting.
No matter what route Burke takes, he needs to assure the coach the resources will be there to compete.
Winning in the Big Ten has gotten more expensive. Every team is doing some sort of facilities upgrade. Teams are paying their head coaches more and assistant coaches more. Purdue had it good with Tiller for a long time, but the game has changed.
According to Rivals.com, Purdue has been putting together a fund of approximately $4.5 million to pursue its next coach.
That's an encouraging sign, but the school must now deliver.