Dienhart: Hope never got Purdue over proverbial hump

After four seasons, Purdue has seen enough of Danny Hope. He officially was fired Sunday. The school also announced wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will serve as the interim coach for the team’s bowl game.

Hope, who receives a $600,000 buyout, compiled a 22-27 overall record and 13-19 Big Ten mark, never getting the program over the proverbial hump after following the glorious Joe Tiller era. This was supposed to be the season that happened, as Hope said this was his best team yet with more starters returning than any other Big Ten squad. Alas, it didn’t happen.

“I wish we would have won more games, yeah absolutely,” Hope said, when asked if he had any regrets yesterday. “But I don’t know what we would have done any different. … The end reason is that we found a way and that’s what matters.

“I don’t know any other expectation to have other than be the best. We had some opportunities early in the season that maybe we could be a football team that could contend to be division champions. I’m not going to shy away from an opportunity like that. And I don’t think we should ever direct our team away from opportunities like that.”

[PurdueSports.com: Hope will not return as Purdue head coach]

Hope saved some of his best work for last, as he led Purdue (6-6, 3-5) to three wins to end this season and get the Boilermakers bowl eligible for a second season in a row. Purdue figures to be headed to the Meineke Car Care Bowl or the Heart of Dallas Bowl after whipping Indiana, 56-35, on Saturday.

The Boilermakers appeared primed for a run at the Leaders Division title after starting 3-1 this fall. But that’s when Purdue went on a five-game losing skid to open Big Ten action that torpedoed those hopes, getting whipped by an average score of 38-17 during the funk.

With a chance to make a statement and run at the Leaders Division title with Ohio State and Penn State on probation, Hope’s team wasn’t even competitive in four of those losses. And three of the blowout losses during the five-game slide—44-13 to Michigan; 38-14 to Wisconsin; 34-9 to Penn State–occurred at home.

[RELATED: Boilers react to Hope's dismissal on Twitter]

Following a humiliating 44-28 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 27, the wheels for Hope’s departure may have begun to turn. Afterwards, athletic director Morgan Burke issued a statement about the program that wasn’t glowing.

In addition to a poor record, Hope also was hurt by declining attendance. Add it all up, and Burke felt he had to make a change.

Hope’s career was marked by maddening inconsistency. He notched two wins over Ohio State and led Purdue to its first win at Michigan since the 1960s. He also oversaw dubious losses to the likes to Toledo, Rice, Northern Illinois and at home to Indiana in 2010.

Hope came aboard prior to the 2008 season, serving as a head-coach-in-waiting to Tiller. Hope took over in 2009, compiling a 5-7 mark. He didn’t get Purdue to a bowl until last season, which culminated with a 7-6 record and Little Caesar’s Bowl win over Western Michigan.

Some early names that may emerge as candidates include:

  • Illinois State’s Brock Spack
  • Kent State’s Darrell Hazell
  • Cincinnati’s Butch Jones
  • Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren
  • Ball State’s Pete Lembo
  • Tennessee offensive coordinator/interim coach Jim Chaney
  • Florida offensive coordinator Brent Pease
  • Louisiana Tech’s Sonny Dykes
  • Texas A&M offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury
  • Fresno State’s Tim DeRuyter
  • Jim Tressel
  • Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson
  • Jacksonville Jaguars QB coach Greg Olson
  • Oregon offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich

Really, it looks to be a wide-open field.

It would seem the Boilermakers must hire a proven head coach from the FBS ranks. And preferably one with an offensive background. Purdue needs to embrace its long-standing identity as a quarterback factory and offensive-oriented program. Burke can’t afford to turn the program over to an unproven commodity, can he?

Purdue will need to open its coffers to attract a proven head coach and to assemble a nice set of assistants. Will the Boilermaker brass do so? Can it afford not to?

The last time Burke was faced with such a critical football hire, he hit a home run by nabbing Joe Tiller from Wyoming in 1997. That hire and subsequent success of Tiller helped spark a listing athletic department. Can Burke hit another homer?

The clock is ticking.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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Show Comments (13 Comments)
13 Post Your Comment
Chuck Wilson on 11/25/2012 @ 6:15pm EDT Said:

Well said Tom. I like your list and trust that Morgan will act quickly in correcting the mistake he made five years ago.

Mike Harter on 11/25/2012 @ 6:37pm EDT Said:

Hope is a good man, it just didn’t work. Best of luck coach.

boilerdon59 on 11/25/2012 @ 6:42pm EDT Said:

Since Purdue has decided to make a change, I strongly suggest that they go after
the absolute best coach that is attainable! This may mean that Purdue open up the
pocket book but if they want to improve the calibur of coaching, Purdue will have to
spend some serious money. Do think that will happen!!!!

Hawkeyecheesehead on 11/25/2012 @ 7:29pm EDT Said:

They do have a big drum. It’s something that Zpurdue can build from.

Lee on 11/25/2012 @ 7:34pm EDT Said:

Why not add Bo Pelini to the list of potential coaches? Everyone always thinks he’s leaving Lincoln. Lol

Jonathan on 11/25/2012 @ 7:56pm EDT Said:

Well, it looks like Purdue has…. no Hope.

Jahyouth22 on 11/25/2012 @ 8:29pm EDT Said:

I think that Morgan and Purdue Nation is comfortable with average

phace_off06 on 11/25/2012 @ 8:44pm EDT Said:

Yep and also Purdue doesn’t want to pay for a big name coach….I think Jim Tressel would be nice

Colton on 11/25/2012 @ 9:09pm EDT Said:

Purdue Nation is not going to settle for average ticket sails and the overwhelming out loud suggestion to Fire Hope shows that. He is a nice guy but that doesn’t win football games. There is no reason we don’t spend the money to bring in a coach that can win. We could be and should be a BCS bowl game type of team

Mike on 11/26/2012 @ 10:33am EDT Said:

Burke missed the boat on Sumlin last year and stuck with a lackluster/cheap coach. Seems Purdue Nation knew better than Burke on that call. I highly doubt that they will open the coffers, that’s not “their way”. So expect more mediocre performance from the program in the future. *sigh*

Mike on 11/26/2012 @ 10:36am EDT Said:

I do love the comment “I don’t know what we would have done differently”! Seriously?? How about playing your offense at the end of the game at OSU instead of 3 consecutive drives of 3 rushes and punt?? How about not staying with your ineffective QB at ND and the 5 games that were tanked in the Big 10 season? His total lack of recognition on what needed to be done, and the cause of problems is the reason I never believed in him.

haroldthomas on 11/26/2012 @ 9:31pm EDT Said:

Is Jim Tressel really a legitimate candidate? Isn’t he serving some kind of suspension meted out by the NCAA?

Alec on 11/27/2012 @ 11:13am EDT Said:

Bobby Petrino anyone? Dykes, Helfrich, Jones, or Tressel are my top choices but don’t rule out the possibility of Petrino being interviewed because he is a big time coach that is available even though no one can trust him..

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