Purdue, tired of getting beat like a drum, decided to fire Darrell Hazell on Sunday. That was a day after the Boilermakers dropped to 3-3 following a 49-35 loss to Iowa that was much less competitive than it looks. Wide receivers coach Gerad Parker will lead Purdue into Lincoln this weekend.
This news didn’t come as a shock to anyone besides, perhaps, me. Not that it happened. A 9-33 record, including a 3-24 record in Big Ten play, speaks for itself. But the timing seemed a little odd. I knew this was probably Hazell’s last season. Everybody did. But the Boilermakers looked at least a little bit better this season. That said, a “little bit” still left a long way to go and in today’s college football it’s becoming a race to have the most options.
So now Purdue will get a couple of months to think about it’s next move. There is already a slew of potential candidate lists out there. This one from CBSSports.com has Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck at the top of the list and he probably should be at the top of Purdue’s real list. I understand that there might be some trepidation among Boilermaker fans to dip back into the MAC waters, but Fleck seems different. His “Row the Boat” philosophy may border on corny, but at least he has some sort of comprehensive program view. Purdue needs that as much as anything.
Or it could dream big. Rumors of Les Miles to West Lafayette surfaced a day before Hazell was even fired, but that seems like little more than open coach-open job speculation at this point. And, hey, here’s Kevin Sumlin’s name mentioned because he’s an alum. (I have a pretty good feeling that Sumlin is fine where he is, thanks.)
Back here in reality, however, this is a big opportunity for Purdue. The university is planning a major upgrade to the football facilities. There’s a new AD in place. The Big Ten appears to be trending slightly upward as a whole.
If Purdue gets this hire right, it would fit right in with all of that. That’s easier said than done, of course. Coaching decisions are hard, coaching hires are even harder.
But there’s the potential for a good league to get a little better here. Fleck would be a home-run hire in my mind. The coordinator route is a little trickier, but there are some legitimately intriguing candidates out there depending upon what Purdue wants. Defense? That’s a proven way to win in the Big Ten. A high-flying aerial attack? It worked in West Lafayette before.
Long story, short: There’s no real reason Purdue has to be a doormat. It looks like the powers that be finally decided as much.
IS NEBRASKA GOOD?
That is the question of the past few days following the dust up on ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturday.
George Schroeder of USA Today tackled that topic and talked to Mike Riley for his Sunday column:
It’s certainly possible Nebraska actually is pretty good, or moving in that direction, and that the Huskers might put together some of those complete games in the season’s second half.
“Some of the kids were mad about it,” Riley said of the perceived College GameDay slight. “The only way to prove anybody wrong is to keep winning. I don’t know if it’s fuel to the fire or the reality of our schedule so far. I don’t really care.
“The most important thing is to win the game and get ready for the next one. That’s the only way to prove who we are.”
Depending upon how Saturday goes, this question is likely to hang around for one more week. Then it’s Wisconsin time and, finally, some questions should be answered.
THE GRAB BAG
- Tom Dienhart of BTN.com doesn’t pull any punches in his assessment of the Hazell firing.
- Here’s the five factors Nebraska-Indiana box score from Football Study Hall.
- If you want to really dig in to Saturday’s Ohio State-Wisconsin game, here is a pretty fascinating grade breakdown from Pro Football Focus.
- Nebraska moves up two spots in ESPN’s power rankings and Brett McMurphy has the Huskers facing Louisville in the Orange Bowl.
TODAY’S SONG OF TODAY
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.