By DOUG GRIFFITHS
ISL Assistant Editor
Danny Hope is in denial.
He’s not about to look in the mirror and point the finger at himself for being fired from Purdue. But that’s exactly what he needs to do.
Earlier this week Hope sat down with Mike Cleff, sports director at CBS affiliate WLFI-TV18 in West Lafayette, for his first interview since being fired from Purdue the day after the Old Oaken Bucket game in late November.
You can watch the interviews here: Mike Cleff interviews Danny Hope.
Rather than focus on his losing record (22-27), his 13-19 mark in the Big Ten or his less-than-stellar 2-6 record against nationally ranked teams, Hope was quick to pass the buck when addressing the reasons for his dismissal.
“It came down to ticket sales,” Hope told the television station. “But ticket sales have been dropping here since 2000. It’s not all about what happens just behind the whistle. You have to have some accountability behind the necktie as well.”
That zinger was directed toward Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke. Even though Burke didn’t coach any games, I guess in Hope’s mind, Burke is to blame for the program’s interest lagging to depths not seen since the days Jim Colletto and Fred Akers were roaming the sidelines in West Lafayette.
Hope just doesn’t get it. When you make better than CEO-type money – $900,000 per season to be exact – you are the one accountable. Don’t play the blame game. Be a man, to paraphrase Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy.
The fact is Hope blew his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of being a BCS head coach.
In the end, though, Hope felt like he had done enough at Purdue to warrant another year of mediocrity.
He felt like his job should’ve been saved since he led the Boilermakers to a 6-6 record against a very friendly schedule that didn’t include Nebraska or Michigan State and did include blowout losses to Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Penn State.
The scary thing for Purdue fans to think about is had it not been for yet another colossal coaching collapse in the waning moments of the Ohio State game, Hope still may be leading the Boilermaker program.
But to Burke’s credit he made Purdue fans day less than 24 hours after the 21-point win over Indiana by terminating Hope.
The inconsistencies in the Boilermaker program under Hope’s leadership were eventually too much for the administration to handle.
How could Purdue play Notre Dame evenly in South Bend yet not even be competitive at home against the Badgers and Wolverines? Then the Boilermakers go to Columbus and pretty much dominate the Buckeyes only to somehow, someway find a way to lose, and follow that performance up by not even showing up against an average Minnesota team.
This was supposed to be Purdue’s year. Along with Wisconsin, the Boilermakers were favored to win the Big Ten’s Leaders Division. It returned key seniors, got the luxury of playing the Badgers at home and didn’t have to worry about Penn State or Ohio State in the race since they were prohibited from playing in the Big Ten Championship Game.
A 24-point loss to Wisconsin dashed all hopes of a memorable season and the pressure on Hope became intense.
The loss to the Badgers was part of a five-game losing streak for Purdue that all but sealed Hope’s fate. In fact, sources told IndySportsLegends.com that Burke made up his mind to make a change during that mid-season skid.
Fans were fed up with Hope’s attitude, excuses, his team’s poor preparation, lack of in-game coaching adjustments and sad on-field performances. Fans were voicing their displeasure with Hope by not showing up on Saturdays as thousands of empty seats were even more obvious in Ross-Ade Stadium. Bravo!
The Boilermakers rebounded to finish the regular season with a three-game winning streak, but those three victories came against the Big Ten’s worst teams – Iowa, Illinois and Indiana (who went a combined 10-26 in 2012). It didn’t matter either as Hope was finished.
Hope believes the decision to fire him was a difficult one for Burke. It wasn’t.
When Burke knew he would have to find a replacement for legendary coach Joe Tiller, he wanted to turn to someone that didn’t have Tiller ties. You’ll recall Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst was one Burke’s short list. In the end, however, Burke was forced to choose someone from the Tiller coaching tree. He wasn’t going to give the job to popular defensive coordinator Brock Spack, who was an All-Big Ten linebacker at Purdue. Instead, he shocked everyone by choosing Hope, who coached FCS school Eastern Kentucky to one conference championship and no playoff wins.
In four seasons at Purdue, Hope’s Boilermakers never won more than seven games and had one bowl victory – over MAC opponent Western Michigan. Oh and there were the unexplainable embarrassing losses, too, to Rice, Toledo and Northern Illinois.
Hope would argue he led the program to back-to-back bowl appearances, but had it not been for wins over FCS teams Southeast Missouri State and Eastern Kentucky the last two years Purdue would have fallen short of the necessary six wins to be bowl eligible.
As if blowout losses in four of Purdue’s five Big Ten losses in 2012 weren’t enough, the program’s worst showing in its postseason history, a 58-14 massacre by Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year’s Day, showed everyone exactly the state of Hope’s program even though he was already kicked to the curb.
Purdue never was better than 4-4 in the Big Ten during Hope’s tenure and was a disappointing 3-5 in conference action this year. Nonetheless Hope thought that was good enough.
Purdue’s program was declining and everyone knew it except Hope.
Boilermaker fans are to be commended. They refused to pay for what they knew was a product that wasn’t worthy of their dollar.
Blowouts in big games had become the norm.
When Purdue was competitive in marquee games, its fate was usually sealed by a coaching blunder.
Take the Notre Dame game this past September for example. Robert Marve led the Boilermakers on a touchdown drive late in the second quarter to tie the game at 7 only to be pulled to start the third quarter for starting QB Caleb TerBush. Purdue’s offense did nothing in that quarter, while Notre Dame scored 10 points, three of which were set up by a TerBush interception.
Many of the media covering Notre Dame in the press box talked about Hope’s questionable decision of switching quarterbacks and many were of the opinion if Marve had never been pulled Purdue would’ve won the game.
Throughout a chunk of the season Hope defended his strategy of playing musical chairs at quarterback saying he didn’t want to wave the white flag if his No. 1 ever got hurt. What kind of thinking is that? Good to see the Patriots with Tom Brady or the Broncos with Peyton Manning don’t subscribe to such a ludicrous theory.
Coaching decisions like the aforementioned drove Boilermaker fans crazy and had to be making those signing Hope’s checks nuts, too.
Even early in his Purdue career, Hope had a habit of making strange coaching decisions that more times than not came back to cost his team dearly.
Remember the timeout he took in the 2009 Notre Dame game just before the Irish scored the game-winning touchdown in the waning seconds? Who calls timeout when they’re on defense when the offense doesn’t have a timeout left? Danny Hope does, that’s who.
Then try to figure out how Purdue lost its game at Ohio State this year when the Buckeyes had to drive 60 yards or so for a touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime without a timeout and with a backup quarterback.
Is it any wonder Hope’s Purdue teams never beat Notre Dame and were blown out four straight times by Wisconsin?
Boilermaker fans long for the days of Tiller when their beloved team was competitive against the Fighting Irish (going 5-7) and seldom were on the wrong end of a lopsided score.
Had it not been for Tiller’s success – an amazing 10 bowl appearances in 12 years – Hope would never have been considered for the Purdue job.
But he got the job thanks to Tiller and in hindsight Burke made a mistake in handing the once proud program over to Hope, who clearly wasn’t qualified to be a BCS head coach.
It was a difficult four-year regime under Hope to say the least. He more than wore out his welcome in West Lafayette. Not that anyone employed by Purdue would ever go on the record and admit it, but I can tell you no one liked the man and for good reason.
Hope was as paranoid as they come, thinking everyone was against him and subscribing to the bunker mentality you know: us against the world.
In the end, however, he was his own worst enemy.
Hope was in over his head. His poor coaching decisions proved that and his bologna talk of always having a master plan for this and that showed why he’s a FCS head coach at best.
For Boilermaker fans, they’re grateful the Hope Era is over. The end couldn’t have come soon enough.
Now they’re hopeful Darrell Hazell restores the Boilermaker program and they never have to hear from Hope again.