The Eternal Optimism of the Offseason

By Johnny Ginter on July 29, 2014 at 10:20a
Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell at Big Ten Media Days

A long time ago, in the dark prehistorical era of 11W, I filled in a few times to serve as our beat writer for some home football games against teams that were destined to be long, long forgotten. One of those was Jim Tressel's most evil moment, dropping a giant anvil on Ron English's Eastern Michigan Eagles and then calling up Lloyd Carr to gloat.

It was awesome, by the way. In the press box of Ohio Stadium, they had a kid making McFlurries alongside a big hot dog buffet. I hobnobbed with an Orange Bowl rep, almost knocked Ellen Tressel over by accident, and saw John Cooper take a leak. Those weren't the only perks, though; OSU has some very helpful interns/volunteers/indentured servants who make packets of stats and info and run them to the writers during the game.

One of the things that interested me the most were the blurbs in those packets about EMU. Great pains were taken in trying to describe the fightin' Ron Englishes as a competent football team with a rich and storied history, instead of a podunk directional Michigan school that was cruising for a really horrible bruising. Polishing a turd is kind of an art form, and whoever writes those fawning biographies of teams destined to get blown the hell out are not getting paid enough.

The Buckeyes ended up scoring 73 points against EMU that day and winning by over 50. For his role in this embarrassment, Ron English was punished by having to coach the Eagles for another three seasons (amassing nine wins), until he was finally fired in 2013 for yelling homophobic slurs at his players in a furious tirade.

I thought about that packet of ludicrously optimistic EMU info a lot yesterday, as a composed and very classy Darrell Hazell absolutely killed it in his press conference. The man is built for the camera in almost every way: he looks about 20 years younger than his actual age, he has a steady, commanding voice, and he gives direct, confident answers to questions.

Here's the biggest thing that I've learned when you take over a program. ... It's coaches to players, to equipment people, to trainers. So it's a learning process. And at this junction, as a staff, as equipment -- everybody knows where they're supposed to be. And I think that's the biggest maturity you make as a program between years one and year two.

Our players, they know what the expectations are from the coaches. So we've made -- you'll be impressed on the significant strides that we've made as a program.

Wow hey yeah Coach! We are back on track, let's get this Purdue train rolling! Toot toot all aboard the victory express!

Except, you know, not. Because though Purdue projects better this year, it's more of the "three wins instead of one win" kind of improvement. And, as we've already shown you on 11W, the cover of their B1G Media Guide kind of betrays the confidence that their head coach has in the team by being the Charlie Browniest cover you could imagine.

But the cover is nothing compared to the defeatism that's inside. Let's take a peek!


Aaahhh, classic Purdue (said the fan of the team that has lost to them way too often recently)!

Events like the Big Ten Media Days are fascinating because it's the college football equivalent of sticking a bunch of bugs in a jar and shaking it over and over until you can suss out the toughest ones. Except in this scenario, three or four of the bugs are actually rocks.

It's pretty obvious as to who is going to come out as the favorites to win the Big Ten this year, because they're essentially the same teams as every year. And because of that, Urban Meyer gets asked questions about personnel and Tim Beckman gets asked subtext-heavy questions about his plans for December. Urban Meyer can give direct answers about Tracy Sprinkle's status with the team, but Kevin Wilson needs to dance around the fact that the Hoosiers have won a grand total of five conference games in his three years as their head coach.

To me, that's a good thing. For way too long the B1G has been a slothful, lazy conference when it comes to demanding success from its coaches.

But "Football in the groin" had a football in the groin!
This is actually kind of great, however.

Schools like Purdue and Indiana and Illinois and yes, even Michigan at this point need to embrace the intense scrutiny that comes with coaching at a place like Ohio State. They need to allow regional and local media to ask tough, uncomfortable questions without the fear that they'll be denied press passes or facility access, and they need to understand that closing ranks around a failing coach only protects mediocrity.

There have been a lot of complicated answers given to the question "why does Big Ten football look like butt?" People have thrown out changes in demographics (nobody wants to live in the Midwest), different cultural norms (we just don't care enough, dammit!), or geographic differences (high school kids missing vital 7 on 7 time).

Those answers are all crap. It comes down to coaching, and finally schools like Penn State, which has made two brilliant head coaching hires in a row, and Wisconsin, who gambled on a talented rising coaching star, seem to be getting it. It's time that the Indianas and Illinois of the world do too.

Look, I love Darrell Hazell. That may be in part because when he was in Columbus under Tressel, I credited all of Ohio State's offensive successes to him and all of the failures to Bollman, but the guy looks and acts the part of a big time college football head coach, and he did well at Kent State. In 2012, he was a really good hire for the Boilermakers.

But that's not enough anymore. If the bottom feeders of the conference want to improve, they need to be impatient and take the kind of urgency that comes to Big Ten Media Days home with them. Because otherwise they're going to become Eastern Michigan, writing media guides that wax poetic about the number of trees on campus instead of the number of wins on the field.


Comments Show All Comments

Mookie331's picture

Hopefully, Darrell can revive that program back to where it used to be. I miss watching Purdue play in December bowl games. 

+6 HS
BuckeyeSki's picture

You forgot the italics...

Banned from BlackShoeDiaries since 2008. Crime: Slander/Defamation of Character Judgement: Guilty

Oyster's picture

9 bowl games since 2000.

"Scrolling hurts my finger"

(and FitzBuck was clearly the winner)

+4 HS
Zimmy07's picture

I'm not going to feel sorry for Purdue.  10 more years of 56-0 wins against them might make me get over the 2 losses in '09 & '11 but I'm not sure.

+6 HS
Tater_Schroeder's picture

I was thinking the same thing as I read this post. Sigh.


woodcocklives@osu's picture

Said it before, will say it again.....Hazell will be successful at Purdue.  Those who know anything about what he did @ historically bad and football culture challenged Kent State (took 2 years, btw), and what kind of coach and leader he is, would likely concur.

-1 HS
alust2013's picture

I do hope they give him the time. It drives me nuts when a program will fire a coach after a year or two, when they really haven't seen enough and the constant coaching changes upset the program and bump them down a notch every other year. I think a lot of good coaches aren't actually given a chance because their immediate results aren't impressive enough, when it takes time to build a system and gain the team's trust and respect. Of course there are times when it is clear that a coach isn't very good, doesn't know what he is doing, or can't get control of the situation, but it seems like it's just impatience most of the time.

...and Michigan still sucks.

WC Buckeye's picture

Purdue students and fans are generally some of the most condescending, "academic snob" assholes I've ever met. Their hatred of OSU is on a par with their hatred of Indiana and Notre Dame. As much as I love Darrell Hazell and his Buckeye lineage, I hope they never win another football game, unless it is over the Domers, of whom I share their dislike.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

+3 HS
NitroBuck's picture

I was talking to a Purdue grad that was a student at the time.  He is convinced that Jenkins pushed off on Holy Buckeye. I don't know about "academic snob", but I can certainly attest to delusional.

Ferio.  Tego.

+2 HS
WC Buckeye's picture

....and they DON'T KNOW THEIR FOOTBALL!! :) Talk to any Purdue engineer, and they'll tell you that there's no better engineering school in the country. Same goes for any of their business school graduates. It seems as though those two disciplines comprise the background of a significant number of Purdue graduates.

The only thing that's new in the world is the history that we have forgotten.

+1 HS
Montana silver bullet's picture

Saying Franklin is a "Brilliant" hire at this time is premature.  Hasn't coached a game yet Johnny------!

Montana Silver Bullet

+5 HS
Fatpants's picture

And the guy before that jumped on the first  outbound train. (After getting his ass historically handed to him that night in Columbus)

I'm just a poo gas huffin' toilet snorkeler at heart....

+2 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

Darrell needs time to get the train rolling and if they give him enough time - he will turn it around.

BeijingBucks's picture

wow.  that purdue rag is comic gold.  The RB Connor O'doul bit about 'stumbling on campus and being offered a schollie' was ridiculous.

Just thinking of the pain their football fans must be going through when they are reduced to making fun of their own ineptitude... brings a little tear of joy and a whispered 'take that Mr. Brees!' healing salve to my scarred soul.

None can love freedom heartily, but good men; the rest love not freedom, but license. ~ John Milton

Bourbon Meyer's picture

Funny, Darrell Hazell has only been there one year and your dubbing him a failure. Luke Fickell has been there four years (in a top position), has been the architect of some of the poorest defenses in OSU history, yet he still has a job. Go figure.

Also, uncool your making fun of a former Buckeye who brought success on the field.

-1 HS
zhamilton05's picture

Really, Hazell and Purdue are exactly where Boeckman and Illinois were last summer. Two former MAC coaches shellshocked after an inaugural season even more wretched than anticipated. Illinois improved some in 2013, but not enough to make everyone think Boeckman is the answer. Purdue will probably do the same in 2014--winning 3-5 games and turning Hazell's hot seat down to "simmer" instead of "roast." This is the season of reckoning for Boeckman, and 2015 will be the same for Hazell, if they can't drag their team to a .500 record and a depressing bowl game in Memphis or Albuquerque or someplace like that.

With the push to the playoffs and other factors, it's easier than ever for us who are fans of contending, name-brand schools to show undue contempt to these second-tier schools. Even the mighty SEC has its Kentucky and Vanderbilt. I'm not saying Minnesota and Purdue and Illinois and Indiana and Rutgers shouldn't expect success; we just need to properly define what success is there. Remember, James Franklin won 8 games a couple of times at Vanderbilt and everyone fell at his feet in awe. Now, that doesn't excuse mediocrity at Iowa or Michigan or Nebraska, and it doesn't give MSU or Northwestern or Wisconsin a pass if they retreat from their recent success...but we just have to understand that it's not really fair to mock Purdue when they're actually content with going 7-6 and winning that bowl game in Memphis or Albuquerque or someplace like that.