If you can’t wait to get this week over and done with, just be glad you’re not Purdue football coach Darrell Hazell. Because this was last Saturday:
Unbeaten Maryland wallops Purdue 50-7 in Big Ten opener https://t.co/GJ6f1TZ8p3
— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) October 1, 2016
And this was Tuesday:
— #LesMiles4Purdue (@HammerAndRails) October 4, 2016
And this was Wednesday:
And this is from the guy who used to DRIVE THE FREAKING BOILERMAKER SPECIAL!!!!! https://t.co/u1n92HMbIR
— #LesMiles4Purdue (@HammerAndRails) October 5, 2016
And this was Thursday:
Caller (a rarity) asks #Purdue‘s Hazell if he expects to have job at end of season. Hazell said focused on Illinois and thanks him for call.
— Nathan Baird (@nbairdjc) October 6, 2016
But the worst of it might’ve been Monday:
Nvr a good start 2 a Monday, main line broke over the wknd w booster pump running. A turf managers worst nightmare. pic.twitter.com/RIKUVqwuOm
— Purdue Sports Turf (@PUSportsTurf) October 3, 2016
— Purdue Sports Turf (@PUSportsTurf) October 4, 2016
That’s right: A sinkhole, an honest-to-God sinkhole, right in the south end zone at Ross-Ade Stadium. You can’t make that stuff up.
Officially, it was caused by a break in the pipes. Unofficially, it could’ve been the Earth attempting to swallow Purdue football whole, just to put the Boilermakers out of their collective misery.
“I couldn’t believe it,” former Purdue coach Joe Tiller told Landof10.com this week, barely suppressing a chuckle. “I thought, ‘You know, when things go bad, they really go bad.’ ”
It’s … bad.
“They put that money in the stadium,” Tiller said, “and now the stadium is going to fall in a hole, for crying out loud.”
We’re not saying it’s rock bottom at West Lafayette, but when Maryland rolls up 400 rushing yards on you while holding you to 10 … and when your coach is 8-32 over three-plus seasons … and when parts of your stadium start sinking into the ground … and when former players are writing anonymous letters to SB Nation to plea for change (or just relevance) … and when the sports columnist at the Indianapolis Star openly mocks the administration’s indifference, that’s … well, it ain’t good.
Also, in-state rival Indiana is coming off its first win over a ranked Big Ten team at home in 10 years.
Bonus: The Boilers (2-2) are a 10-point underdog Saturday. At Illinois. As in, 1-3 Illinois.
Double bonus: If not for Hurricane Matthew, Saturday’s Florida-LSU game — now postponed— would’ve featured two ex-Purdue quarterbacks, transfers Austin Appleby and Danny Etling, slinging it for Gators and Tigers, respectively. The Boilers’ current signal-caller, David Blough, leads the Big Ten in interceptions (7).
Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad week. Accent on the bad.
“And I hope they come out of this downward spiral that they’re in,” said the retired Tiller, who won 87 games, posted a .584 winning percentage and took Purdue to 10 bowl games during his 12 seasons in West Lafayette (1997-2008). “And (that) Darrell continues to coach there.
“Every university has a certain base of fans — at Purdue, 30,000 is about it, maybe between 25,000 and 30,000. And those 25-30,000 people are going to go to the game no matter how bad you are. Well, maybe not now, because they’re drawing more like 20,000. But still, that’s 20,000 that show up for a program that’s struggled now for a long time. Most of the time, you might have 4,000-5,000 people. My point is, Purdue people, they’re pretty loyal, and I think they probably are at every Big Ten school, or at a lot of universities across the country that are that way. But you have this (loyal) fan base that’s there, and they seem to basically put up with anything, if you will. Anything within reason.”
Among Purdue faithful, that patience is fast being tested during Hazell’s fourth season. The first three home games at Ross-Ade this fall averaged an announced crowd of 35,583, compared to 40,026 at this same point in 2015 — a drop of 11.1 percent. The Boilers were smoked by Cincinnati and Maryland by a combined score of 88-27 and the two teams Purdue has beaten, Eastern Kentucky and Nevada, are 1-5 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition so far this year.
With the recent regime change at athletic director — Mike Bobinski replaced the long-standing Morgan Burke in August — the faithful have been pointing fingers and calling for a complete overhaul on the football side next. An online petition for bringing ex-LSU coach Les Miles into the fold had reached 696 e-signatures as of midday Friday; others would prefer Western Michigan coach P.J. Fleck, who has the unbeaten Broncos ranked for the first time, well, ever.
The Boilermakers haven’t cracked the Associated Press Top 25 since Sept. 30, 2007, spending a week at No. 23 in Tiller’s second-to-last season.
“To see what it’s like now, it’s discouraging,” Tiller said from his Wyoming home. “Because, you know, it’s really hard to get it going there. Purdue has some limiting factors that a lot of Purdue people never recognized.”
Tiller joked that a lot of his recruiting visits often involved him spending an hour first just explaining where the school was located and that it wasn’t — unlike, say, Northwestern — a private institution. As a “party” town, West Lafayette doesn’t hold a scented candle to Madison or Iowa City. Investments in facilities and in quality assistant coaches could be a tug-of-war with certain segments of the administration.
“The Big Ten Network, you know what it’s made? It’s made for lazy athletic directors,” Tiller said. “They don’t go out and raise money like they used to. They used to have to get up early and get their feet off the table and go out and raise money. Now they drink their coffee at 8:30 (in the morning). It’s a different game today. They don’t have to do anything, and they’re still going to get a check for some $30 million per year.”
Tiller, 73, still gets season tickets to Purdue games and attends a few each autumn as the university’s guest.
“The first couple of years I went back, I couldn’t get (from) the parking lot to the press box,” Tiller chuckled. “Once I stopped for a picture, then the line went on and on. And so my wife told me, ‘We’ve got to leave an hour before the game to get to the press box, because your fan club is still following you.’
“They have little tailgates there for former players — I always stop in and see if I can run into some of our former players. And even guys who (played) way back when. I always stop in with the tailgates and former players and work my way to the press box from there. So I still had several people that said, ‘Hey, Coach,’ (and) you could imagine what they said to me. If I heard it once, I heard it 100 times: ‘Come back. Come back, please.’ I just put my head down and keep walking, because we don’t want to get involved with something like that. We feel welcome at Purdue, and they’ve treated me well. They’ve probably treated me better since I’ve retired than when I was coaching there.”
Tiller met Bobinski recently and said their exchanges were cordial. He feels that his input would be welcome, if asked.
“I’m not a social media guy; I don’t have the desire to post something,” Tiller said. “As a matter of fact, I still have a flip phone.
“You know, the people (there) are great. Purdue was a good time in our lives. The only thing is, I wish I was paid the way they’re paying Darrell Hazell. He called me right after he got the job (in December 2012). He said, ‘Hey Coach, if you’re ever around, stop in the office, please.’
“I said, ‘Darrell, before you hang up, I want you to know one thing. You’re going to make more money your first year at Purdue than I made in my first six years combined. More power to you. Make as much as you can.’ ”
Like most Purdue fans, all he’s looking for at this point is a semblance of hope. And not the Danny kind, either.