It’s hardly news at this point (it’s been hours since Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke made the official announcement), and I don’t often write about sports here (frankly, I don’t often write here any more), but I wanted to assemble my thoughts about Danny Hope’s new-found unemployment.
I’ve been critical of Hope for a while, and was publicly in favor of firing him last year. My undergrad years mostly lined up with Kyle Orton’s time at quarterback and the last years of Joe Tiller’s successful period, so maybe my expectations were unrealistic. Or maybe not.
Danny Hope had four years as head coach (and a year before that to focus entirely on recruiting as the coach-in-waiting) to build the program. In some ways, he did just that: he improved recruiting from the end of the Tiller era, and player GPAs went up during his time as coach. The statistic that ended up mattering most was the fifth consecutive year of declining attendance.
I’ll readily admit that I’ve skipped purchasing football tickets the past two years for a variety of reasons. Time commitments and personal finances may have been the most compelling, but the on-field product did little to convince me to make the necessary arrangements. It’s not that the players lack talent or effort, although there have been occasions where the players made maddening errors (the 2011 team, in particular, was far more penalized than a veteran team should be). For the most part the blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the coaches. Week after week, the team appeared unprepared. Week after week, halftime seemed to consist of an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet (how else can you explain the struggles that Hope’s teams routinely had in the third quarter? They certainly weren’t using that time to adjust to the way the game was going).
Under Danny Hope, Purdue could take two unbeaten teams down to the wire on the road or lose at home to MAC schools. Purdue could beat an Ohio State University or get embarrassed by Minnesota. Hope’s “best team” — a team with the talent and the schedule to win the B1G Leaders division — opened conference play with five straight losses. If not for the sanctions against aOSU and Penn State this year, Purdue’s 6-6 record would result in yet another Detroit bowl game. While any bowl game is better than no bowl game, it would be nice to see Purdue beat teams with a winning record from time-to-time.
Contrary to what Sally Hope said, I’ve never wished for Danny Hope to lose. I have tremendous respect for him as a person — he’s universally described as being a very friendly man, and the players obviously love him. I’ve always wanted Danny Hope’s time at Purdue to be very successful, but that’s not how it played out. Given the choice between losing cleanly and winning sleazily, I’ll take losing cleanly every time, but I refuse to accept that those are the only two options.
Danny Hope very obviously enjoyed being the head coach of a Big Ten program. His optimism was unflagging, at least until about a month ago. Hope enjoyed his work and he loved being with the players. The problem is that the talented players never seemed to get much better than when they first set foot on campus. In the end, Danny Hope was a great guy who was in way over his head. I wish him the best of luck wherever his next job is.