Fare thee well, Danny Hope. The Purdue coach was fired on Sunday (per PurdueSports.com) following a 6-6 regular season. Hope's overall record at Purdue was 22-27 and he never went over .500 in conference play during his four-year tenure.
Yes, Purdue is in the midst of a three-game winning streak, and no, it's not common for a coach to be fired during such a streak. But Hope's fate was probably sealed well before then, when a five-game spree of uncompetitive losses in Big Ten play ended any hopes of Purdue contending in a top-heavy Leaders Division.
Plus, Purdue's win streak came against Iowa, Illinois and Indiana. Hardly the stuff of legends. Or leaders.
The 2012 season was disappointing. It was the type of season that would and should get a coach fired. Purdue had a prime opportunity to make a move toward the Big Ten Championship and instead it lost five conference games by an average of nearly three touchdowns a game.
And yet Purdue might be kidding itself just a bit when it comes to what level of success to expect in the Big Ten. Danny Hope was Purdue's 10th coach of the postwar era. Only three of those coaches (Jack Mollenkopf, Jim Young and Joe Tiller) posted winning records for their career. Hope was fourth among postwar Purdue coaches in career winning percentage at .449, and yet his tenure at West Lafayette was cut short after four years.
Only Bob DeMoss had a shorter career as a head coach, and he left the team after a winning season to become an assistant athletic director—a position he would hold for 20 years.
Still, regardless of the itchiness of Purdue's trigger finger, irrelevance is irrelevance. Purdue was certainly irrelevant under Hope. Any momentum from Tiller's career is gone at this point, and it's now evident that while winning at Purdue is possible, it's not something most coaches can do.
Thus, a good hire is critical for the program. Here are the places Purdue should be looking for that next great coach.
Darrell Hazell, Kent State Head Coach
PROS: Hazell has led Kent State to an 11-1 record in his second year at the program and the Golden Flashes are currently ranked No. 17 in the BCS Standings. Not bad for a MAC team that went 5-7 last year. Hazell spent seven seasons as an assistant coach for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He's still only 48, so he could easily coach for another 15 years.
CONS: We're still talking about a guy with two years of head coaching experience, all in the MAC. Sure, he was Jim Tressel's wide receivers coach, but that wasn't an offense that relied on wideouts very often. He has no connection to Purdue and thus wouldn't have as much of a desire to stick around if a better offer comes along.
Dave Doeren, Northern Illinois Head Coach
PROS: Doeren has led NIU to 11-win seasons in each of his two years at the helm in DeKalb. Doeren has significant Big Ten coaching experience as well, serving as defensive coordinator for Bret Bielema at Wisconsin for five years prior. He's only turning 41 soon and has a bright future in football.
CONS: Like Hazell, Doeren has Big Ten coaching experience (which is good) but no Purdue roots (which is not so good). Also like Hazell, Doeren is still only in his second year as a head coach.
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Head Coach
PROS: Purdue alum and highly successful head coach at Texas A&M and Houston before that. Widely considered one of the best young head coaches in college football.
CONS: He is definitely not leaving Texas A&M for Purdue.
Mark Snyder, Texas A&M Defensive Coordinator
PROS: Snyder, on the other hand, is ever so slightly more likely than Sumlin to accept an offer from Purdue. He coached Marshall for five years and was an Ohio State assistant under Jim Tressel for four years prior. Snyder is currently running a successful defense at A&M and he's still only turning 48 in December.
CONS: Snyder wasn't exactly a success at Marshall and it's fair to wonder whether he's the best candidate to put together a winning program at a school with the comparative disadvantages Purdue faces in the Big Ten.
Brock Spack, Illinois State Head Coach
PROS: Spack is as Purdue as it gets. He's an alumnus and one of the best linebackers in school history, his wife and daughter also went to Purdue, his first coaching job was as a graduate assistant there and he was a defensive coordinator for Joe Tiller before being hired by Illinois State after the 2008 season. Spack also has a Ron Swanson-esque moustache. At a school with a moustachioed history like Purdue's, that matters.
CONS: Spack is only 19-14 at Illinois State. He has never been a head coach at the FBS level. Purdue's defense wasn't that good when Spack was around.