The only judgment of a football coach that counts is his record. Purdue’s new leader, Darrell Hazell, hasn’t won or lost a game yet.
It’s just May, and the Boilermakers’ season-opener with Cincinnati is still off in the distance. Many observers refer to this time as the “honeymoon” for a newly-hired head coach. From the perspective of Hazell’s boss, Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, it’s anything but a honeymoon.
Burke outlined five great challenges in which his new football coach would face after accepting the job.
Note: The bold-faced questions are posed prompts from Morgan Burke, in an interview at the Big Ten spring meetings.
1.) How long would it take him to command the respect of his team?
“I think he has accomplished that, I’m confident of that,” said Burke.
Hazell comes from a winning track record, both as a head coach and assistant. Most recently, he led Kent State to an 11-win season and bringing it stability as a program. As a coach, Hazell has great credibility which is undoubtedly respected by his players and those around him.
2.) How capable, with the resources we provided, what kind of staff could he assemble a staff. Would it be the staff we feel can win a Big Tn championship and play at the highest level?
“I think he’s accomplished that,” Burke said. “We’ve got a broad-based staff—a lot of experience.”
The staff Hazell built has diverse, unique experience. His offensive coordinator, John Shoop, has experience in the college and professional ranks. Defensive coordinator Greg Hudson has been successful at several stops in the college level.
Purdue’s new assistants have experience, with former Youngstown State head coach Jon Heacock and longtime NFL assistant Ruben Carter. In addition, there’s young energy with names like Marcus Freeman and Jafar Williams, the two newcomers to the Big Ten coaching ranks. The new staff has created excitement among fans and recruits alike.
3.) Could he hold the recruiting class together? The Danny Etlings and others who are highly touted, would they jump off the boat because of a coaching change?
“That didn’t really happen,” said Burke. The class stayed intact.”
Etling was the first of Purdue’s class, committing on April 18. Another local standout, running back David Yancey, joined more than two months later. Hazell was able to keep the core of Purdue’s 2013 class together while adding to it. 13 new recruits joined the mix after Hazell accepted the job.
Currently, Hazell has just one recruit for the 2014 class; Dallas receiver Trae Hart committed to the Boilermakers early this month.
4.) How would the student body react [to the hiring]?
“I think he’s kind of a rock star,” Burke said of Hazell. “I think people are enjoying what he has to say.”
It’s hard to disagree with that assessment. Since taking the job, Hazell has been all over Purdue’s campus. He has visited with fraternities and dorm associations. He has opened practices to the student body, urging all to come watch. He has even stood in the cold before a Purdue basketball game and handed out free pizza.
The real results will be seen in the student section this fall. If there are still patches of empty bleachers, it won’t reflect well on the new head coach.
5.) How would the general fan base react to that?
“There were just amazing stories,” said Burke, before explaining how Hazell accepted a teacher’s personal invitation to visit a local high school, only to be greeted by an auditorium of 600 people.
The reaction to Hazell’s hiring has been overwhelmingly positive. He represents change for Purdue, and a fresh new face for the program. This is where the honeymoon period feels ever so true. If Hazell can win games at Purdue, the positive feeling will last long. Nothing else matters until kick off in the Queen City.