CHICAGO—As one of the new guys in the Big Ten, Darrell Hazell is working to build relationships with his conference colleagues.
Hazell is highly respected in the industry and has many coaching connections. This week’s Media Days in Chicago allowed him to catch up with some old friends. So did he get any advice for the new job?
“No way, are you kidding me,” Hazell said with a smile.
When you talk about the Rose Bowl as much as Hazell has, he shouldn’t expect many words of wisdom.
Many of Hazell’s coaching peers can relate to the rebuilding effort he faces at Purdue. It’ll be an uphill battle as he pushes to bring the Boilermakers to the top.
“You stick to your plan,” said Tim Beckman, whose team struggled mightily in his first season as Illinois’ head coach. “You do what you know and have been successful, you utilize it and come up with your part of the plan, but you have to stick with what you believe in.”
Hazell constantly details his plan, which includes a new-look offense and the hope to build a physical defense. But beyond the X’s and O’s, Hazell hopes to build a winning culture. He hopes to win the right way, making academics a priority and holding his players accountable.
In order to build a winner, it takes hard work—not only from the head coach, but everyone in the program.
“It’s about creating a culture that embraces hard work,” said Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, who led the Buckeyes to an undefeated season in his first year. “Don’t push away from it, but embrace practice and the training we do in the offseason, which is hard. It’s not easy to embrace that. As long as they understand the rewards at the end of it are pretty special.”
It just seems to come easy for Meyer, who has a record of 116-23 as a head coach. It’s anything but simple.
At Purdue, the job is much different that Ohio State. The task Hazell faces is daunting. He hopes to make Purdue a perennial Big Ten contender, bringing it out of the middle. Easier said than done.
Indiana, the Boilermakers’ great rival, is working toward a similar goal with third-year head coach Kevin Wilson. The Hooisers have endured struggles under Wilson’s leadership but their arrow appears to be pointing up. That sure wasn’t the case when he took the helm.
“You’re fighting some perceptions and negativity, whether it’s internal or external,” Wilson recalled. “The thing you’ve got to do is come back and concentrate on what you can control.”
One of Hazell’s greatest believers is Minnesota head coach Jerry Kill, one of five former Mid-American Conference coaches in the Big Ten. At Northern Illinois, Kill built a 10-game winner in just three seasons. Many of the players he recruited were key parts of the Huskies’ Orange Bowl team from this past season.
Similar to Hazell, Kill has enjoyed plenty of success before becoming a Big Ten head coach.
“The good thing for us is that we’ve got living proof of it,” Kill said. “We’ve done it before. … Having living proof of what you’ve done always helps you instead of talking about it all the time.”
While Hazell isn’t going to get much guidance from his conference cohorts, they can certainly relate to what he’s up against.