Inability to help Purdue "Leap" in 2012 led to Hope's firing

Purdue BoilermakersFootballSportsBig TenNFLScott BakulaDean Stockwell

WEST LAFAYETTE - Fans of 1980s television sitcoms enjoyed the reference, especially if they wore the Gold and the Black.

In August, just a week after Purdue began their preseason training camp, Danny Hope sat down at media day and summed up his goal for the 2012 season.

A "Quantum Leap" is what he thought the program could do. Apologies to Scott Bakula and Dean Stockwell, but it would be guys like Kawaan Short and Robert Marve that would take the television reference to the Big Ten.

"The expectation from both of us is that we had narrowed the gap competitively," said Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke of the 2012 season-but that was merely in assumption.

In fact the best leap of the season for the Boilermakers might have been the one Hope took with a percussion mallet towards the "Worlds Largest Drum" after Purdue's Bucket Game victory over Indiana Saturday.

That was the high point of a 6-6 regular season, the same as 2011. A "Quantum Leap" it wasn't but Burke was ready to take one of his own because of it.

On Sunday he ended a month of speculation by firing Hope after four seasons at Purdue. Burke cited improvements made during the coach's tenure in West Lafayette-like talent, academic and off the fieid performance.

But with success stalled on the gridiron, Burke saw a chance to make a move.

"We would be in each and every game competitively and we'd move another rung up the bowl ladder, clearly we didn't do that," said Burke of his reasoning for firing Hope.

By not doing so Hope failed to fix an issue that had been present even in the final years of the Joe Tiller Era: Attendance. According to Burke the number of fans coming into Ross Ade Stadium has dropped 30 percent in the last five years putting the athletic department in a tough spot.

Saturday's bucket game was an example of that as the stands were half full for a game that in the past would be near capacity.

"We certainly couldn't eradicated it and move it up," said Burke of the attendance. "There are all sorts of factors that cause that but the bottom line is that we're down about 30 percent in paid attendance over about a five year period.

"You can't run any organization with that kind of variability."

To begin a search for a coach that can bring wins and attendance up will be up to Burke. He'll seek advice from Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and Texans general manager Rick Smith-both who have ties to Purdue-along with longtime NFL executive Bill Polian.

Burke says he won't specifically go after a big name to attract attention, but will rather seek a well rounded coach who fits a number of criteria.

"It helps in the corner office if your head coach can be adept at communicating messages to lots of different constituencies," said Burke what a coach should have. "It is a skill set that is important to a head coach but if you can't do the things that it takes to build recruiting systems, academics systems, relationships with your football alumni, you're going to have trouble."

Still Purdue wil need a coach for its bowl game, which they qualified for with a sixth win against Indiana on Saturday. Wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins will take over in the interim to lead the team to the bowl.

"They know they still have a bowl game to play and they have a lot to play for," said Higgins of the player's attitude following the firing. "They're proud of what they've accomplished the last three weeks."

It just wasn't enough to make the leap to save their head coach.

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