The speculation is officially over.
After four lackluster years, Purdue Sunday fired head football coach Darrell Hazell.
“Well certainly I’ve been thinking about this at the highest level from day one," Athletics Director Mike Bobinski said at a press conference. "There’s no secret about that. This was a decision year or sort of a pivotal year for our football program. We all knew that going into the year; I knew that when I arrived here.”
Tale of the Tape
The numbers tell most of the story of Hazell's tenure in West Lafayette:
-- He owns the worst win percentage of any Purdue football coach who lasted more than a single season on the job (winning about 21-percent of his games).
-- Of the team's nine wins during his four years at the helm, just three of those came over Big Ten teams.
-- Purdue never won more than a single conference game in a season while Hazell was coach (though the Boilermakers have one Big Ten win this year and six more games remaining against conference foes).
-- If the team fails to win at least seven games this season, the players from Hazell's four years of recruiting will own the worst winning percentage of any group of Purdue seniors since 1942.
“We had found ourselves as a program, as a team, stuck sort of in a seesaw of playing reasonably well and then falling backwards," Bobinski says. "A pattern that just didn’t seem to have an end to it.”
A Class Act
However, the numbers don't tell the whole story. Even as his on-field performance was being criticized, almost no one complained about the type of man Darrell Hazell is. His bosses and his players all spoke up regularly about Hazell's commitment to building players of good character (even though there were some high-profile run-ins between Purdue football players and law enforcement over the last four years).
Next Man Up
As Hazell's team dealt, seemingly constantly, with injuries to key players such as wide receiver Danny Anthrop and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley, the coach repeatedly told his players to adopt a "next man up" philosophy -- meaning they had to be vigilant should the person ahead of them on the depth chart be unable to compete for some reason.
Now, the "next man up" at the head of the program is interim head coach Gerad Parker, who'd been serving as the team's wide receivers coach.
Dollars Vs. Sense
Though he vehemently denied it at the end of last season, part of the reason then-Athletic Director Morgan Burke hadn't fired Hazell following a third dismal season is his salary: his initial six-year deal, negotiated with the now-retired Burke, guaranteed Hazell almost $2 million a year -- payable even if he was fired. So recently-installed AD Mike Bobinski, who inherited a program already reeling from football's declining revenue, still owes Hazell in excess of $4 million.
Parker has been named the interim head coach, but Bobinski did not give many clues during a Sunday press conference about how he plans to fill the job long term.
Bobinski says he's got the luxury of time to decide whether to keep Parker or hire someone new, and both men Sunday referred repeatedly to trying to win some of the team's final six games.
If the team can win three more, it'll be bowl eligible for the first time since Danny Hope's last year as coach in 2012.