Opinion: Purdue is a bad fit for nearly anybody — not just Hazell

Grant Engle

So, it looks like Kent State head football coach Darrell Hazell is off to Purdue University.

Before we get into why he shouldn’t have gone there, let’s reflect on the ever-churning rumor mill that started near the end of the regular season.

It started with a blog recommending Hazell as an option for Boston College. Then we had the University of California interview on Sunday.

After that, representatives from Purdue came to northeast Ohio to court Hazell to West Lafayette, Ind. to coach the Purdue Boilermakers.

To some, this move might make sense for Hazell. He was an assistant head coach at Ohio State for seven seasons, so his familiarity with the Big 10 can only benefit him, right?

Probably not.

Danny Hope coached the Boilermakers over the last four seasons. Purdue announced in late November that Hope’s contract would not be renewed, and the athletic department would begin a search for a new head coach.

Hope was 22-27 during his four-year tenure at Purdue, and he owned a record of 13-19 against Big 10 opponents.

Maybe Hope is a terrible coach. Maybe he couldn’t get through to his players. Maybe the Big 10 is too tough of a conference.

If you’ve watched Big 10 football within the last three years, you’ll immediately laugh at the last possibility.

There’s a reason Hope wasn’t successful at Purdue, and it’s simpler than people might think — it’s perfect recipe to be a bottom-feeder of a major conference.

The program doesn’t have a legacy of success, great coaches or great players. We know Drew Brees is amazing, but outside of him, what other Purdue alumni can you name who are playing in the NFL?

While Kent isn’t exactly South Beach, this city is 40 minutes from Cleveland, which has been a hotbed of high school football talent.

Given a few years, Hazell could have tapped into that pool and snagged the players who might not have the skills to get recruited by Ohio State and Michigan — but could be great Mid-American Conference players.

Again, Kent isn’t glamorous, but why leave a spot that could vault you into a higher-profile job than Purdue?

I didn’t expect Hazell to stay here forever, but I would have liked to see him find an opportunity to be successful.

The cautionary tale is former University at Buffalo Bulls head coach Turner Gill. He led the Bulls to a bowl game, and his team won the MAC Championship in 2008.

Despite going 5-7 the following season, Gill cashed in on 2008’s success and signed a deal with the University of Kansas for about $2 million per year.

Kansas is a great basketball school, but with the exception of an Orange Bowl birth in 2008, the football team has been a doormat in the Big 12 for the past decade.

Gill led the Jayhawks to a 5-19 record in two seasons before he was fired. He was put in a situation with inferior recruits in an inferior program against the likes of Texas, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

Hazell might be in a similar situation. He would go head-to-head with a Michigan program that seems to be on the uptick and recruiting genius Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

While anybody who has heard Hazell speak will know he isn’t afraid of a challenge, why would he want to leave a launch pad like Kent State to go to a below average Big 10 team that will regularly play Ohio State, Wisconsin and Nebraska?

Purdue’s last head coach made $900,000 per year. That’s triple what Hazell made here, but I still think he could have done better.

Former Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doeren accepted a job with N.C. State only one day after beating the Flashes in the MAC Championship Game.

Doeren quadrupled his pay from Northern Illinois, and went to a program with a rabid football fan base that will be able to get recruits from the talent-rich southern part of the United States.

I think Hazell could have earned a similar opportunity if he waited around at Kent State another year.

Even if it’s announced Hazell makes more than $1 million per year at Purdue, what does that mean if he flops because of inferior talent and has to start over again?

Hazell has done a wonderful job with the Kent State football team in only two years, but I’m afraid that he may be walking into a steep uphill climb that no coach can overcome.

Contact Grant Engle at [email protected].