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Purdue’s new coach sets sights on Rose Bowl
Question of the Day
“When you feel it’s all coming together and you can close the deal, you close,” Burke said. “That’s what happened yesterday.”
Hazell informed his staff of the decision early Wednesday morning, then met with his players briefly at about 6:30 a.m.
“I walked out of the (coaches) meeting and went to the players and said, `Hey, this is what happened, I love you and I walked out,’” Hazell said.
The toughest part will be juggling two jobs _ bowl preparations at Kent State and recruiting for Purdue.
During a 40-minute news conference Wednesday evening, Hazell explained he wanted to make sure the 13 recruits who have already committed to Purdue would follow through on those plans and laid out a detailed day-by-day travel plan that included commuting from practices in northeastern Ohio to his new West Lafayette campus.
Burke made no secret of what he was seeking in a new coach _ an offensive mind who could win right away and build enough support among the fan base to encourage fans to return to Ross-Ade Stadium. Attendance had declined from an average of roughly 54,000 in 2007 to 37,000 this past season.
“He (Tressel) just said this is the perfect spot for Darrell,” Burke said. “He gets the work ethic and went on about a couple of other things. I just thought we wouldn’t get the fan base excited if we line up and play like Wisconsin, you know, and he (Tressel) said, `You won’t have any trouble with that, he was trying to get me to throw the ball all the time.’”
Players are excited, too.
“Any time you mention Ohio State football, you mention success and tradition and winning and he put Kent State on the map,” quarterback Rob Henry said. “I have no reason to believe it won’t be the same at Purdue.”
Hazell wasn’t the only name on Purdue fans’ wish list.
Initially, there was support for Northern Illinois’ Dave Doeren, who took his name out of consideration long before he accepted the North Carolina State job. Burke also brought Cincinnati coach Butch Jones to campus Sunday afternoon, the day after the Bearcats clinched a share of a second straight Big East title.
Burke said he first contacted Hazell through a conference call last Wednesday, but didn’t meet with him in person until Monday because he didn’t want to be a distraction from the MAC title game.
By Tuesday, Purdue made its decision. Gov. Mitch Daniels called Hazell on Tuesday night after he accepted the deal.
“He’s very impressive on the phone as well as on paper. He seems to be a high-character person and he has a reputation for caring about the life success of his players and not just simply their success while passing through,” said Daniels, who takes over as Purdue’s president next month but was not involved in the search process. “Those are the kind of values we want Purdue to be successful with.”
Hazell also has been an assistant at Rutgers, West Virginia, Army, Western Michigan, Penn, Eastern Illinois and Oberlin College in Ohio. He was a receiver at Muskinggum College and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame in 1993.
By Andrew P. Napolitano
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