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But last year’s late-season success raised expectations _ expectations that fell flat this season and resulted in empty seats.

Things looked promising after a 3-1 start. Then came blowout losses at home to Michigan and Wisconsin, and the restless fans started calling for a change. The rumors were so loud by Oct. 29 that Burke took the unusual step of issuing a statement that essentially said he would wait until the end of the season before making a decision.

Hope knew what was being said.

“I don’t have any idea. But either way, I’m going to be OK,” he said when asked about returning next season after Saturday’s game. “Like I said, I’ve learned to live life on the hot seat here at Purdue. Any time that you have a contract that has some weak spots in it, I didn’t have a lot of leverage when I came here. I don’t have that strong of a contract from a buyout standpoint or a compensation standpoint, any time you’re dealing with a contract like that, you can be on the hot seat on a regular basis.”

The buyout was only $600,000 and declined by $100,000 each successive year.

Players also had a sense the move was coming.

After beating the hated Hoosiers, Hope hugged his wife and one of his players before leading the team singing the school’s fight song in front of the student section. When the song ended, two players hoisted Hope on their shoulders briefly _ a moment Hope called special.

During postgame interviews, players expressed support for Hope, none more emphatically than sixth-year quarterback Robert Marve. He thanked Hope for giving him multiple second chances and allowing him to play this season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

For now, the Boilermakers are asking Higgins, who had been calling the plays while offensive coordinator Gary Nord was out with a back injury, to pick up the pieces. Nord will serve as a senior adviser for the bowl game.

Hope and Purdue opened this season by talking publicly about reaching the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, putting the program back on the national map and possibly returning to a New Year’s Day bowl game.

When that didn’t happen, it sealed Hope’s fate.

“I don’t like to walk in the locker room and see the faces on the young men after they lose,” Burke said. “I don’t like to see the long faces on the coaches who I have a lot of respect for.

“I know how hard they’ve worked and how close they’ve been,” Burke added.