Big Ten Playbook: Some reaches for the Purdue job. And Western intrigue.

Good luck to Darrell Hazell, who was shown the door after 3-1/2 seasons at Purdue. Hazell was 9-33 overall, and 3-24 in the Big Ten. Probably not cool to round off at an engineering school, but that works out to one Big Ten win a year—and two of them were against Illinois.

Gould Headshot square

Insert your own punch line here. . .

But know this: It's very tough to be successful at Purdue. Even though the Boilermakers have a proud tradition for producing quarterbacks, that was a long time ago.

What Joe Tiller did there, aided by his shrewd decision to roll with under-recruited Drew Brees, was remarkable. The Boilermakers made 10 bowl appearances on his 1997-2008 watch, highlighted by the 2000 Rose Bowl.

How many light-years ago does that seem now?


Given the Mid-American Conference’s history and proximity, the spotlight will be on P.J. Fleck as a likely Purdue coaching candidate.

Simple advice from here. . . don’t go there, P.J.

Fleck has taken Western Michigan to unprecedented heights—including the school’s first top-25 ranking, wins at Northwestern and Illinois, a 7-0 start and some great locker-room pep talks on ESPN.

Purdue is a tough place to win these days, And Fleck has earned the right to a bigger job, a job where the prospects for success are better.

I’m not going to dissect that here. But one job that comes to mind is the Houston job. It’s pretty much a given that Tom Herman is going to receive a big payday elsewhere. His successor will inherit a very good situation, but also one that requires an accomplished coach.

Don’t be surprised if Fleck lands there—or at a similarly promising post that opens when the many coaching dominoes start falling in November and December.


I knew Mike Bobinski very casually in the mid-‘80s, when he was a fledging staffer at Notre Dame, where he had played baseball. What a great place to hone your athletic administration skills. Bobinski has made all the stops, including Akron, Xavier and Georgia Tech, which he left in August to take the Purdue job.

I expect he’ll make a really good hire. And that won’t be easy, given where the Purdue football program is at.

Some have thrown out the name of recently fired LSU coach Les Miles, a Michigan man. That would be a shocker. I expect Miles will end up in a place that provides a better opportunity to win.

I will throw out a couple of names, with the caveat that these are merely interesting connect-the-dots possibilities, rather than inside tips.

@Craig Bohl, Wyoming: Purdue found Old Gold when it hired Tiller out of Laramie. A Toledo native, Tiller played at Montana State and basically spent his career out West, except for a brief stint as a Purdue assistant.

Bohl, a Lincoln native who played at Nebraska, has the Cowboys on the uptick. They're 4-2, including a loss at Nebraska. He’s in his third season there after an impressive 11-year run that put giant-killer North Dakota State on the map. Bohl also was a longtime Nebraska assistant.

The drawback? Bohl is 58. Then again, Tiller was 54 when Purdue hired him.

@Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech: Bobinski just left Atlanta for West Lafayette. Why not the Yellow Jackets coach?

On the one hand, that’s a very lateral move. On the other hand, Bobinski did it. With the right financial incentive. . .

A couple of other points. Johnson has been making some interesting comments lately, comments that seem curiously restless. After eight years at Georgia Tech, and with a new boss, who knows?

Again, the drawback is that Johnson is 59. But he’s been successful at Georgia Southern and Navy as well as Georgia Tech. And the Yellow Jackets seem to have hit a wall lately in a conference where it’s difficult for them to win consistently.

That’s what I’ve got on Purdue’s football fortunes. I hope they’re on the uptick for the sake of my friend, Jerry Palm. No matter what, Jerry, you’ll always have the Big Bass Drum.


Have you noticed that, for all the hype about East leaders Ohio State and Michigan, the West has shaped up as a much more interesting division?

With Michigan State in the tank, and Penn State plodding along, the third most interesting team in the East is. . . Indiana.

If you like 58-0 and you wear Maize-and-Blue, or Scarlet-and-Gray, I'm happy for you. But if you want more than one competitive game this fall, go West.

I’m actually looking forward to seeing what the Hoosiers can do on Saturday at Northwestern. And whether Northwestern can keep it going.

I’m also very curious about Wisconsin at Iowa this week, followed by Nebraska at Wisconsin on Oct. 29. The Badgers have played excellent football to this point against a brutal schedule. With no margin for missteps, they’ll need to keep bringing their A-game. Not easy to do that every week.

With its road wins at Iowa and Michigan State, Northwestern is one of the many reasons the West is best when it comes to watching competitive and entertaining teams.

Add unbeaten Nebraska, over-achieving Wisconsin, up-and-down Iowa and a capable Gopher team to the revived Wildcats, and you have an intriguing division.

I’m holding to my prediction that the Badgers, despite their 1-2 start, will win out and earn another slot in the Big Ten championship game.

And if the Cornhuskers and their fans want to see this as a sign of disrespect, all I’ll say is: Be glad that when the going gets tough, Indiana defensive backs will bump into each other.