For that, Hazell is set to get a big-time raise as Purdue's next coach.
Word broke late Tuesday night that after a whirlwind nine-day search that started with the Nov. 25 firing of Danny Hope and included an overture to Cincinnati's Butch Jones (he turned the Boilers down), Hazell and Purdue had reached an agreement. School officials are expected to make an official announcement today.
In just his second season the 48-year-old Hazell led Kent State to an 11-2 record, a No. 25 ranking in the AP poll and a berth in the Jan. 6 GoDaddy.com Bowl. That was just the Golden Flashes' third winning season since 1977 and earned Hazell Mid-American Conference coach-of-the-year honors. It got the attention of Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke. He and several school officials visited Hazell in Ohio on Monday.
By Tuesday night, they had their man — but only after he had directed Kent State's first bowl practice that afternoon. It's uncertain if he will coach the Golden Flashes in their GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State.
Player reaction came swiftly via Twitter.
Punter Cody Webster tweeted, “Great sign! Can't wait to meet Coazh Hazell! Really looking forward to it.”
Cornerback Ricardo Allen tweeted, “Let's go Coach Hazell! New head coach!”
Quarterback Rob Henry tweeted, “Very excited to meet Coach Hazell and make 2013 a great year for Boilermaker Football!”
Wide receiver Charles Torwudzo tweeted, “Glad to say we got Darrell Hazell as our new head football coach. Awesome past as a WR coach, lookin forward to meeting him!”
There was reaction from Kent State players. Kicker Freddy Cortez tweeted, “I'm honored to say that I was part of the team that changed the program around in kent, we made history...we have coach hazell to thank!!!”
Kent State has won just 38.8 percent of its games overall, making it one of the least successful programs in college football history. It hadn't had a winning season since 2001.
Hazell made instant impact. In his first season, in 2011, the Golden Flashes won four of their last five games to finish 5-7. This season's highlights included an upset win over 7-0 and then-No. 17 Rutgers. It was their first ever victory over a ranked team.
Purdue's Burke wanted a charismatic, offensive-minded head coach who could sell the program, excite fans, win big, win the right way and fill Ross-Ade Stadium.
The 48-year-old Hazell seems to fit those requirements. He guided the Golden Flashes to an 8-0 MAC record. If not for a double overtime loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, Kent State, and not Northern Illinois, might be playing in the Orange Bowl.
Burke has reportedly lined up a $4.5 million a year salary structure for a new coach and his assistant coaches. Hazell reportedly signed a five-year contract with Kent State that paid him $300,000 a year, not including bonuses.
Hope was the Big Ten's lowest paid coach at $950,000 annually. He was fired after guiding Purdue to a 6-6 record this season, and a 22-27 record in four years. The Boilers will play Oklahoma State (7-5) in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Hazell will be the fourth African American coach in Big Ten football history. The others were Dennis Green and Francis Peay at Northwestern and Bobby Williams at Michigan State.
From 2005 to 2010 Hazell was the receivers coach at Ohio State. His last year there under former coach Jim Tressel he was also the assistant head coach. He previously was the receivers coach/assistant head coach at Rutgers, and before that the running backs coach at West Virginia.
He also coached at West Point (receivers, tight ends), Western Michigan (receivers), Pennsylvania (running backs), Oberlin College (offensive coordinator and running backs) and Eastern Illinois (running backs, wide receivers).
This season the Golden Flashes were a run-first team behind tailbacks Dri Archer and Trayion Durham. Archer has rushed for 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns. Durham has rushed for 1,248 yards and 14 TDs.
Quarterback Spencer Keith completes 55.3 percent of his passes for 1,864 yards, 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Archer is the leading receiver with 35 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns.
If this doesn't sound the like quarterback-friendly approach Burke was talking about at the start of the coaching search, remember Hazell was maximizing the talent he inherited as much as he recruited.
The impact of Hazell's hiring on the 11 recruits committed to Purdue is uncertain. They include highly regarded Terre Haute quarterback Danny Etling.