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Purdue athletic director not about to fall behind

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For more on Purdue athletics, follow Pete DiPrimio via Twitter at pdiprimio.

Football facilities part of the coaching investment

Tuesday, December 11, 2012 - 12:04 am

WEST LAFAYETTE -- Morgan Burke has no need or plan to build a football Taj Mahal.

That doesn't mean, as Purdue's athletic director eyes the football future -- can you say Rose Bowl with new coach Darrell Hazell? -- that he doesn't have a facility vision. Keeping up with the Big Ten neighbors is a never-ending task.

“There are some cosmetic things to do,” he said. “It never goes away. We're not in bad shape. We're not where we were 10 years ago. The key is to make sure we keep it contemporary and don't fall behind.”

Ross-Ade Stadium underwent a $70 million renovation a decade ago. A $1.7 million high-tech scoreboard was added. A Bermuda grass field was installed. The indoor practice facility and the outdoor practices fields were enhanced.

Then there's the $100 million Mackey Arena renovation that included a state-of-the-art sports medicine complex, a new weight room and an academic support center that benefits all 18 Purdue sports.

As far as specific Ross-Ade Stadium improvements, Burke is looking at redesigning the south end zone. An architectural study is set to start in January, with plans to be considered by the summer.

“I don't have a timeline on it,” Burke said. “I don't know how much it will cost or what we'll do. I do know we have more bad capacity I'd like to get rid of.”

That could mean moving the scoreboard closer to the football field and reducing stadium capacity from 62,500 to around 56,000.

“I'd rather have a tight stadium where it is loud so that the sound reverberates throughout the stadium,” Burke said. “I look at it as a down payment.”

The down payment started with last week's hiring of Hazell from Kent State. Details have yet to be specified other than Hazell has a six-year contract. Reports have it as $2 million annually. Add assistant coaches' salaries and it likely will be around $4.5 million a year.

“He'll have a salary pool that will put him right up there with all but a handful of SEC schools,” Burke said. “It matches up very well with the top tier in the Big Ten.”

And then:

“He's got all the money he needs to hire the best staff he needs.”

Burke calls it doubling down. He will use a lot of resources to pay for everything. Some of it will come from the lucrative Big Ten Network, some from alumni contributions and some from tapping into the other sports budgets. It's what he did when he boosted basketball coach Matt Painter's salary about 18 months ago.

“We all have to help,” Burke said. “Everybody will get their opportunity. I'll get in your wallets a little bit. Not a lot, but a little bit.”

During much of former coach Danny Hope's tenure there was the perception that Purdue lacked the financial resources to pay coaches. Not true, Burke said.

“I was going there (to a larger salary). I would have moved Danny up. It wasn't a matter of not having the resources or not wanting to invest. But you have to have success. We weren't consistent.”

Hope started on the low end of the Big Ten pay scale because he arrived without Big Ten head coaching experience. Hope's only previous head coaching job was at Eastern Kentucky. If he had won more, Burke would have boosted his salary, just as he did with Joe Tiller before him. Just as he did with Painter.

But Hope was 5-7 and 4-8 in his first two seasons with multiple on-field mistakes turning winnable games into defeats. Attendance plunged and alumni giving dropped. Last year's 7-6 record didn't generate much fan enthusiasm. Blowout home losses to Michigan and Wisconsin to open Big Ten play ensured poor home crowds the rest of the season despite a 6-6 record and a berth in the Jan. 1 Heart of Dallas Bowl.

“It was misconstrued that were were hamstrung (financially),” Burke said. “If I had put the money out with us not having successful, people would have said, what the hell are you doing?”

Burke wasn't a one-man hiring staff. He got senior associate athletic directors Glenn Tompkins and Barb Kapp (who specializes in business) to “work the (financial) numbers.” He got input from senior athletic director Nancy Cross, and from assistant athletic director Calvin Williams, a former Purdue football standout and seven-year NFL veteran.

And, of course, Burke got guidance from three NFL veteran administrators in Bill Polian (former NFL executive, including Indianapolis Colts general manager), Ryan Grigson (Colts general manager) and Rick Smith (Houston Texans general manager).

“I had a great team,” Burke said. “I feel fortunate. Everybody feels like they got a piece of the pie. That will help us get off to a fast start.”

Hazell is in the process of hiring a staff. It is, he said, his most immediate priority. He said he will interview current Purdue assistant coaches, plus assistant coaches on his Kent State staff, and beyond. The fact that he has former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel to bounce ideas and names off of, Burke said, is a plus. Hazell coached under Tressel for seven years.

“He'll use Jim Tressel,” Burke said. “I want to make sure he has good mentors and advisers as he goes out and finds his people. We have to make sure that up and down that list, we have all-stars.”

It's time, Burke added, to pay for those all-stars.

“We needed to invest. We knew we had to put the human resources in place.

“We know that 95 percent of our revenue comes from two revenue streams (football and basketball), so it supports the opportunities for 580 young men and women. The point is we're doubling down. We're not going to be status quo. We're going to move into a new orbit. We're going to shoot the rockets and get going.

“We've got the right guy in the captain's chair. We've got to get him some lieutenants and let's get on with it.”