Though without much to cheer for lately, Purdue's long-standing fan base is not without passion.
Former Purdue men's basketball player Brian Cardinal, who now serves as Assistant Director for the John Purdue Club, enjoys working with the exuberant supporters and was doing just that Tuesday at the Fort Wayne Country Club during a stop on the Purdue Coaches Caravan tour.
“The fans at Purdue, and the people in general are just passionate” Cardinal said. “It's fun to be around passionate people that want to see success.”
Cardinal was a featured guest at the Caravan along with several of the school's coaches where fans and alumni gathered.
The Caravan went through six cities, including Indianapolis and Chicago, prior to its final stop in Fort Wayne. Cardinal said the showing at Fort Wayne was one of the biggest of the summer.
“This is a great club, and great people,” he said. “They generally have a larger crowd. This is one of our larger caravans.
“Everybody comes out, it's fun catching up with people.”
Cardinal recently retired from a 12-year career in the NBA, so his new position with the John Purdue club fills most of his time. His responsibilities include recruiting and informing potential members about athletic spending.
It's been difficult of late to sell the school's biggest programs, basketball and football, as the teams are perennial let downs.
The football team was 1-11 last season under first-year coach Darrell Hazell. The team's only win came against visiting Indiana State in early September. The Boilermakers was outscored by opponents 400-152 through the remainder of the schedule.
The men's basketball team finished 15-17 with a 5-12 mark in the Big Ten.
“Even though we've struggled the last couple years athletically in football and basketball, we've had a lot of great success in our other sports,” Cardinal said. “People come out to celebrate that and also see what we're going to do to turn the other teams around.”
The women's basketball team, winner of at least 21 games in every season since 2010-11, has been one bright spot for fans. Boilermaker coach Sheryl Versyp said her relationship with administration has made the consistency possible.
“I think that's what we do very well,” Versyp said. “Team building, bringing people in and meshing. That's why we set ourselves up well.”
The former Purdue star believes women's basketball has always been a priority in the athletic department and once the off-court issues are taken care of, she said, it's easy to keep on-court performance consistent.
Purdue will have eight returners to the court next season, including three seniors.