For fans, it comes down to emotions – but for athletic director Morgan Burke, the firing of Danny Hope was a numbers game.
Burke, the former vice-president of Inland Steel Company, is an operations guy who always placed a heavy emphasis on numbers. From 2007 until 2012, Purdue average attendance went from 54,000 to 37,000, with a decline every year. This year’s paid attendance is the lowest since 1992 when Jim Colletto was the head coach at Purdue. Purdue is approximately $1.5 million behind its projected ticket sales numbers.
“We’ve lost a third of the fan base … but we can’t do what we need to do, resource-wise, with losing a third of the fan base, okay?” Burke said. “Everybody has all kinds of ideas and rationale on what we can do. But, at the end of the day ... we’ve got some work to do, to both thank the people who have been with us and stayed with us, but also encourage those who jumped off the boat to get back in.”
Burke pointed out that Hope was compensated similar to Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema when he took the job. To both Hope and Purdue’s all-time winningest coach Joe Tiller, the bigger issue was the compensation of their assistant coaches.
“From a compensation standpoint we’re way behind from assistant coaches’ salaries,” Hope said after winning the Old Oaken Bucket. “We’re probably $300,000 or $400,000 behind; pool-wise, next to last. We’re 12th in the Big Ten ... and that really affects the program in a lot of ways. I feel like it had an adverse effect on coach (Joe) Tiller’s regime at the end. He wasn’t able to retain a lot of his top coaches.”
Purdue is at the bottom of the Big Ten, paying the full coaching staff $2.5 million per year. Burke reportedly wants to increase that number to $4.5 million, which would put Purdue in the top half of the Big Ten. Ohio State and Michigan both offer above $7 million in total staff compensation. While Purdue has gone to donors and John Purdue Club members to raise the money to make this happen, additional Big Ten Network revenue money could be the answer in future years.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Pete Thamel, the Big Ten conference expects each school to make $43 million in 2017 when the Big Ten renegotiates its television contract; that number is up from $24 million in 2012. This does not take future expansion of the conference into play, as many expect the Big Ten to go to 16 teams, which could increase payout.