So where does Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke want to go in this new Black and Gold football world?
“I make no bones about it,” he said. “We want to go to Pasadena.”
The Rose Bowl is something a new Boiler coach will shoot for. Danny Hope's shot is over.
Burke announced Sunday evening that Hope is out after a four-year record of 22-27, 13-19 in the Big Ten and 15-13 at Ross-Ade Stadium. Saturday's 56-35 Oaken Bucket win over rival Indiana wasn't enough to save his job. Neither was a three-game winning streak that made Purdue bowl eligible with a 6-6 record.
“We wanted to move up a rung on the ladder, win more games and be more consistent,” Burke said during Sunday's press conference. “It didn't happen.”
Money also was a factor in Hope's dismissal. Attendance had plunged to 37,000 this season from 54,000 in 2007. Burke noticed.
“We've lost a third of our fan base,” he said.
And then: “If you lose $3 million a year in revenue opportunities, it's a big deal.”
And then: “We haven't excited the fan base. I felt like a change in leadership was the right thing to do.”
Burke said Purdue is “an offensive-minded program and I don't see that changing.” He said that the Boilers tradition of quarterback excellence would be a factor in hiring the new coach. He also said he won't look for a dramatically different style of play, such as Michigan experienced when it hired spread offense guru Rich Rodriguez.
"We built this team to play a certain kind of football," Burke said, "and we've seen other institutions who have made a coaching change, change their style of play, and it took two or three years to adjust. We're not going to do that. We've got talent in this program."
Hope added he wouldn't hire a consulting firm, but would get help from Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, Houston Texans' general manager Rick Smith and former Colts president Bill Polian.
Burke said there wasn't a timetable to name a new coach. He said “head coaching experience was a plus, but not a must.” He added that having a Purdue connection would be a positive, but not a necessity. He said the university is prepared to pay competitive salaries for the new coach and for assistant coaches. Indications are that could range from $4 to $5 million annually.
Potential replacements include Ball State's Pete Lembo, Cincinnati's Butch Jones, Louisiana Tech's Sonny Dykes, Northern Illinois' Dave Doeren, Kent State's Darrell Hazell and Illinois State's Brock Spack.
Spack was the former Boilers' defensive coordinator who was passed over for Hope when Joe Tiller retired. Illinois State is 8-2 and ranked No. 15 in FCS this season.
The Boilers also could go with a NFL coach, perhaps an offensive coordinator as Penn State did with former New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien.
Receivers coach Patrick Higgins will serve as interim head coach for the upcoming bowl game. Burke said Purdue should know about its bowl bid by next week. The likely bowls are Dec.28 in Houston or Jan. 1 in Dallas.
Hope, whose contract was good through the 2016 season, will receive a $600,000 buyout. He made a Big Ten-low $950,000 this season. Hope said that salary was competitive for entry level work in the Big Ten.
“Under Coach Hope's leadership we did make significant progress as a program,” Burke said. “We're seeing the fruits of that. Danny Hope is a good man who did good work. The winning streak is a credit to Coach Hope and his staff.”
Higgins will continue to handle offensive coordinator duties because of offensive coordinator Gary Nord's severe back injury as well as recruiting and head coach responsibilities. Nord will be an adviser to Higgins.
“We want the next month to be a life lesson for players to handle adversity,” Higgins said.
“Kids are resilient. They love Danny, but they're committed to doing the best job they can over the next month.”
Burke said he sent a letter to the 12 committed Purdue recruits in an effort to keep them. They are led by four-star quarterback Danny Etling of Terre Haute. Nothing is official until February's signing period.