Athletic directors making coaching changes midseason is nothing new. Purdue coach Darell Hazell was no less than the third FBS coach to be dismissed this season, following LSU’s Les Miles and FIU’s Ron Turner, when Purdue showed him the door Sunday.
But the decision of Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski – who resigned his position at Georgia Tech in August to take the same job at Purdue – to fire Hazell six games into the season appeared to contradict statements he has made in the past about firing coaches before the end of the season. Last February, for instance, when Tech basketball coach Brian Gregory’s job status was uncertain, Bobinski argued against the practice.
“If you’re in a business situation and you’re halfway through your year and you think you have a chance to get it right, and someone says, ‘You’re not going to get that chance,’ it just doesn’t seem like something that makes any sense,” he said. “Why would you make a decision now? There’s no advantage gained whatsoever on anything like that.”
Hazell’s removal is not unreasonable. The Boilermakers were 9-33 overall and 3-24 in the Big Ten under his leadership. They were pummeled 49-35 by Iowa this past Saturday on homecoming to fall to 3-3.
At a news conference Sunday, Bobinski said he had been thinking about Hazell and his future since his first day on the job in September, calling it a “pivotal year for our program.” He said that he hoped that the Boilermakers would build on a win the previous week over Illinois.
“Honestly, as the game unfolded, particularly the first half where we just weren’t as competitive, weren’t making that sign of progress, it got me to a point where I think we’re stuck in a place that we need to do something to change the dynamic,” said Bobinski, according to the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal & Courier.
Bobinski’s further explanation for the midseason change was that the players “deserve nothing but our very best effort.”
After Saturday’s game, Hazell’s sentiments seemed to practically echo Bobinski’s scenario about an employee thinking he or she has a chance to get it right before being denied the opportunity.
“I’m doing everything right to help these guys become better,” said Hazell, asked why he was the person to lead the Boilermakers. “There’s no question we’re moving forward.”
Further, the weight that Bobinski indicated he applied to Saturday’s game – as convincing as it evidently was – also was out of line with his previously stated approach.
“It’s only fair to evaluate the entire body of work as opposed to snippets of it,” he said in February. “It’s one of the things that you learn when you’re in this business, that you can’t react game to game, day to day, possession to possession, half to half. You’ve got to take a little bit longer view or you’ll drive yourself nuts. … You’ve got to take a more balanced and longer view and you can only do that if you have all the evidence in front of you.”
Bobinski’s decision to terminate Hazell midway through the season wasn’t wrong, necessarily. The case was compelling. Nor is a change in philosophy not allowed. There are at least a couple lines of logic for making a midseason change rather than waiting. One is that a change can spur a turnaround, which Bobinski seemed to suggest. Another is that, if a decision has been made, there is no point in giving a coach the chance to make a play for it. Indeed, the performance of Gregory’s team over the final half of the ACC season and into the NIT gave his supporters more ground to lobby for his return.
Each situation is unique. Regardless, Bobinski is apparently approaching his new job differently than he did his last.