Purdue coaching candidates and potential replacements for Darrell Hazell, who was fired by the Boilermakers on Sunday.
The groans heard around West Lafayette after the last three-plus years turned to sighs of relief Sunday when Purdue fired head coach Darrell Hazell. The move put an end to an extremely underwhelming tenure and gave plenty of Boilermakers fans what they’ve wanted for quite some time.
Hazell went 9-33 and 3-24 in Big Ten play with Purdue after taking the job in December of 2012, following just two seasons at Kent State. The Boilermakers dropped to 3-3 this season after losing to Iowa on Saturday, and athletic director Mike Bobinski released a statement Sunday announcing Hazell’s dismissal and promotion of wide receivers coach Gerad Parker to interim head coach.
Parker isn’t expected to get the permanent job, though. Bobinski likely will look to make a splash with his first football hire since being named athletic director in August. Here are five potential candidates to replace Hazell, in no particular order.
Les Miles – Former LSU head coach
This is the dream hire for every single Purdue fan, and possibly even Bobinski himself. The chances of him winding up in West Lafayette appear slim, though.
LSU fired Miles four games into this season, an unceremonious and probably undeserved dismissal considering his accomplishments with the Tigers. Purdue would gain immediate credibility if it were able to lure Miles, whose recruiting ability would make for a significant upgrade in talent in likely a short amount of time.
Bobinski wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t reach out to Miles, but it seems more likely that Miles is looking for a job at a program with a larger national profile and will have his pick of openings around the nation.
P.J. Fleck – Western Michigan head coach
Purdue would be taking another chance on a MAC coach, but Fleck is far different. He’s completely turned around the program in less than four years and has the Broncos at 7-0 and ranked No. 20 in the latest AP Top 25. That’s a far cry from the 1-11 campaign he suffered through in his first season in Kalamazoo.
Fleck has done it by bringing in the top recruiting class in the MAC the last few years and instilling a winning attitude with his Row the Boat motto. The 35-year-old is one of the hottest names in coaching circles right now, is loved by his players and has a proven track record of bringing a program from horrible depths to national relevance in short order.
It’s just a matter if Fleck believes Purdue is a step up from the great situation he has at Western Michigan. He could stick around in Kalamazoo until the right job comes up, and the Purdue gig might not be enough for him to leave.
Brock Spack – Illinois State head coach
Some were surprised when Danny Hope and not Spack was named Purdue’s coaching-in-waiting in 2008 before Joe Tiller retired following that season. Instead, Spack took the head job at Illinois State in 2009 following 12 years as the Boilermakers’ defensive coordinator.
Spack’s lack of head coaching experience prevented the Purdue graduate from getting the job last time, but that certainly won’t be the reason he doesn’t get an offer this go-around. He’s 58-33 at Illinois State with an appearance in the FCS championship game and has turned the Redbirds into a perennial contender at that level. Spack also led ISU to a victory at Northwestern earlier this season.
Given his success as a head coach and ties to Purdue, it’s likely Spack will have a decent shot at landing the job if guys like Miles and Fleck don’t accept Bobinski’s overtures.
Ed Warinner – Ohio State offensive coordinator
The long-time assistant likely will be busy interviewing for head coaching jobs this offseason considering his success with the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes are one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation, something that shouldn’t be much of a surprise considering Warinner has led high-power offenses at plenty of his other stops during a 33-year career.
Warinner has been known as a quality recruiter, something Purdue needs badly in order to get some better talent on the roster. He’s not a sexy name being mentioned for big jobs, and he doesn’t have any Purdue ties, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Bobinski at least contact Warinner about his interest in the job.
Chris Klieman – North Dakota State head coach
Back-to-back FCS titles in his first two seasons as the Bison’s head coach is a great accomplishment. Granted, NDSU won the championship the previous three seasons, too, but it hasn’t taken a single step back since Klieman was promoted from defensive coordinator following Craig Bohl’s departure for Wyoming.
Klieman wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the pressure of having to revitalize Purdue’s fledgling program. It’s just a matter if he has the ability to make the jump from the FCS in terms of recruiting. Klieman probably won’t be offered the job unless other candidates fall through, but Bobinski could at least extend an interview opportunity.