It’s a good thing Jeff Brohm said he likes challenges because he landed a whopper by signing on to coach and rehabilitate Purdue football.
First, remove your hats and bow your heads as we summarize the four-year Darrell Hazell Error, uh, Era of Boilermaker ball that Brohm, who comes from Western Kentucky, must sweep up after:
» Overall record: 9-33 (three wins over FCS foes). Hazell was fired midway through the fourth year.
» Big Ten record: 3-24 (one win over Nebraska, two over Illinois).
» Number of first- or second-team all-conference picks who weren’t kickers: One (defensive back Frankie Williams, and he was a split choice, selected by the coaches but not media).
With such facts at hand, what would possess the 45-year-old Brohm, one of coaching’s rising stars, to take the job?
“The challenge of trying not necessarily to build a program, but to find a way to get it back to where they want to be stood out to me,’’ he said. “This program is hungry for change, and the people in the town and campus are hungry for success.’’
That hunger exists because Purdue fans have feasted on good football in the not-so-distant past.
The Boilermakers, under coach Joe Tiller, played in 10 bowl games in 11 years from 1997 through 2007, including the Rose Bowl to cap the 2000 season. They finished five of those seasons ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.
Since then, Purdue has produced one winning season (7-6 in 2011 under Danny Hope). The drop-off in talent and success the past decade has been so precipitous that many college football analysts have labeled this job a potential career-killer.
Again, why would Brohm — after winning 30 games in three years at Western Kentucky and getting courted by Baylor and Cincinnati — go to Purdue?
A six-year contract at $3.3 million a year is a good place to start. But Brohm said it was more than money. He’s familiar with the region, having grown up in Louisville, Kentucky. He has Big Ten knowledge as a former assistant at Illinois. And then there’s the challenge.
“When you are in a comfortable spot and a lot of people are telling you to wait for that great job to come about where you can fill in and have everything around you,’’ Brohm said, “that’s appealing.
“But for some reason, going to a program that needs direction and needs visible help and needs some energy and excitement to spice it up, the challenge was appealing to me.’’
Something else appealed to Brohm, a former Louisville quarterback for Howard Schnellenberger from 1989 to 1993.
Purdue over the past half century has emerged as “The Cradle of Quarterbacks.’’ Fifteen former Boilermaker quarterbacks have gone on to the NFL and recorded more starts and touchdown passes than those from any other school.
Three are in the College Hall of Fame: Bob Griese, Mike Phipps and Mark Herrmann. Griese and Len Dawson are in the Pro Hall of Fame. Griese, Dawson and Drew Brees started Super Bowls. The only other college with three such starters is Alabama (Bart Starr, Ken Stabler and Joe Namath).
Other identifiable Boiler quarterbacks include Gary Danielson, Jim Everett, Scott Campbell and Kyle Orton.
The quarterback is about to become the focal point of Purdue football again because Brohm wants the ball in the air.
In his three years at Western Kentucky, Brohm’s offense was second, fourth and fifth nationally in passing; fourth, ninth and fifth in total offense; and sixth, third and first in scoring.
At Purdue, Brohm has a gunslinger on site in junior quarterback David Blough.
He led the Big Ten and was 19th nationally last season in passing at 279.3 yards per game with 25 touchdowns. Blough also threw 21 interceptions, a number sure to drop a lot under Brohm’s tutelage.
That’s another challenge he looks forward to.
“I’m just trying to get Purdue back in the mix,’’ Brohm said. “Trying to win some big games and build history and tradition back.’’