Tag Archives: Purdue

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A Little Man’s Take On A Big Sports World | The Business of Rebuilding

Jim Biery

BY JIM BIERY

As the Purdue Boilermakers begin their 2017 football season Sept. 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, they will be led out on the field by first-year head coach Jeff Brohm.

Coach Brohm has led teams into battle before, most recently at Western Kentucky University where he led the Hilltoppers to consecutive Conference USA championships in 2015 and 2016.

The big difference this year is that he will have a pretty large task ahead of him: trying to rebuild a program that has seen little success in recent years and, more importantly, has lost a large part of the fan base mainly because they haven’t posted a winning record since 2011.

When it comes to rebuilding a program, it helps to understand exactly what steps need to be taken and what direction you must lead not only the players on the team but the fan base as a whole. I sat down with Brohm to ask him exactly what the business of rebuilding entails.

Brohm played under Howard Schnellenberger at the University of Louisville from 1989 to 1993 and credits his former coach as being the master of rebuilding programs. Schnellenberger turned the University of Miami into a national championship winner and football powerhouse. He is perhaps best known in these parts for stating the Cardinals were “on a collision course with the national championship. The only variable is time.” This seemed laughable at the time.

The key to the start of a rebuilding process is to get people interested and motivated while giving them a product on the field that is entertaining to watch. Another aspect is to create a brand for the program and also market it in the right way. “As far as getting the team to buy into the right philosophy, you need to get them to believe they are better than what they think they are,” said Brohm. “Create a sense of confidence and swagger as they take the field against any given opponent. The players need to know you are a genuine person and you’re in it for the right reasons, and if you surround yourself with the right people, anything can be achieved.”

For the fans, he said, you have to provide an exciting style of football that they want to come and watch, and know that the team is going to play to the very end with confidence, to see a team that plays hard and lays it all on the line.

Over the past three years, the Boilermakers have averaged 35,731 in attendance and have compiled an overall record of 8-26. This is the lowest three-year average since 1950-1952. That’s pretty dismal considering the seating capacity at Ross-Ade Stadium is 57,236. During this span, teams like Nebraska, Ohio State, and Notre Dame have had more fans in the stands for the game than the Boilermaker.

As far as the boosters of the program are concerned, Brohm said being open and honest with them and having an open-door policy is critical. Letting them know you are listening to them and willing to address any questions they may have is vital to building their support. “If you can get them to buy into what we’re trying to do and show the effort on the field, it helps to get them to trust in your beliefs for the team,” he said.

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Photo of the author with Purdue football head coach Jeff Brohm.

When it comes to putting fans back in the seats, you have to play an exciting schedule with teams outside the Big Ten that people want to see, Brohm said. You need to show the fans that you are competing at a high level, and if you can’t win all the games, the fans need to see the effort. Eventually, you win a few games that you’re not “supposed” to and get better every year, which should bring more people to the games.

When asked what a successful first year would look like, Brohm said he wants a team that is competitive and fights to the very end. This competitiveness should be evident to the average fan. They should be able to walk away from the game and say, “These guys play hard and they competed.” Of course, trying to win six games and go to a bowl is the logical first step.

With such an impressive start to his head coaching career Brohm had several opportunities to choose from when it came to taking the next step. So, why Purdue? “The school has a great tradition, is part of a great conference, and people are hungry for success,” he said.

Is Purdue football on a collision course like Schnellenberger believed UofL was? Who knows. But I’ll tell you this, given Brohm’s track record so far in coaching, not to mention his legendary mentor, I can’t wait for the journey to begin. Boiler Up!

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Four Fans Weigh In On March Madness

By Jim Biery

With multiple legendary college basketball programs in close proximity of each other, it should come as no surprise that the Louisville area has been number one on ESPN’s list of markets for college basketball ratings 14 years in a row. That is almost double the rating of the second-place city, Raleigh-Durham.

Selection Sunday is March 12; first round games start the 16. There will be buzzer beaters, unlikely heroes and heartbreaking upsets. There will also be the so-called experts from Dan Dakich to Jay Bilas to Dick Vitale spewing their knowledge of every team and who they think will be going to Phoenix, the site of this years Final Four.

The local programs in these parts are followed religiously by each team’s loyal-until-death-don’t-even-think-about-calling-or-texting-me-during-the-game type of fans. If this sounds farfetched or overblown to you, I invite you to any local sports bar or family living room to watch and listen to the knowledge and passion each fan has for his or her favorite university.

With all of this knowledge and local support surrounding us, I feel like it would be a refreshing point of view to get the thoughts and expectations of each team from those who follow their beloved universities year in and year out, not just at tournament time.

I asked the same four questions of the following fans about their respective favorite team’s chances in March:

Daniel Franklin, a bleed blue Kentucky fan and avid recreational league player; Greg Deuser, a 1982 Louisville graduate who played on UofL’s 1980 chapionship men’s basketball team; Dan Himmelhaver, 1973 Purdue graduate, who has been a member of the John Purdue Club for 34 years; and 1999 Indiana University graduate Ryan Gobert, a life-long Hoosier fan.

What one player could your team ill afford to lose and why?

Daniel Franklin: Bam Adebayo. He is our only down-low threat. Without him we have no rim protector or legitimate scorer.

Greg Deuser: Donavan Mitchell. The team struggles to score at times. It is hard to compete if Mitchell is having a poor game.

Dan Himmelhaver: Caleb Swanigan. All around player for a big man, has ability to always be where the ball is coming of the boards.

Ryan Gobert: Blackmon and OG Anuoby. Blackmon creates his own shots; Anuoby can be a shut-down defender.

If everyone is healthy, how far could your team go in the tournament?  

Franklin: Cut down the nets. The tools are there, just hasn’t clicked yet.

Deuser: Final Four. Defense will keep them in most games. Consistent scoring and execution in tight games could be the key.

Himmelhaver: Looking to make it to Elite 8.

Gobert: In early December, I would have said Final Four; now, we will need some luck to make the tourney.

What type of team gives your team the most trouble? 

Franklin: Teams that slow tempo and play zone, don’t move the ball quick enough to attack zone.

Deuser: They struggle with teams that mirror them. Teams that defend, like the Cards, and have enough patience to wait for good shots.

Himmelhaver: Quick teams and teams long underneath.

Gobert: Teams that play zone and make in-game adjustments.

Grade your coach on job done up to this point of year.

Franklin: C-. Calipari can get the best talent but struggles getting them to buy into system.

Deuser: B+. Don’t always look like a top team because of style of play. Pitino coaxes a lot of wins out of his teams. He puts their long and athletic players in best position to win games.

Himmelhaver: B. Struggles getting right lineup in against opponents after they substitute players. Poor execution under one minute to go in games.

Gobert: Last year was an A. This year is a D. Talent has regressed and team looks lost at times and not to care at others.

So, there you have it. Honest and direct opinions from people that love and follow their teams year in and year out. As Selection Sunday draws near, you have many decisions to make while you spend countless hours (on company time) filling out your brackets. You can listen to and watch all the breakdowns from an endless supply of ex players and coaches that think they know the game better than others. You can give some serious consideration to your local dedicated fan, or the surprisingly effective strategy of picking the winner by choosing a team based on the color of their uniforms.

No matter how you pick ‘em, I wish you good luck in your office pool. For me, I will stay close to my trusted pundits and listen carefully when they speak about their team’s chances in the Big Dance.