Red Right 88

In Cleveland, hope dies last

The more things change in the MAC …


… the more they stay the same.

As the weeks went by this fall and Kent State built a 10-game winning streak, it became obvious that it was just a matter of when, not if, football coach Darrell Hazell would move to a bigger stage.

Well, it looks like we now know not only the when but the where.

ESPN is reporting that Hazell will be named Purdue’s new football coach on Wednesday, replacing the fired Danny Hope.

UPDATE: On Wednesday, Purdue made the announcement that Hazell will become the school’s 35th football coach.

Purdue? Really?

As much as we knew it was inevitable that Hazell was going to leave, we held out hope that the “where” would be important and maybe we would get one more year out of him on the Golden Flashes’ sideline. Barring that, we at least hoped he would move on to a job at a good school.

But Purdue? They are not winning the Big 10 as long as Urban Meyer is in Columbus (and probably even if he is not). What’s the best case scenario at Purdue? That Hazell leads them to a mid-level bowl game? He could stay at Kent State for another year and do that and then move on to a better job.

This move reminds us of when Gary Waters left the Kent State basketball team to take over at Rutgers. Waters lasted five seasons at Rutgers – where he had no chance of winning – and posted a record of 79-75.

It was different when Stan Heath left – at least that was to Arkansas, where he had a reasonable chance of building a program. Heath may not have been ready after just one year in charge at Kent State, but when a team from the SEC calls it’s hard to say no.

It just feels as if Hazell could have done better if he was patient – especially when you look at the track record of Purdue’s football coaches.

Since 1970, the Boilermakers have had eight head coaches and only one – Jim Young – went on to be a head coach at another program following their time in West Lafayette.

Not exactly a modern-day cradle of coaches there.

We have to wonder if Hazell would have been better off following the model laid down by Meyer, who went from Bowling Green to Utah before making the transition to the big time at Florida. Sure, Nick Saban pulled off the trick by going from Toledo to LSU with a stop at Michigan State in between, but Saban is a unique case.

Like we said, this is nothing new when it comes to the MAC. We remember how, during our first real journalism class at Kent State, our year-end assignment was to write a long-form, topic-driven article. Our choice? How the MAC is just a stepping stone for coaches. The year? 1988.

The part that makes this even worse is that if Hazell takes the job he won’t be around to coach the Golden Flashes when they make their first bowl game appearance since 1972. The same is true for Dave Doeren, who left Northern Illinois for North Carolina State practically before the confetti was cleaned up following the Huskies double overtime win over Kent State for the MAC championship.

(The speed with which North Carolina State moved on the hiring makes us wonder if they had two contracts with them – one for Doeren and one for Hazell – and were just waiting to see who won the game).

Now Doeren won’t be on the sidelines for the Huskies’ appearance in the Orange Bowl, a bowl game that Doeren may never see coaching a football team in a basketball conference.

The NCAA really needs to put a stop to this and make it so teams can’t hire coaches until after their bowl game is over. While you can’t begrudge someone the opportunity to take what they perceive to be a better job, a coach’s duty shouldn’t end until his team finishes its season – and that includes a bowl game.

We certainly wish Hazell luck and there is little doubt that he’s leaving the Kent program better than he found it.

We just can’t shake the feeling that he’s selling himself short by taking the Purdue job.

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