December 5, 2012
Analysts think Hazell a good fit
As an analyst on the Big Ten Network, Gerry DiNardo often gets unfettered access to watch practices, getting the opportunity to see coaches interact with their players.
And in doing so, he watched the way Darrell Hazell, a former assistant head coach at Ohio State, coached his group of wide receivers and came away impressed. On Tuesday night, Hazell, a second-year head coach at Kent State, accepted the same job at Purdue.
"I used to watch him quite a bit; he's a great teacher, has a great relationship with players, he's high energy," said DiNardo, who will analyze Purdue's hire during a TV special tonight on BTN. "And when I was involved in some search (consulting) work a couple years back, I obviously had a list of candidates that I felt were ready to be head coaches, and Darrell was there. I talked to his agent, totally investigated him and just got rave reviews from everyone who knows him. I think it's a terrific hire, I'm excited and can't wait to watch him get going."
After seven seasons at Ohio State, Hazell got that opportunity at Kent State, guiding the Golden Flashes to 16 wins in his two seasons, including 11 this year. The Flashes might have come within a game of a BCS berth, considering Northern Illinois was selected after its win over KSU in the MAC Championship.
Hazell, who will be introduced at a press conference at 7 tonight, has seen both ends of the college football spectrum. At Ohio State, he was part of a national championship-caliber program; At KSU, he took over a program that has one of the worse all-time winning percentages of Division I schools.
But winning 11 games there might be the culmination of 25 previous years as an assistant.
"To me, he's a guy who has paid his dues," BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart said. "You look at his résumé and where he's been and he's been at many different levels at the college level. He's had to work at places that haven't had the best of everything and he's worked at a place like Ohio State who does have the best of everything. So I think he has a full, complete background. I think that's something he brings to the table that's going to be an asset to Purdue.
What he did at Kent State in two years was remarkable. In my mind, that has always been one of the worst jobs in America. He had them on the precipice of going to a BCS bowl and their first bowl since 1972. For him to win at that place in just two short years is remarkable."
BTN analyst Glen Mason knows of that difficulty, having coached there - and experiencing some success, with a 12-10 record - for two seasons in 1986-87.
"I was just really impressed with what he did at the time that he was there," Mason said of Hazell, "mostly notably the run this year, getting to within an eyelash of the BCS. That's quite an accomplishment at a place like Kent State."
Dienhart thinks Hazell's experience at Kent State, which had only a .388 winning percentage prior to 2012, could be beneficial at Purdue. Although the Boilermakers have experienced some success in the last decade-and-a-half, the program has had its share of doldrums, as well.
"Purdue's not an elite job with all the bells and whistles," Dienhart said. "If you're a coach whose had to make due in challenging circumstances where you didn't have the biggest budget, best facilities or best players I think that does prepare you much better for a program like Purdue, where you're not going to have the best of everything. I think Hazell realized you can win at Purdue. He brings knowledge of the fact that you can succeed at Purdue with a background where he's worked at institutions that are similar to Purdue on many levels. It's going to be a nice combination to bring to West Lafayette."
DiNardo thinks Hazell can build off Purdue's consecutive 6-6 regular seasons, much like the improvement he made at Kent State.
"Whenever somebody turns it around that quickly, they obviously bonded with players and knew what they wanted to do immediately scheme-wise," DiNardo said, "and so it's always impressive when a guy has that much success that soon."
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