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November 24, 2012
Danny Hope's days at Purdue might be numbered.
For all anyone might know, he might only have hours.
But following the Boilermakers' Bucket victory over Indiana Saturday, the fourth-year coach wasn't in a mood to speculate on his future.
"Do I expect to be the coach next year?" Hope said. "I don't have any idea, but either way, I'm going to be OK. I've learned to live life on the hot seat here at Purdue and anytime that you have a contract that has some weak spots in it - I didn't have a lot of leverage when I came here (and) I didn't have that strong of a contract from a buyout standpoint or compensation standpoint - you can be on the hot seat. It's been a way of life since I got here.
"I'd love to be back next year, but I'll be fine either way."
It seems more likely than not that Hope has coached at least his last regular season game as the Boilermaker boss, possibility ending on a high note as Purdue has won three straight to end the regular season and qualify for a bowl. After the 56-35 win, wife Sally joined Hope as he celebrated on the field. Then, the offensive line hoisted Hope onto its shoulders, carrying him near the student section to sing "Hail Purdue."
The Boilermakers seemed supportive.
"He's a very energized guy and we like that," defensive tackle Kawann Short said. "He keeps up with the players, always talking to us and we respect him, respect him a lot. We dedicated this game to him and the seniors."
But player support might not be enough. In his four years at Purdue, Hope has a 22-27 record, now guiding the Boilers to back-to-back postseason berths. The tenure thus far has been highlighted by big victories, such as ones at home vs. Ohio State and road Ws at Michigan and Iowa. But there have also been close losses, like Notre Dame at home in 2009 and this season, plus a narrow defeat midseason to unbeaten Ohio State.
And head-scratching losses have stung. In each of his four years, Purdue has lost a significant game to a seemingly lesser opponent, from Northern Illinois in '09, to Toledo, Rice and Minnesota this season.
But this year might have been the most difficult. Purdue was 3-1 to start the season, leading to talk that the Boilermakers could be contenders in the Leaders Division, which Hope certainly didn't shy away from and even may have endorsed.
But the Boilers lost five straight to start the Big Ten, four in blowout fashion, including at the Golden Gophers, before recovering to finish 6-6.
"I wish we would have won more games, yeah absolutely," Hope said, when asked if he had any regrets. "But I don't know what we would have done any different. The end reason is that we found a way and that's what matters.
"I don't know any other expectation to have other than be the best. We had some opportunities early in the season that maybe we could be a football team that could contend to be division champions. I'm not going to shy away from an opportunity like that. And I don't think we should ever direct our team away from opportunities like that."
Purdue could find out its bowl destination as soon as Sunday, but other news might be coming too. Athletic director Morgan Burke declined several media requests for interviews following the game Saturday. And Hope was asked whether he's had a chance to talk to the A.D.
"I've been on the hot seat for about four years, ever since I got here," Hope said. "Sometimes when the sledding gets rough, we'll have some dialogue but not in a while, no."
Hope talked after the win of his commitment to the program in trying to get it on the right track following the end of Joe Tiller's successful tenure in 2008.
"I don't have any question about the commitment I've made," Hope said. "I've worked 85 to 100 hours a week, 50 weeks a year for the last four-and-a-half years in trying to return this program to national prominence and we were a long ways a way in many phases of our program. And what it took was elbow grease and commitment to get us back to where we are right now, where we're in postseason play in back-to-back years and have made improvements in every phases of the program. It's just that plain and simple."
Sally, too, has been by her husband's side. She was on the field for the celebration in the end, and walked through the media right before the post-game press conference, saying she was "gloating" on her way by.
When an onlooker asked why, she said "you counted us all out, couldn't wait for us to lose, but we won."
Danny Hope, who said he hadn't given a thought to his status changing before the bowl, seemed happy to celebrate with his team, calling his time upon the shoulders of the Boilers a "special moment."
"The rivalry is huge and the Oaken Bucket is huge and all those things are huge," he said, "but we won today for ourselves, for our football team, the guys in that locker room, the ones that three or four weeks ago no one else believed in. We did that for ourselves today."
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