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December 5, 2012

Hazell ready to lead Purdue to 'top of the pack'





Darrell Hazell didn't raise his voice.

But his declarations that Purdue will compete for a Big Ten championship and a trip to the Rose Bowl again were delivered clearly, if not loudly.

Exuding a strong, steady presence, Hazell detailed his expectations for returning the Boilermakers to the top of the league on Wednesday at a press conference introducing him as the program's 35th head football coach.

He said he left Kent State, fresh off a program-best 11 victories, because he thought Purdue has a chance to be "very special."

"Here's a program right now that's in the middle of the pack, but I want to be at the top of the pack pretty quickly, and I think we have an opportunity," Hazell said. "It's kind of unique. When I took the Kent State job, people looked at me like I was crazy. They said, 'They haven't won there in 40 years. Why would you take that job coming from Ohio State?' I bit my lip, and we went to work, and that's what we're going to do here, and we're going to win championships here.

"Only from the alliance of people working with and through each other are great things born, and it's going to take all of us from the Purdue family to win a Big Ten Championship as well as a Rose Bowl Championship. That's what it's all about, and we're going to do it the right way."

Wednesday night was the celebration for Hazell.

Wednesday morning was the struggle.

Hazell met with Kent State coaches and players at Kent State starting at 6:15 a.m., and though brief meetings, both were emotional. A press conference for Kent State media followed, and that was emotional, too, reflecting on relationships and memories built during his two years at the school.

In the afternoon, he hopped a plane for Purdue, sans wife and 11-year-old son. He met Purdue's staff and players shortly before his introductory press conference for local media at 7 p.m.

Soon after it ended, he was going to hop another plane and head back to Ohio, ending a long, roller coaster emotional day.

But Wednesday still was the start of something good, Hazell and Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said. Burke wouldn't release specific terms of the contract but said it was a six-year deal.

"I'm absolutely delighted," Burke said. "I think we've got a partner here that is eager to build upon the work that's been done. He knows the cupboard is not bare. We've got work to do always."

Hazell intends to start his work for Purdue soon. But there is an odd twist: He'll coach Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6. in Mobile, Ala.

After helping the Kent staff start preparation for its bowl the next couple days, Hazell will return to West Lafayette on Saturday. He'll stay through Thursday, using the days to interview the coaches on Purdue's staff and the nights to meet with current commitments.

Then he'll head back to Kent for several days until returning to Purdue on Dec. 21-22 with his family to look for a house.

After a day or so off to celebrate Christmas, Hazell will practice with his team before heading to Dallas to watch Purdue in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. From there, he'll head to Alabama to coach the Golden Flashes.

But Hazell has no worries about being able to balance the two jobs.

"I'll drive back and forth and I do my best thinking in the car," he said. " I really do. I get some great notes in the car, so that will really help."

Hazell's three primary goals - he's big into planning and making lists - are to evaluate the team's current roster, assemble a staff and get on the road to meet the commitments.

"There's a lot of things that this program is going to do in the future, and I'm excited about being the leader," he said. "It's going to be really special, very special. I look forward to meeting everyone and getting to know what Purdue is all about and making me part of the fabric that's made this University so great in the past and in the future."




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