football Edit

Gold and Black @ 30: Year 10--1999-2000

Related links: Year 1: 1990-91 | Year 2: 1991-92 | Year 3: 1992-93 | Year 4: 1993-94 | Year 5: 1994-95 | Year 6: 1995-96 | Year 7: 1996-97 | Year 8: 1997-98 | Year 9: 1998-99

Gold and Black Illustrated is celebrating 30 years of publishing. Over the next few weeks, we will look at each publishing year, recalling the moments that took place in that particular year.

Note: Captions describing each cover are not available on mobile platforms.

My memories of 1999-2000

Purdue had few seasons in our 30 years of publishing where it was more in the national spotlight. Junior quarterback Drew Brees was a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate, making it to New York and finishing fourth behind winner Ron Dayne of Wisconsin. The men's basketball team came within an eyelash of the Final Four, falling short to ... Wisconsin.

It was a year of being oh-so-close.

Football navigated its way through a murderous October schedule, the hardest four-week stretch in school history. Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State were all in the top-5 when Purdue played them, and Ohio State was ranked No. 21. The Boilermakers, under third-year coach Joe Tiller, were trying hard to swim with the sharks, and they did. Purdue had great opportunities to win three of those four games but only beat Nick Saban's Spartans.

Another tough home loss to Wisconsin, and I thought the Boilermakers might be headed to Texas again for a bowl. But the marketability of Brees and the fact that the Boilermakers had lost those three of those four games (sans Michigan) by a combined 16 points earned Purdue a New Year's Day bowl trip to Tampa.

And when Purdue got to Florida, things looked good early. A 25-0 lead over Georgia seemed insurmountable, and it should have been. But after a comedy (thought it wasn't funny to Purdue fans) of errors and bad bounces, missed kicks and questionable calls by referees, the Boilermakers found a way to lose to the Bulldogs.

I outlined the story of Purdue's men's basketball near miss below, but one thing we didn't miss on was the hiring of Brian Neubert on a full-time basis. Neubert had interned with us as an undergrad the year before, and we were fortunate to be able to hire him full-time.

Twenty years later, I can safely say I have never made a better personnel move in my career.

My Favorite Cover

Drew Brees, Purdue Boilermakers Football
There were high hopes for junior quarterback Drew Brees and the Boilermakers in the 1999 season. (Tom Campbell)

My favorite cover comes on the heels of my favorite photo shoot of all time.

On a beautiful late July day, photographer Tom Campbell and I picked up junior quarterback Drew Brees and transported him to Grissom Air Force Base where there were some old fighter planes. Purdue's official theme of the 1999 season was "Air-Strike '99" with Brees posters seemingly everywhere. So, this theme made sense.

Brees took a one-hour late afternoon nap on the drive from West Lafayette to Grissom. But when he arrived, he was his alive, jovial self and ready to go. And we were ready with props and all. If you look closely at the image, Brees even had his own name badge to go along with his jump suit. I can't recall whose idea it was to get the badge and jump suit. It might have been editor Doug Griffiths or Jim Clary, a Peru native whose company just happened to be printing our football and basketball yearbooks at the time.

The shoot concluded and Clary had a spot in Peru that we could take Brees to dinner in "payment" for his shoot. Long before the days of NIL legislation, we had checked with Purdue compliance and they deemed it legal to take a student-athlete up to 50 miles away for a promotional shoot and that we could legally buy him dinner. In truth, the 50 miles was probably more like 55, but it was a great evening for all of us. Brees had a presence then that you could tell would only blossom as he aged.

The best part of the trip was the way home. Campbell and I were big fans of the movie "Caddyshack" and knew many, if not most, of the lines of the flick by heart. I am not sure how the conversation in the car started, but Campbell and I quoted a few of our favorites and found out that Brees knew as many or more than we did.

So we had that going for us, which is nice.

I don't think I have ever laughed more than we all did on the way home. In my years at Gold and Black, I didn't make a habit of gushing over college-aged kids. But, you couldn't help but know you were in the presence of a personality and athlete that was truly special.

It remains fun for me to watch Brees continue to evolve as a national celebrity and football star. It is extra special, because, at least for an afternoon and evening, we got to know him "when."

What happened in 1999-2000 that is relevant today

As the cover image below indicates, there was despair in the Purdue locker room after its 64-60 loss to Wisconsin in the Elite Eight matchup in Albuquerque, N.M.

Senior Brian Cardinal so wanted to deliver a trip to the Final Four in Indianapolis for coach Gene Keady. And, as all Purdue fans are painfully aware, Purdue is still in search of a Final Four appearance 20 years later.

It's hard to have a conversation with Cardinal about his Boilermaker career and not have that topic come up. It is a missing piece that Cardinal will never quite be able to find.

Yes, Purdue has had other chances since. It came a millisecond short of college basketball's promised land in the heartbreaking Elite Eight loss to Virginia in 2019, and had other teams (2010, especially) that were capable of making it all the way.

But 2000 was the last reasonable chance for Keady to make it. And I remember having a clear sense of that in the moment. Keady was 63 at the time, and the cupboard was bare in terms of incoming talent. It was unlikely Keady would ever come close again, and that proved true in his final five years of coaching as he made the NCAA Tournament just once, making it to the Round of 32 in 2003.

The two other things that stand out from that experience are this:

First, I remember lugging a box of special Gold and Black Final Four issues to the dumpster at The Pit. The idea and plan was to distribute them to the team and fans so we could get a little pub during the televised post-game net cutting ceremonies after Purdue beat Wisconsin. The 1,000 copies of the four-page "magazine" had spent the game under my feet on press row, just waiting for the right moment that never came.

The Pit was literally submerged in a hole (or maybe it was a pit) as you had to walk up a pretty steep incline to get to ground level and to the dumpsters. I remember how heavy the magazines were and that it was a warm day. Adding in the altitude of Albuquerque, and I recall being a bit out of breath when I got to the dumpsters (poor me, right?).

Ironically, we tried a similar special issue strategy two years earlier when Purdue traveled to St. Louis for the 1998 Regionals. Stanford, Rhode Island and Valpo were in Purdue's way, but the Boilermakers had as good a chance as anyone ... or so it seemed . Unfortunately, the Boilermakers couldn't get past Stanford in the Sweet 16 and the magazines that were to be delivered on the morning of the Elite Eight game that never happened for Purdue never made it.

Our staff was sworn to secrecy about the production of the special Final Four issue for years after, as we didn't want Keady or the basketball staff to find out ... at least while Keady was still coaching at Purdue.

Twenty years later, I guess it is OK to divulge our plan.

The second thing I recall about the Elite Eight experience was that the team charter, which in those days Gold and Black staffers were part of, wasn't set to leave for several hours after the loss. While we waited, I remember picking up dinner and watching Keady graciously sign autographs for Wisconsin fan (yes, Wisconsin fans) in the restaurant.

Keady had to be heartbroken, and I think he sensed this might be his last chance to make it to college basketball's holy grail. But he smiled and signed the autographs and wished the fans luck in Indianapolis where the 2000 Final Four was played.

It was hard not to respect the coach after that. And that act of kindness, sportsmanship, whatever you want to call it, makes that moment very relevant to me today. Acts of kindness and decency, even in the depths of despair, never grow old.

Tom Campbell's image reflected how tough a loss the Elite Eight game with Wisconsin was for Brian Cardinal and the Boilermaker team.
Tom Campbell's image reflected how tough a loss the Elite Eight game with Wisconsin was for Brian Cardinal and the Boilermaker team.

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