Tim Tibesar has been in this situation before.
At Kansas State in 2008, the staff was fired with three games left, but kept on to finish the season, and they nearly extended it, ending a win short of bowl eligibility. Purdue qualified for a bowl this season, but still Tibesar and his fellow assistant coaches are spending their time both preparing the Boilers for a game while also looking for future work.
"You do your job like a professional," the defensive coordinator said after practice on Wednesday. "You go out here, working for these kids so they can be ready and have a great bowl experience and go out with a win. That's my main focus, spending my time with the guys here and in the office, trying to plan and get the guys ready. … That part of it is business as usual.
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"But the second part of it is that after the bowl game, we know that we're not going to be employed at Purdue any more, so we need to work contacts and try to find other employment."
It's possible - however it might be unlikely - that future employment could be at the same location as current employment. That'll be up to new coach Darrell Hazell, who was introduced at a formal press conference Wednesday evening in Mackey Arena.
During the transition from Kent State, which he will coach in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Jan. 6, and Purdue, one of Hazell's main objectives will be to put his staff in place. He says he has at least a couple in mind who might made the transition from Kent State - he was asked who but wouldn't specify - but will likely need to fill from elsewhere, too.
And Purdue's assistants - provided they want to - will get interviews. Hazell says he'll talk to the current Boilermaker crew early next week to get a feel for whether they fit.
"They are viable candidates," Hazell said, "and I told them that when I spoke to them earlier tonight. I don't have anybody in my mind right now who 100 percent I know that I'm bringing."
And while Hazell would like to solidify a staff, he says he's not in a rush.
"The most important thing is I get it right, so however long it takes," he said. "These guys touch these guys' lives every single day, and the most important thing is for me to take time, make sure we're getting the exact person that we need and mesh this all together.
"There's nine or ten guys in the room, knowing these idiosyncrasies at 10 o'clock at night, all those things are important, and their work ethic and making sure that our kids get the right guy around them. That's the most important thing. So I don't really have a timeline."
Hazell might have a wealth of coaching contacts from which to draw. In his 27 years of coaching, the first 25 as an assistant, he's been at programs like Rutgers, West Virginia and Ohio State, the last under the tutelage of Jim Tressel, with whom he stays in close contact.
And former OSU assistants are options. Taver Johnson and Paul Haynes were former Buckeyes coaches who were part of the recently released staff at Arkansas. Richard McNutt is a former Ohio State cornerback who was on Dave Doeren's staff at Northern Illinois.
Jim Bollman, a former OSU offensive coordinator, was on the Boston College staff that was just let go; Mario Cristobal, who had been at Florida International, worked with Hazell at Rutgers. (For more thorough list of possible assistants, click here.)
Purdue has seemingly increased its salary pool for Hazell and his staff, with a total of approximately $4.5-million available. Although financial terms of Hazell's six-year agreement were not released, reports Wednesday had it totaling $12-million; that'd still leave a significant chunk with which to build a group of assistants.
"He's got all the money he needs to go out and hire the best staff he needs," athletic director Morgan Burke said.
"He's going to have a salary pool that puts them right up there with all but a handful of SEC schools and matches up very well with the top tier of the Big Ten. I'm sure he'll use Jim Tressel (for consultation) and that was one of the questions I asked Jim. I said, 'I really want to make sure he's got good mentors and good advisers as he goes out and finds his people, because we have to make sure that up and down that list, we've got all-stars.'"
In the meantime, interim head coach Patrick Higgins says his efforts are focused on getting the Boilermakers prepared for the bowl game.
"We here for the kids," he said. "We know what we have to do to get ready for practice, so we're focused on that to get that done. Then if they have some time, they can reach out to contacts and see what's going on (with coaching jobs).
"For me, since the workload is a little bit greater, I try to squeeze in an hour at night to give a shout to somebody I know to see what's going on. That part has been a little slower for me, but if we go out and perform well at the bowl game, that's worth it."
The next month is an audition of sorts.
"Every day you coach is an audition," Tibesar said. "Every game that we played this year is an audition in some ways. As we say, 'In this business all you have is your word and your tape.' So whatever you put on a tape in this business is what you are and what your résumé is. Absolutely we want to do well and go out and win this game."
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