Purdue athletic director backs coach Darrell Hazell after another poor season

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WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana — Two seasons into a six-year contract that pays him $2 million a year, Purdue's Darrell Hazell has compiled a 4-20 record, including 1-15 in the Big Ten.

There were improvements in 2014 as the Boilermakers won for the first time against an FBS opponent, increased the victory total from one to three and won a Big Ten road game against Illinois, which will likely receive a bowl game invitation.

However, Purdue finished the season with six consecutive losses, including an emotional 23-16 setback Saturday at rival Indiana, the second consecutive season the Boilermakers have lost the Old Oaken Bucket in finishing 3-9.

While Hazell was on the road recruiting and unavailable Tuesday, athletic director Morgan Burke said he believes in his coach and is convinced he is the right man for the job.

While Purdue will return nine offensive starters and eight defensive starters for 2015, Burke wants to see more consistent play within the same game from the offense and the defense. The offense, for example, played well against Michigan State and Minnesota, but the defense gave up a combined 84 points in those two losses.

"I would like to see the offense and the defense consistently play at a high level," Burke said. "Last year was about the variability of the play from game to game. This year was about the variability of one side of the ball in a game, and then the other side.

"If both sides of the ball played at their best level, I think we would have been very happy with the results, but we didn't. When I sit down with Darrell, I will ask what we have to do."

Burke said Purdue got better in 2014 from 2013, but he says it must get much better next season. He and Hazell are eager for the day when Purdue's two-deep roster is comprised 80 percent of players with third- and fourth-year eligibility and not loaded with freshmen and sophomores, which it has been for two seasons.

"Darrell is a smart guy," Burke said. "Some people want the fiery, Gene Keady kind of mentality, and others kind of like the cool, calm and collected image. This guy has an unbelievable ability to stay focused and to be unruffled. I think this team needs to look over there and see a sense of calmness that we are going to get this done. He was at Rutgers when they struggled and was at Ohio State when they won. We are really fortunate to have the leadership that we've got."

Yet despite the fact standout linebacker Ja'Whan Bentley, defensive back Frankie Williams, wide receiver Danny Anthrop, quarterback Austin Appleby and the entire offensive line is set to return, Burke said the bottom line if that there must be improvement in 2015.

"Obviously, in this past year, a ton of energy and effort were expended by the players, the coaching staff, our marketing staff and the fans," Burke said. "But we don't have much to show for it. That is disappointing, and it is discouraging."

Before Hazell left to recruit this week, Burke told him to sell the vision for this program and to add to the talent level that has won only four times in two seasons.

"If you look at many of the metrics that you would use to chart the progress of a team, they certainly moved in a positive direction," Burke said. "But at the end of the day, as Darrell has said, it is about winning. We have a very fractionalized fan base right now. I understand that. We do not have enough playmakers yet. I hope they are on the roster.

"But we don't have enough guys when it is crunch time who are making the plays. We have some kids who are capable of that, but we have to do it."

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