SPORTS: Purdue, IU athletic directors have a lot to chew on

November 26, 2007

I'm not an athletic director, but I do get to play one in IBJ.

So play along with me: Purdue University should keep Joe Tiller as its football coach. Indiana University should do likewise with Bill Lynch.

Add this to what I'm sure is plenty of unsolicited advice

directed at Morgan Burke and Rick Greenspan, the respective athletic directors at Purdue and Indiana. They can thank me later.

Of course, by the time you read this, the futures of both men may well be resolved. Burke really has to do nothing with respect to Tiller, who has a contract that runs through 2010.

Greenspan, however, needs to make the call on Lynch and his staff. Coming off IU's 27-24 Old Oaken Bucket victory that virtually assured the Hoosiers their first bowl appearance in 14 years, Lynch's status must be resolved soon.

The chatterboxes on the blogs, Internet sites and talk shows are divided. Most everyone agrees Lynch is a quality person. Fewer are convinced he's the man to lead a Big Ten program. The naysayers cite his lackluster record at Ball State University. Some believe this team benefited mostly from a soft schedule. Others are still steamed about the loss at Northwestern University, especially the ill-advised decision to have backup quarterback Ben Chappell-in for one play to relieve briefly injured Kellen Lewis-throw a pass into the flat, where it was easily intercepted and returned for a game-turning touchdown.

Mostly, the anti-Lynch crowd wants either an established "name" that comes from a national search, or an up-and-comer with boundless energy and enthusiasm.

I say, stay the course. The overall body of work accomplished by a very young Indiana team is what should be taken into consideration. And has everyone forgotten that Lynch was thrust into this role in June after Terry Hoeppner's tragic death? Talk about a shock to the system. Yet the Hoosiers persevered. Lynch held the team steady.

Then, too, there's this: Bill Lynch is class. He is integrity. Bill Lynch abides by the rules. That should count for something.

Would I have wanted Lynch to be retained had Indiana lost to Purdue? It's a moot point, but the short answer is yes. Indiana needs stability in its program, not more upheaval. Bottom line, by virtue of a winning season, an impending bowl bid and that stirring Bucket victory, Lynch and his staff deserve at least another three seasons, if not five.

Now then, Joe Tiller.

Two years ago at football media day, Tiller told me he thought he'd earned the right to determine his own exit strategy. In other words, coach as long as he wants at Purdue, then leave on his terms.

Yet, as we've seen, no coach this side of Joe Paterno is untouchable.

But I would say that those increasingly restless Purdue fans have short memories. I spent many Saturdays in the Ross-Ade Stadium press box during the latter years of Leon Burtnett, followed by the tenures of Fred Akers and Jim Colletto. Folks, it wasn't pretty.

And I must ask: What's so wrong with a winning record and going to a bowl game virtually every year?

Some think Tiller has lost his edge, that he's coaching out the string. Others believe he's brought in some bad actors (did someone say Selwyn Lymon?). I've also heard from those who think he's given his coordinators, including once heir-apparent Brock Spack, too long a leash.

Yet you look at Ross-Ade Stadium. You see that huge press box and all those suites and the mostly full seats and you wonder, would that have happened without Tiller?

I think not.

I also believe in contracts. Purdue signed Tiller through 2010. He deserves to not be shoved out the door before then.

And here's a final point I alluded to in a column two weeks ago. Indiana had a veteran coach who took a bad program and made it competitive and respectful. Then Bill Mallory had a couple of off years and Indiana fired him. You could say it has taken 13 years to replace him.

Hither, Purdue?

Finally, I screwed up last week when I wrote that the University of Notre Dame landed Charlie Weis after George O'Leary was caught lying on his resume. Tyrone Willingham was the beneficiary of that blunder. Thanks to alert reader Keith Bice for pointing out my error.

Benner is associate director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. To comment on this column, send e-mail to bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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