Jeff Brohm's welcome party at Purdue University was full of fanfare, with a pep band, cheerleaders, the school mascot and boosters all celebrating the arrival of the Boilermakers' new football coach.
Now it's up to Brohm to inject excitement into the program and get fans back in the seats at Ross-Ade Stadium. Some wins would sure help, too.
All it took to lure Brohm away from Western Kentucky University was a six-year contract worth an average of about $3.5 million per year, the promise of upgrades inside the program and a chance to put Purdue back on the national stage.
"Purdue to me has always been a program that plays an exciting brand of football," Brohm said. "When I was growing up, they threw the ball around. They scored points. They competed against some of the best teams in the Big Ten each and every year, and they were exciting to watch. As a fan, you like to see teams that score points and do some fun things."
That's exactly the playbook he is bringing to West Lafayette after using it to compile a 30-10 record over the last three seasons at Western Kentucky. The offense averaged 44.6 points and 526.2 yards per contest, and his quarterbacks completed 69.2 percent of their passes, threw for 356.6 yards per game and a total of 131 touchdowns.
New athletic director Mike Bobinski thought Brohm was the perfect fit at a school dubbed the "Cradle of Quarterbacks" and one that has a returning starter in David Blough. Brohm will benefit from a $65 million football facility Purdue is building.
The new style will be a stark contrast from the past four seasons under former coach Darrell Hazell and Gerad Parker, who went 0-6 as interim coach after taking over for the fired Hazell in October. In a statement before the news conference, Bobinski called Brohm "one of the most innovative offensive masterminds in college football."
Blough concurred after doing his own research over the weekend.
"I saw the championship game and they had 38 points with 10 minutes left in the second quarter," Blough said with a smile. "You see how they develop quarterbacks and that's exciting."
The hiring is critical for Purdue's athletic program, which saw sagging attendance as losses mounted under Hazell. The Boilermakers averaged fewer than 32,000 fans at Ross-Ade Stadium, capacity 62,000, this season, down from 37,152 last year. The team went 3-9 this season and won just one game in the Big Ten Conference.
Excitement has been waning at Purdue for most of the past decade.
The Boilermakers went 9-39 over the last four seasons under Hazell and Parker, haven't been to a bowl game since 2012 and have only produced one winning season in nine years. Plus, they tied a school record by losing their fourth straight to rival Indiana University less than two weeks ago. The stadium has seen its share of empty seats.
Bobinski believes a new coach with an entertaining style can end that slide. In addition, Purdue is in the process of building a $65 million football facility
"The energy, the enthusiasm, the passion that his teams play with, the style that they play that's aggressive, that forces the tempo, forces the issue," Bobinski said. "As I've watched Coach Brohm's teams play over the years, and particularly this year, that's what I saw. I saw a team that really went after it both sides of the ball and played with great enthusiasm and didn't take a play off ever, and I think fans will recognize that. Our fans certainly will appreciate that, and once the success comes along with that, it'll be all the better."
Western Kentucky said it is already beginning to search for Brohm's successor. Defensive coordinator Nick Holt will coach the Hilltopppers (10-3) in the Boca Raton Bowl against Memphis (8-4) on Dec. 20.
Brohm grew up in Louisville and stayed in town to play quarterback for the University of Louisville Cardinals, where he starred before bouncing around the NFL. He worked out for six different NFL teams, playing two seasons in San Francisco. He started coaching in 2002 with the Louisville Fire of the af2 league.
Brohm returned to his alma mater as quarterbacks coach from 2003-06 and served as assistant head coach in 2007 and 2008
In 2009, he took over as quarterbacks coach at Florida Atlantic in 2009 before spending the next two seasons in the same role at Illinois. Brohm became UAB's offensive coordinator in 2012 but was hired WKU's assistant head coach/offensive coordinator in 2013 and promoted to head coach the next season.
All he's done since then is win games with a wide-open style that has become a fan favorite.
Purdue is hoping Brohm's success will continue in 2017, which begins with a season-opening showdown in Indianapolis at Lucas Oil Stadium against Louisville.
But there were some anxious moments as rumors surfaced about interest in Brohm from Baylor and Cincinnati. And by the time the two sides finally agreed to the deal Sunday, Bobinski was already convinced he had made the right call with Brohm.
"I've always tried to hire to fit because when you try to force somebody into a situation, it invariably comes apart at some point," Bobinski said. "To me, Jeff sort of reflects Purdue's values perfectly. He was the right guy at the right time."