It's never a popular move to award a contract extension to a coach with a losing record.
But sometimes it's a necessary move. Successful recruiting requires coaches to give the impression -- real or imagined -- that their jobs are safe. Recruits know how long coaches' contracts last. If not, other schools certainly will inform them.
It brings us to Purdue coach Danny Hope, who on Friday received a two-year contract extension that runs through the 2016 season. Details are still being finalized, but Hope's new deal takes him through Dec. 31, 2016.
The extension will help Hope on the recruiting trail, where he has devoted much of his energy, particularly in the state of Florida. Hope's approach is to upgrade Purdue with speed, and it's still too soon to judge how successful he'll be.
Many Purdue fans I hear from have seen enough of Hope, who is 15-21 in three seasons in West Lafayette. Although his teams have only one losing season in Big Ten play, the Boilers have been inconsistent and mistake-prone. They've also had zero luck on the injury front, as key players have repeatedly gone down, particularly on offense.
Purdue increased its wins total by two this season, earning its first bowl berth since 2007. Despite the bump in overall record, many are wondering which direction the program is headed.
Athletic director Morgan Burke thinks Hope can take Purdue where it needs to go.
"Purdue football has taken many important steps in pursuit of developing champions, scholars and citizens in Danny Hope’s first three years as head coach," Burke said in a statement announcing the extension.
Burke also addressed the concern about football attendance. Purdue averaged only 45,225 fans this season and ranked 79th in the FBS in attendance sorted by stadium capacity.
There's a decided lack of buzz around Purdue football, although ticket sales for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl have been decent.
Burke will work with several athletic department staffers to examine how Purdue can enhance the fan experience. The plan will include enhanced ticketing technology.
"These efforts will have a focus on taking customer service to new levels and to employing a sales force that will allow us to reach out to all our fans and to ensure our offerings meet their needs," Burke's statement reads. "We also will continue to have a specific focus on our students. We were pleased with the first year of the Ross-Ade Brigade. Next semester, a team of Purdue professionals, led by Chris Clopton, director of the Varsity P Club and a former Boilermaker football player, will be tapping into our student body to help us tailor a plan to better meet the needs of our undergraduate and graduate student population of 40,000.
"In addition, we will build off the Boiler Bridge Walk to deepen ties with the Lafayette-West Lafayette community to ensure the Boilermakers are the team of choice in this area. So there is lots of work for all of us and lots of opportunity to reinvigorate our fan base."
This step is a good sign and also long overdue. Programs like Northwestern have revamped their marketing strategy in order to generate more buzz about the program. Winning is the best tool, but Purdue needs a more assertive approach.
Burke had repeatedly affirmed his support for Hope, and the contract extension is the latest move. Still, the 2012 season will be a big one for Hope to show whether the program is trending upward or running in place.
The Leaders Division is wide open, and it wouldn't shock me if Purdue made a run next season if certain things fall into place.