- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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Danny Hope went just 22-27 at Purdue, and most Boilermakers fans had seemingly lost faith in his ability to lead the program by the time he was fired at the end of the 2012 regular season.
But Hope, speaking for the first time publicly since his dismissal to West Lafayette TV station WLFI on Tuesday night, said there was more to the firing than that.
"It came down to ticket sales," he told the station. "But ticket sales have been dropping here since 2000. It's not all about what happens just behind the whistle. You have to have some accountability behind the necktie as well."
If that sounds like a direct shot at Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, well, read on.
"I know it wasn't an easy thing for Morgan to do," Hope said. "But I felt like if he had been a little more accountable then he would not have had to ... exercised the responsibility of dismissing me. We had finished strong. And the players wanted us to be there. We hoped we had done enough. But I knew it was close. We had a tough stretch there and didn't come through at a critical time of the season and, obviously, had lost the support of our administration."
The Boilers clinched bowl eligibility for the second straight year by beating Indiana in the season finale. One day later, Burke fired Hope.
"How they went about doing it, I really didn't appreciate," Hope told the station. "I thought it was handled unprofessionally. I don't need to elaborate on that, I don't think. I thought we had done enough, made enough commitment to retain our jobs."
Burke did not respond to Hope's remarks when told of them by WLFI.
Hope said he was "very angry" about his dismissal and that's why he hasn't talked until now. But does he have a right to point fingers?
Yes, Purdue did make two straight bowl games, but it finished 6-6 both seasons. He said the team "finished strong" in 2012, but its three-game winning streak to end the season happened against Iowa, Illinois and Indiana, who went a combined 10-26. Hope told everyone in the preseason that the 2012 team would be his best, and the Leaders Division bid to the Big Ten championship game was wide open because of probation at Ohio State and Penn State. Yet Purdue lost by 31 at home to Michigan, by 24 at home to Wisconsin and, perhaps most inexcusably, by 16 on the road to Minnesota after falling behind 34-7 at halftime.
I was at the Wisconsin game and watched fans leave in waves after halftime. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, there couldn't have been more than a couple thousand people in Ross-Ade Stadium. It was, quite frankly, embarrassing. Beating Big Ten bottom-feeders to get to a minor bowl game -- one in which, by the way, the Boilers got humiliated -- does not build momentum or enthusiasm.
Hope has every right to be upset that he's no longer the coach at Purdue. But after four years in which he did very little to prove his program could compete at a high level, he really has no one to blame but himself.
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