Purdue needs a new head coach, as Jeff Brohm is returning home to take the Louisville job.
It’s ultimately not a surprising move, as Brohm is from the city, played at the school and admitted in May that a return could be on the table. When Cincinnati hired Scott Satterfield away, it opened up the job.
Brohm went 36-34 in six years at Purdue, including 17-12 over the past two seasons with the program’s first Big Ten West championship this year. The nine-win season last year was the program’s first since 2003, and it is in play again this year with a win in the Citrus Bowl. This is a program that has won before, but it had wandered in the wilderness for more than a decade until Brohm’s last two seasons.
So how good is the Purdue job? What names could get in the mix? Here are the factors to keep in mind.
Purdue has money and resources
Brohm’s salary was nearly $5 million, a high mark for a coach who hadn’t won the Big Ten West until this year. He signed a two-year extension in April that included some now-irrelevant retention bonuses. His assistant salary pool was $4.35 million with increases set in place.
The facilities are good. Purdue opened a new three-level football complex in 2017 with all the amenities a team could need. An indoor practice field has been in place since 1990.
If Louisville wasn’t home, Brohm leaving a Big Ten job for an ACC job would be more shocking. The Big Ten’s financial resources continue to grow far larger than anyone else outside of the SEC, and they’ll increase again with the upcoming TV deal. Luke Fickell left Cincinnati for Wisconsin in part because of resources and what can be done in NIL. Big Ten jobs will become even more coveted in the future as the money gets bigger and bigger. That could open this job to other sitting Power 5 head coaches.
The advantage of Big Ten West may be going away
Purdue hasn’t had to play Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State every year. There was a tremendous advantage in playing in the Big Ten West, yet Purdue didn’t win the division until this season. With USC and UCLA coming into the conference, the Big Ten has yet to decide on its future structure. Whatever happens, the league is going to be tougher for teams like Purdue that haven’t been at the top of the conference.
What is the ceiling for this program? Brohm found more success than anyone since Joe Tiller in the early 2000s. The next coach won’t take over a rebuilding job. What are the expectations? Mark Stoops became a top-paid head coach at Kentucky without winning the SEC East. Maybe winning eight or nine games is all that is needed to be considered a great season.
The flip side of the Big Ten’s financial advantage is that getting to the College Football Playoff may be easier in other conferences.
Will Purdue stick with the offensive head coach?
The Boilermakers are the Cradle of Quarterbacks. Tiller revolutionized the conference with his passing attacks led by quarterbacks like Drew Brees. Brohm got Purdue back to that level of success with explosive offenses designed around the quarterback.
That’s been the ultimate equalizer for Purdue against teams with more talent. Brohm beat three top-three opponents as the Boilers’ head coach. Does Purdue stay with that mold?
So what names could get in the mix?
Is former Kent State head coach Sean Lewis still available? He’s accepted the offensive coordinator job at Colorado, but nothing has been announced yet. It’s not known if he’s signed anything or what any potential buyout would be. Lewis went 24-31 in five years, but that record was largely weighed down by playing three Power 5 opponents most years. It was the most successful run for the Golden Flashes since the 1970s, and Lewis posted a .500 record or better in MAC play in each of the past four seasons. He would bring the up-tempo and explosive offensive background that Purdue likes. But after the failure of the Darrell Hazell hire, would Purdue be concerned about hiring another Kent State coach?
Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken was a Broyles Award finalist for the nation’s top assistant coach. The Dawgs are 11th nationally in scoring this year and quarterback Stetson Bennett developed into a Heisman Trophy finalist. In his one stint as a head coach, Monken inherited a 0-12 Southern Miss team in 2013 and produced a 9-5 season by 2015 with a division championship before leaving for an NFL coordinator job. The 56-year-old Illinois native has seen up close how to run a program in the Nick Saban/Kirby Smart mold.
Former Florida head coach Dan Mullen has been choosy, and he can be. Currently an ESPN commentator, he passed on UAB interest and said he’s not taking the South Carolina offensive coordinator job. Mullen went 34-15 at Florida with three New Year’s Six bowls and 69-46 before that at Mississippi State. He’s won national championships as an assistant and coached at places with inherent disadvantages. The fit could be there, if he’s interested.
Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson has won everywhere he’s been, from Fordham to Richmond to Bowling Green to Wake Forest, winning at least eight games twice at each stop. The Demon Deacons have been innovative with their slow mesh offense and developed quality quarterbacks. Clawson has stuck around at Wake Forest longer than people expected. He signed a “long-term” extension last November after reaching the ACC title game, but perhaps a Big Ten job could pique his interest.
Similarly, Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell has stayed in Ames longer than most people expected, and coming off a 4-8 season, his window for a major job may be closing. He’s an Ohio native who played at Mount Union and had coached only in Ohio from 2003 to 2015 before leaving for Iowa State. He’s done a remarkable job with the Cyclones, achieving the highest level of sustained success in more than a century. He went 9-3 in 2020 with a Fiesta Bowl win and beat Oklahoma multiple times. If he feels he’s hit a ceiling and wants to get into the Big Ten, perhaps Purdue could be a fit.
Syracuse head coach Dino Babers coached at Purdue from 1991 to 1993 and would bring an offensive background (he trained Lewis). But Babers is in the Satterfield position of being on the hot seat. The Orange started this season 6-0 but finished 1-5. He has just two winning seasons in seven years at Syracuse.
Toledo head coach Jason Candle just won his second MAC championship with the Rockets and would bring an offensive background. He’s 53-32 without a losing season, and Toledo led the MAC in scoring in each of the past two years.
Eastern Michigan head coach Chris Creighton has brought unprecedented success to what was one of the worst FBS programs. The 8-4 record this season is EMU’s best since 1987. His overall record of 45-61 is deceiving, like Lewis’, and weighed down by his first few seasons. Creighton is 184-107 across all of his stops as a head coach. He’s moved from NAIA to Division III to FCS to FBS, coaching across the Midwest, including at Wabash in Indiana. Among his notable wins at EMU? A 20-19 win against Purdue in 2018.
Former Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard served as interim head coach this fall and announced he will not remain with the Badgers after their bowl game. He’ll be highly sought-after for defensive coordinator jobs, both in college and the NFL, but could a head coaching opportunity happen here? Leonhard went 4-3 as interim head coach, not an impressive record, but he took over a 2-3 team at midseason and extended the Badgers’ bowl streak to 21. He has more of an idea now of what he’d do as a head coach. But if it wasn’t good enough for Wisconsin, is it good enough for Purdue?
Former Texas A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin is a Purdue graduate who coached under Tiller. His 35-17 record at Houston and 51-26 record at Texas A&M look good in hindsight, but Sumlin went 9-20 at Arizona and was fired before the end of his third season. He spent 2022 in the USFL and went 3-7 as head coach of the Houston Gamblers.
Akron head coach Joe Moorhead would’ve seemed like a great fit a year ago when he was the offensive coordinator at Oregon. He surprised many in the industry by taking the Akron head coaching job. The Zips went 2-10 in his first season, but they got notably better as the season went on. Moorhead went 38-13 as Fordham’s head coach and 14-12 at Mississippi State, before getting fired in his second season. He also had a successful stint as Penn State offensive coordinator.
Would NC State head coach Dave Doeren be interested? He’s 72-53 in 10 seasons in Raleigh, which is a long time in one place for any coach, and he’s shown interest in a number of jobs in the past. Doeren has won nine games three times, but never a division title. Has Doeren taken the Wolfpack as far as they can go? Quarterback Devin Leary’s jump into the transfer portal doesn’t help. In February, Doeren signed a new contract extension through 2026.
(Top photo: Tommy Gilligan / USA Today)