Jeff Brohm is coaching in his second make-or-break game at Purdue. Last year, the Boilermakers entered the Old Oaken Bucket game against Indiana needing a win to earn a postseason bid.
The location is different — the Boilermakers will travel to Bloomington — but the scenario is the same. With both teams entering the game with a 5-6 record, the winner goes bowling and the loser goes home. While this isn’t exactly the situation Purdue fans had expected to be in following that 49-20 win over Ohio State a month ago, Saturday’s game is one they should enjoy and cherish.
It’s likely Brohm’s last game wearing the black and gold.
Twenty-three months ago, Purdue found its guy. If you wrote out the perfect description for the head coaching position in West Lafayette, Brohm was the ideal match. His high-powered offenses, heavy passing attack and offensive ingenuity was precisely the kickstart the program needed after four agonizing years under Darrell Hazell.
And now, he’s Louisville’s top target. Not many other names have been attached with the job. And yes, Brohm has denied any speculation it’s a “done deal,” but he also hasn’t said he’ll be back in West Lafayette next year.
For even the most optimistic Boilermaker fan, that has to be a little unsettling.
Brohm has said he doesn’t like to move around a lot. He’s also said that he loves the challenge at Purdue and elevating the program to the next level, something people “don’t believe can be done” in West Lafayette.
Had any other program been inquiring, Brohm would put his phone on silent and enjoy his spacious office inside of the state-of-the-art Football Performance Center for the next six-to-eight years.
But Louisville is the one calling, and it’s home. It’s where he grew up, where he played and where he coached. And when home comes calling, it’s hard not to listen. While Brohm doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would turn his back on a program after just two seasons, these opportunities come once in a lifetime.
Compare the two jobs all you’d like. The factors that most coaches would take into consideration — conference, money, facilities, recruiting, etc. — are all important. But when home is on the other end of that phone call, those other things don’t carry as much weight.
In a perfect world, Bobby Petrino would’ve been able to occupy the job in Louisville for the next half-decade, allowing Brohm the opportunity to build something special in West Lafayette. To establish a winning culture and be revered as one of the top coaches in the business. That guy could leave town with his head held high before tackling the next challenge in his hometown.
This isn’t a perfect world, though, and Brohm’s opportunity is now. If he doesn’t jump at the chance, who knows if and when his phone will be buzzing with another chance to return.
Brohm has accomplished a lot in his two seasons at Purdue, something the fanbase should appreciate. A program that was stuck in the bottom of a well finally found its footing on level ground. There’s been a bowl appearance — with a second-straight postseason bid on the line Saturday against Indiana — three wins over ranked opponents and a resurgence in recruiting.
Not many coaches could’ve breathed new life into a program that quickly. It’s been a blessing for Purdue, but also a curse. If not for Brohm’s instant success, Louisville might be looking elsewhere for Petrino’s replacement.
Brohm’s future shouldn’t be what Purdue focuses on this weekend, though. As the Boilermakers take the field against Indiana, Old Oaken Bucket and bowl berth on the line, there should be an appreciation for the program’s return to relevance, and a fondness for the success the team has enjoyed in two short years.
For one last time, enjoy seeing David Blough throw for over 300 yards and D.J. Knox bulldoze through defenders. Watch Rondale Moore find his way to the end zone in the most improbable fashion. Celebrate the trick plays that catch the Hoosiers off guard.
Remember that, win or lose, Brohm’s success with the Boilermakers has been unprecedented. Purdue is in a much better position now than it was 23 months ago. For that, Brohm should be admired.
Even if he has to turn his back on West Lafayette after Saturday.