In the end, it was the echoes that chased Danny Hope out of the house.
It was all those empty seats --more every week, it seemed -- that as much as anything told Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke it was time to make a change. And so Sunday he did, less than 24 hours after Hope's Purdue Boilermakers rump-roasted Indiana 56-35 in the Old Oaken Bucket game to finish the season 6-6 and become bowl eligible.
Too little, too late for Hope, a decent man who, Burke said Sunday, succeeded everywhere but where it mattered most: On the field, and on the balance sheet.
Big-time college football is nothing but pure commerce now, surprise, surprise. And so when you lose the paying customers -- and, more to the point, the students, who were staying away from Ross-Ade Stadium in unnerving numbers -- your ticket out of town is all but punched. Going 22-27 in four seasons only greased the skids.
Burke made that abundantly clear, noting that since 2007 a third of the paying customers had deserted Purdue football, and as it is everywhere else in big-boy college athletics, football pays the freight.
"We can't do what we need to do resource-wise with losing a third of the fan base," Burke said. "This is a consumer-driven organization, and if you lose roughly $3 million in revenue opportunities, it's a big deal."
The biggest, these days.