WEST LAFAYETTE – Purdue searched for a football coach to re-energize its fan base and its program.
And Darrell Hazell is up for the challenge.
"If I need to get out to the campus and visit the fraternity houses and the dorms, I'll do that to get the fans back in the stadium. But I think there needs to be an energy," Hazell said Tuesday.
"It's going to take all of us to win a championship. And the more fans, the louder the fans are, the better they are on third down, the better chance we have to win football games."
Hazell was officially introduced as the 35th football coach in the school's history during a news conference in the Mackey Arena press room.
Hazell received a six-year contract. Terms of the deal were not released although some reports have said the deal is worth $12 million – a huge jump from the Big Ten-low $950,000 salary Danny Hope was earning before he was fired Nov. 25.
Hazell, 48, comes to Purdue from Kent State, where he's led the Golden Flashes to an 11-2 record this season. He has a 16-9 record in two seasons at Kent State.
"If you look at what he was able to accomplish, I think I did my math right, (Kent State) only had five home games this year. You know how hard it is to go on the road and be 11-1 ranked 17th in the country and lose a heart-breaking game in double overtime with the very same kids who two years earlier were 5-7," Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said. "There's something there, and I think our fan base, based upon the response that I've gotten today and I've seen out there, are starting to catch it."
Attendance had declined from an average of roughly 54,000 in 2007 to 37,000 this past season.
Hazell takes over a Purdue program that has had consecutive regular-season records of 6-6. The Boilermakers won the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl last season. This year's team will participate in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on Jan. 1.
"Here's a program right now that is in the middle of the pack, but I want to be at the top of the pack pretty quickly," Hazell said.
That's what he did at Kent State, helping the school reach its first bowl game in 40 years.
"When I took the Kent State job, people looked at me like I was crazy," said Hazell, who was an assistant at Ohio State for seven seasons before going to Kent State. "They said, 'They haven't won there in 40 years. Why would you take that job coming from Ohio State?'
"I bit my lip and went to work. And that's what we're going to do here. We're going to win championships here."
Hazell plans on coaching Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl against Arkansas State on Jan. 6. He also said he intends to attend Purdue's bowl game. He met briefly with Purdue players.
"He's a very impressive guy," quarterback Rob Henry said. "We're all very excited and encouraged and ready to get to know him more."
Hazell will the first African-American to coach Purdue's football team and just the fourth black football coach in Big Ten history, according to reports.
"It's an honor to be here," he said. "I love making a difference in kids' lives, and so be it that race has something to do with it. But I don't put much into that."
He said fans can expect an "attacking style" in all three phases. He listed three early goals – get to know the personnel, hire the best staff possible and make sure Purdue's commits are solid.
"It's going to take all of us in the Purdue family to win a Big Ten championship as well as a Rose Bowl championship," Hazell said. "And we are going to do it the right way."