Travis Miller of the Purdue site HammerandRails.com joins me this week. We talk about Nebraska’s football program, Purdue’s basketball program and I wonder if we’d both be better off if our programs merged so they could have good football and we could have good basketball.
What changes are in store at Purdue that would make Nebraska fans change their mind about how easily the Boilers can be beaten in football?
What can Nebraska fans expect at Purdue in November? Will the scoreboard still work?
What about Purdue as a university?
Purdue Pete - meth addict or has he seen too much?
About the Transcript
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Jon Johnston: 00:35
Welcome to Jon’s Postlife Crisis. I am your host, Jon Johnston, founder and current site manager of CornNation.com the Nebraska Cornhuskers site for SB nation. I am joined today by Travis Miller who is the founder and manager of HammerandRails.com our SB nation Purdue Boilermakers site.
How are you doing today, Travis?
Travis Miller: 01:03
I’m doing pretty well. How about yourself, Jon?
Jon Johnston: 01:06
I Dunno, it’s Hump Day and it’s in the morning and I haven’t even thought about that yet really.
Jon Johnston: 01:15
I’m going to start by telling you a story. I guess I’m going to tell everybody a story. I’m an old crusty man. That’s not the story. When I was at the University of Nebraska Lincoln in the 80s, I ran for student body president and my party was the Scum party. That’s a completely different story. One of my platforms, one of the planks on which I ran was this concept that the University of Nebraska should merge with the University of Kansas. That way Kansas would get a good football program and Nebraska would get a good basketball program. It was a win win situation. And it’s funny now 30 years later that this is kind of still true. I mean it’s, it’s pretty much still true.
Jon Johnston: 02:10
When I think about Purdue, I think about kind of in similar terms, I don’t know if you find them insulting or not, but from a Nebraska standpoint, most Nebraska fans and alumni feel that we should never, Nebraska should never lose to Purdue in football, that we are the superior program. We should always have a superior team. And I’m sure that Purdue fans and alumni probably feel the same about Nebraska’s basketball program. What do you think of that concept?
Travis Miller: 02:47
I mean, it depends. I don’t think we’ve ever been as consistently down and out in football as Kansas has been because Kansas has been really, really bad, I mean, just the, again, Purdue was in 2013 that was the worst Purdue team of my lifetime by a very wide margin. But even, even Kansas has had a couple of moments of success. I know that 2007 and obviously you win the Orange Bowl and you go, they were what, 12-1, 13-1 that’s pretty good. Purdue has been one of those programs that when we have been good football wise, we really didn’t solid nationally, but we’ve just had a lot of ebb and flow. I know we’ve only won the Big Ten eight times and only one of them has occurred in the last half century. But there’s been some moments of a really, really solid play.
Travis Miller: 03:41
I know the late sixties under Jack Mollenkopf, we were ranked number one a couple of times and arguably we’re right there for the 1976 or 1967 national title. We had a brief run under Jim young in the early eighties. We had the Joe Tiller years, I would say from 97 to 2004 where his best time. We have those moments where we can really, really be up there and maybe not among the national elite, but at least be able to compete for Big Ten titles. And it’s nice to be able to be back there and kind of where we are right now just rebuilding because it was, it was bad under Hazel.
Jon Johnston: 04:23
Did you have to go to therapy?
Travis Miller: 04:29
I feel like that sometimes, especially, I think one of the lowest points was that 2013 season, we were just abysma and I was drawing comparisons statistically to the worst Big 10 team of all time. Generally the standard of that is 1981 Northwestern where they went 0 - 11 and just weren’t even competitive in games. That was basically pretty in 2013.
Travis Miller: 04:55
I remember going to the Illinois game that year and Illinois came in, they had lost 20 Big 10 games in a row, which is one of the longest streaks in recent years of futility within the conference. And I remember going to that game, strangely excited just because we actually had a chance to win a game and we lost.
Travis Miller: 05:20
This was after leading 14 -7 after a quarter. The only two points we scored in the final three quarters were an intentional safety as time expired for Illinois.
Jon Johnston: 05:31 Jeez.
Travis Miller: 05:34
It was so bad and I, I remember thinking I paid full price for that gave because I’ve been a season ticket holder for many years and there were games, there were tickets for that game going for as low as I believe 37 cents.
Jon Johnston: 05:48
How do you buy a ticket for 37 cents?
Travis Miller: 05:52
It was, I just remember looking on Stubhub and now actually have the minimum where I think the lowest you can go is like $6 or something. But there were multiple listings for well under a dollar for that game on stub hub. And it was just absolutely, I mean it was crazy and then, but you know, even then I was still kind of blinded by the whole, okay, Hazel just needs a year. He needs to get his recruits in here and everything else and kind of were really hit rock bottom was two years later. Again when we played at Illinois and they have the worst rushing offense in the conference at the time and they ran for like 415 yards honest without any no trouble whatsoever. And that was just kind of the, that was the last straw. That was the, okay, it’s been three years.
It’s not getting any better. Just being a Purdue fan during the Hazel era was very, very rough and it was, going back to your original point, it was a lot like being a Kansas fan in that there just wasn’t any hope. I mean, we won three Big 10 games in that time. One of them being over in Nebraska, and I don’t even think it was so much what Purdue did in that game. It was mostly Ryker Fife, having an absolute meltdown at quarterback. I think he think he had like, what, four or five interceptions.
Travis Miller: 07:15
We did everything possible to let Nebraska back into that game to the point where you almost were able to recover an onside kick that would have put you within a point within a score in the final 30 seconds. And it just, it was maddening.
Jon Johnston: 07:30
The other thing about that game is the wind was blowing a lot and we kept throwing the ball. Alright. I have no idea why that happened, but yeah. Anyway, when you say Darryl Hazel, I’m sure that you have this need to spew massive amounts of profanity. When somebody says Mike Riley to me, I spew profanity. I mean Nebraska football obviously as our sport and we’ve had some coaches where you could do that, were just, we’re not up to the standard we want. So now things look like they’re turning around. You guys hired Jeff Brohm and you kept him.
Travis Miller: 08:16
That was a bit of a surprise that we’ve kept in the last two years? Cause we, we knew late last year that Louisville was going to make a push. And I remember as early as his very first game at Purdue was against Louisville and it was played here in Indianapolis. My wife and I went to that game at the Colt Stadium. There’s a lot of, a lot of Louisville fans that made the drive up for it and everything else. I remember running into a few Louisville fans on the concourse and they’re like, hey, you guys got a good coach, we’re going to come after him whenever Petrono is gone. So that was two years ago and they, they already wanted him as early as 2017 in the very first game. So yeah, it was always in the back of our mind that they were going to come hard after him.
Travis Miller: 09:02
I honestly think that the timing was probably wrong. I, I’ve got to give Brohm a lot of credit that he was loyal to the players here at Purdue after both years that he had somebody coming after him because Tennessee came after him in 2017 and Louisville last year. I really respect him for just speaking to his collegiate players, being very honest and saying, Hey, I started this here and as much of a connection as I have to the University of Louisville, I want to continue building what I have at Purdue. Also $5 million a year or whatever he’s getting paid now, as certainly helps.
Jon Johnston: 09:43
Right. Do you, do you now, do you honestly think that’s because of what’s going on at Purdue or do you think he looked at Louisville and saw a program and a place that is a complete mess and has booster interference coming out its ears and, and said, I don’t want any part of that.
Travis Miller: 10:02
I think that both parts of it. I know that he is taken advantage of that because he’s recruited the Louisville area pretty heavily and we’ve gotten quite a few excellent players out of that area. Recently under him, most notably of course, Rondale Moore. And I really think that that has, if there was a little bit more stability there, he probably would have jumped. But I also think had there been more stability Petrino would’ve stayed. I always felt like he was going to be a Purdue about four or five years before they came after him. Not two. A
nd I think part of the timing issue was just Petrino fell off a cliff last year and they basically had no choice but to fire him immediately and go after somebody else. So really that’s probably what mixed it up. And it’s going to be interesting to see how this settles out now because honestly, I don’t know what to think about this year with, with our team where we only have, I think according to my account, 33 scholarship players that have even played a collegiate game, that’s, you know, sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Travis Miller: 11:15
Everybody else on the roster, at least scholarship wise are, it was either a freshman or a true freshman or a registered freshman. So we’re going to be extremely young and he is greatly improve the recruiting. I mean by leaps and bounds. He had a top 25 recruiting classes past year for according to 247. That’s the first time since 2002 we can say that we’ve had a top 25 recruiting class and that’s a huge step forward. So we’ve got more talent coming in. He’s got a solid one lined up for 2020 but that talent needs to gain some experience.
You’re gonna see a team that has some ups and downs and I wouldn’t be surprised for a third straight, 6-6 season. And you start to hear some grumblings of, okay, you know, the three straight, one 6-6 after, just the dismal Hazel years is great too. Eh, okay. Three in a row might hear some grumblings, but I also think it also sets up for a really, really solid lead forward in 2020 and 2021.
Jon Johnston: 12:25
You guys also have, I mean, you’ve been around SB nation for quite awhile and I liked Purdue under the Joe Tiller years. I enjoyed watching his brand of football [inaudible] but you in the past when the Hazel years were around, you were very upset and always discouraged about your athletic department as well. You guys didn’t get permanent lights at Ross Ade Stadium until 2017 correct?
Travis Miller: 12:53
That is correct. And that was, we were champions of getting lights probably as far back as like 2010, 2011 and yes, it became more and more absurd when we were, I forget what year I looked it up, but there was one where I looked through every division one major conference program in the power five and there were, I think four left that did not have lights. And they were all in the Big 10. I believe it was Ohio state. Surprisingly enough, Michigan state, Northwestern and Purdue, and then Michigan state and Ohio state added to their permanent lights and Morgan Burke, our previous athletic director, while he had been there for a very long time and he had ushered Purdue sports through a lot of facility improvements and everything. He was not exactly the most forward thinking athletic director, especially when it came to football.
And since Mike Bobinski was hired to replace him when Burke retired, we’ve seen a transition not just in football but across the, across the entire university sports-wise with a lot more forward thinking ideas. I know like our social media campaigns and our promotional campaigns have improved significantly. Whereas under Burke you would barely see a billboard in the city of Indianapolis advertising tickets for sale, let alone like a commercial or any kind of social media push to buy tickets and whatnot.
Jon Johnston: 14:31
I saw that you were extremely happy that, is it Bobinski or Bobbinski, got an extension.
Travis Miller: 14:38
I’ve heard both. I’ve heard both. I think it’s Bobinski, but yeah, I’m really happy that he’s just got another two year extension on his contract and by the time, by the end of [inaudible] tenure, we were Burke haters, we were, we were tired of the excuses. We were tired of just the lack of anything that was promotional forward thinking or anything else. He was very, very much the status quo.
I believe one of his quotes was once, I’ll build lights when basically when I absolutely have to. Right, but I prefer noon games where I can control the kickoff time because we don’t want to have the extra security or anything else after night games without realizing that with the lights, it allowed us to have some more night games, maybe some bigger crowds, bigger atmospheres or anything and anything else. And he had pretty much locked this into the whole, the big ten is never going to pay for the temporary lights because that was his other thing was he didn’t want to have a night game unless TV paid for the temporary lights. Well, TV’s not going to put us in at night game because we suck.
Jon Johnston: 15:51
BTN is making the conference unbelievable crap tons of money did. That didn’t never factored into his thinking?
Travis Miller: 16:04
He would use that money to kind of keep, his big thing was he wanted to keep the athletic department in the black. He always marketed that they never take any money from the school’s General Fund. They actually would give some back every year. and it was not, honestly not a small amount. It was like four or $5 million as they would give back to the university each year under the guise of okay, picking up trash in the parking garages and everything else on campus during football and basketball. So they were leaving money on the table to build the football program up and the last thing I should say that he did was he started the new football performance facility, which is the gorgeous new, locker Room, the new weight facility, the training rooms, everything else across $65 million that opened during the two, right before the 2017 season.
And that was kind of his final major facility improvement. And at the time it was desperately needed because according to their studies we were way behind everybody else in the big 10 when it came to just sheer facilities and support facilities for the program and everything else. So that was a big, big push, but it was kind of only the beginning and it’s been up to Bobinski here too. Push forward to it and start improving Ross Ade Stadium and everything
Jon Johnston: 17:33
My understanding is now in 2019 you’ve started renovation at Ross Ade. What’s that about?
Jon Johnston: 17:41
There are some, you’re starting to see the beginning of it. This year we will have a brand new ribbon board scoreboard across the north end zone that’s replacing a scoreboard where that’s been there since I was a kid in the 80s.
Travis Miller: 17:55
It looks like it’s going to be really, really nice. The next plan is after this season, we will be replacing the main scoreboard in the south end zone with a much larger one and just completely redoing that part in preparation for a larger like club facility, club seating, maybe visitor’s locker room, that will be part of that new south end zone that they want to do. And then some more general renovations. We don’t have a defined look yet quite what it’s going to look like. There’s been some other ones that have been released before if some ideas that they want. But the first major, major part will be the replacement of the south end scoreboard, because in the words of events key, uh, the one that we have right now is on its last legs. They don’t even make parts for it. And we have bought all the spare parts that we can find for it. And there’s even a question of if it will last through the end of this season.
Jon Johnston: 18:51 Wow. Holy cow.
Travis Miller: 18:55
They’ve got some contingency plans in place because in his own words, we hope it turns on when we go to turn it on. And that’s for all seven games.
Jon Johnston: 19:06
Nebraska’s coming in there in November. Okay. I mean I’d never been to Purdue. What would Nebraska fans expect?
Travis Miller: 19:20
We have one of the smaller stadiums with the big 10, and it’s one of the old school, just horseshoe style stadiums. We did have a pretty extensive renovation in the early 2000s, right after the Brees years where the current pavilion and press box and everything was built. And that is, that is very nice. It’s very state of the art. It’s still up to date. You’re going to get some good old fashioned bench seats and football is going to be what you’re going to watch. And that’s kind of why I like it. I don’t need a lot of the extra crap.
I’m there watching football game. I don’t need the hide the football underneath the helmet on the scoreboard or any things like that. Jim Harbaugh two years ago was complaining about the visitor’s locker room, not even having air conditioning. And that’s because, well, we didn’t really need air conditioning in the visitor’s locker room when it might be needed one day a year. But I do think that they have it now in case you need it in November.
Jon Johnston: 20:21 Jim Harbaugh’s kind of a weiner anyway,
Travis Miller: 20:24
He’s just looking for stuff to complain. But I also remember when the visitor’s locker room at the football stadium was the baseball locker room for our old baseball facility. And unfortunately the players would have to walk about three quarters of a mile across campus to get to the baseball stadium to play
Jon Johnston: 20:43
To Nebraska and our basketball program. We’ve never won an NCAA tournament games where they only power five or what do they call it in the basketball? They top five group of five, whatever. Yeah. Where are they only power five school that has never won an NCAA tournament game because Northwestern had to go and now we’ve hired Fred Hoiberg. What do you think of that?
Travis Miller: 21:13
I don’t think it’s going to be interesting and I honestly liked Tim Miles. I thought he did a really good job with them, but I just think that it’s really, really difficult right now to crack kind of the top echelon of the big 10 and if you earn an at large bid out of the big 10, you’ve really done something. I know that Nebraska has had some good runs here recently, some top four finishes and but like as you said, it’s a matter of you’ve got to get that success in March and then any program knows about trying to get that success in March. It’s Purdue fans because I would argue we are one of the best college basketball programs that has not won a national title. It’s probably up there between us and Illinois as the two best programs that have never actually won a national title.
Travis Miller: 22:06
And well you just look at the teams that you have to battle year in and year out just to be competitive. You’ve got Michigan State, you’ve got Michigan. Wisconsin is always really good and Maryland is always solid. Purdue is on a really good run right now. Indiana is allegedly a basketball school. I mean I can told otherwise. Ohio state is always pretty solid and that’s just the teams that are good right now. You know, Illinois is obviously kind of struggling right now. but Iowa is always really competitive and so it’s just tough and you’ve got to find a way to, to an that large, but you’ve probably got to find a way to win at least nine or 10 big 10 games a year. And that’s not easy for anybody. I’m looking at the standings from last year. Only six teams won 10 games or more in the conference.
Travis Miller: 22:57
So that’s difficult regardless of what’s going on. And it’s going to be tough because you guys, I think you have a greater reason. You’ve always had really solid fan support and everything, but the big ten schedule is just a grinder and it’s a matter of you’ve got to be able to defend your home court where you go, 10-0, 9-1, or 8-2 and then you’ve got to hope that you can get just a few games here and there on the road and that’s really the recipe for success in the big 10 is how well do you defend home court. So if Hoiberg can do that from the beginning, that’s going to help him along, especially help him along and have a lot of success in the conference.
Jon Johnston: 23:44
Nebraska fans are probably among the most knowledgeable fans when it comes to college football. When it comes to college basketball, Our culture is that our concept of football transfers over to basketball and people get very upset if we even lose road games. I don’t think Nebraska fans have a good knowledge or concept or acceptance of the fact of how hard it is to win on the road in big 10 basketball.
Travis Miller: 24:17
The interesting thing about that is I’ve written, I wrote about this in the past year. We now have counting our two that are outgoing seniors this year. We have three straight classes at Purdue that have completed what I call the Delany dozen, where they have one in every big 10 arena over the course of their careers. At least one, which can be really, really hard because with the, with the unbalanced schedule you might get, you might only get one shot or in your four years, depending on if you play a team once, once or twice at each season or whatever. Part of the difficulty that comes with that, Delaney dozen, is here we have Mackey arena, we don’t lose in Mackey arena I think, we’re something like 67-4 the last four years in Mackey arena.
So it’s really difficult for anybody else in the big 10 to complete the Delany dozen. We don’t lose at home and they can’t get that win at Purdue. And that’s just one of the home courts that you have. You have, I’m looking at the big 10 standings again from last year at Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue when a combined 47 -2 at home. Overall.
Jon Johnston: 25:41 egad.
Travis Miller: 25:43
Michigan state lost one at home, Michigan lost one at home and Purdue was undefeated at home. That makes it tough for the rest of the conference.
Jon Johnston: 25:54
Totally. Fred Hoiberg, when you say, when you hear the guy’s name, I mean from an outsider, what, what do you think of that hire, if I said, just give me a word.
Travis Miller: 26:08
Former Pacer honestly, I remember he was drafted by the Pacers and he always kind of had a strange... People in the state of Indiana always gave him a bit of a strange look because he took the roster spot from the Great Damon Bailey and I don’t know if you’re familiar with the name Damon Bailey, but yeah, he was Damon Bailey is the all time leading score for high school players in the state of Indiana. And he even chose to go play for Bob Knight and I, you which essentially canonized him as a player and he can do absolutely no wrong. Went to see him, Indiana and he was drafted by the Pacers in the second round. He never had an NBA career because essentially Fred Hoiberg took his roster spot. So that, that’s just a strange coincidence right there. But I know that Hoiberg has had some success.
Travis Miller: 27:01
He was a role player for many years in the NBA. He had some success in Iowa state. If you’re looking at a guy that’s going to get Nebraska to the tournament regularly, yeah. And finally get that first NCAA Tournament win, that’s a good hire. But is he going to be the guy that’s going to suddenly come in and having Nebraska competing to win big 10 basketball championships and get the sweet sixteens and final fours? I mean that’s hard. That’s difficult to say just because you do have so many established programs right now within the big 10 and it is just, it’s tough. I mean they [inaudible] it’s really, really hard to compete and win the big 10 I, I often think, and I’m probably in the minority here, I think it is harder to win a big 10 regular season basketball championship than it is to reach a final four.
Travis Miller: 27:57
And I say that because the final four, as we’ve seen in recent years, I believe that before this year there were five straight years where a seven seed or worse made the final four and you can get hot for four days on a neutral court and make a final four. To win a big 10 title you’ve got to win at least 16 games over two months and likely win at least six or seven times in very hostile road environments. That’s just really, really insanely difficult to do. It’s just, it’s a marathon. It’s a battle of attrition. You’ve got to get some luck and you know, per what Purdue’s done the last couple of years, we’re essentially one rebound away from three straight, big 10 titles if we can box out, [name] Caleb got a bass.
Yeah. for Ohio state in the 2017, 18 season and get one rebound at the end of the Ohio state game where we lost at home by a point. We win that game. We win the big 10 that year and we won three straight titles. But at the same time, that’s, that’s luck. I mean we, we’re that close and that was one of the best teams in Purdue history, but they still didn’t officially win any kind of championship. And so it’s, it’s a kind of a strange year to look at it too.
Jon Johnston: 29:24
So last year I really enjoyed Big 10 basketball. I’m 57 years old and I’ve waited my entire life for us to win one bloody NCAA tournament game. So the idea that we’d get to a Final Four is we’re going colonize Mars. You know what I mean? They’re about the same range. So first things first, but last year you guys, I paid attention to your site and Purdue fans, they wanted Matt Painter strung up on a pole early in the season, didn’t they?
Travis Miller: 30:00
I don’t know if it was Painter, but so much is we were just, we were really down on the team. And when you lose four senior starters, nobody has four senior starters in college basketball anymore. Unless you’re some small school in the middle of Pennsylvania playing in the Patriot league, you might have four senior starters. You don’t have four senior starters in a major conference. It just took a while for this team to adjust and kind of grow into itself.
And I honestly think that by the end of the season, Painter had done the best coaching job if his entire career, because I was at the game here in Indy where they lost to Notre Dame by eight points and it dropped us to six and five on the season. We have lost all of our major non-conference games to that point, to Virginia Tech to Texas.
Travis Miller: 30:53
We lost the Florida State Game and the ACC big 10 challenge and we lost to Notre Dame. And a couple of them were just agonizingly close losses. And honestly I didn’t think we looked like an NCAA tournament team. And in the span of a couple of weeks he turned it around. The team bought in. They were able to right themselves and start playing within themselves
. Carson Edwards really kind of played more within himself while still being able to do Carson Edwards things. And then we have that great run in the tournament where Edwards just went to another level. And I think as Purdue fans, we have a bit of a complex because it’s been 40 years since we’ve been to a Final Four. We just have, I call it PTSD, Purdue Tournament Stress Disorder because we always find a way to blow it.
Travis Miller: 31:50
Something always seems to happen where you have 1988 maybe the best team in our school’s history loses the Kansas state in the Sweet 16. And we had beaten them by 30 points that December and a non conference date. You have 1994 with Glen Robinson, probably the best player we’ve ever had individually. Number one overall pick. He hurts his back after beating Kansas in the sweet 16 and just isn’t very effective and we lose to Duke. 96, we lose in the second round as a number one seed. 98, we blow a game to Stanford where it was more of a a boxing match than a basketball game. And we lose a Stanford in the sweet 16. I know 2000. We finally get the broken bracket. We’re playing eight seeded Wisconsin in the elite eight. And this was supposed to be the year that Keady finally broke through and will make a final four and we lose the bloody Wisconsin for the third time in four games because we played them four times, sat here and just year after year after year of, um, all of this happening.
I haven’t even gotten to Robbie Hummel getting hurt or [name] getting hurt. And then this year’s run was just magical. And I managed to get there to Louisville for the, uh, game against Virginia. And I’ve, I’ve said many times we came literally as close as you can get to a final four without actually going. We were two 10th of a second away. And when when the ball got knocked into the back court after their missed free throw with four seconds left, my very first thought was we’re going to the final four because there’s no way they can get a shot off and that’s either going to go out of bounds at the end of the court or they’ll grab it and they’ll throw up a half-court prayer and somehow they converted it.
Travis Miller: 33:40
Sitting there in the arena and I just, I, I’m staring up at the ceiling and I give all the credit in the world to the Virginia team because they made one hell of a team play. And that’s the one team that could actually have the focus and the ability to not panic there because anybody else, a freshman guard gets that ball 60 feet from the basket, three seconds left in the clock, running down. What are they? Do they panic and they throw up the half court shot? No, he manages to fire this cross-court pass to a teammate that barely gets the shot off to tie it.
On the one hand it’s the ‘oh great’, just our luck. But on the other, I was strangely encouraged because it’s like something felt different with that that we came that close and it feels like we are gonna have that breakthrough eventually. Maybe I’m just still kind of basking in the moment of it or anything else, but it was a pretty special moment and [inaudible] it will be nice to get there. And it’s kind of my sports white whale now that the cubs have finally won a world series to see Purdue actually make a final four and well this adds to the heartbreak it’s going to make it that much sweeter when it finally happens.
Jon Johnston: 34:52
So you’ve talked a lot about basketball. My hope for our basketball team is to win a Frickin NCAA tournament game. When you look at Purdue football, I mean what do Purdue fans really hope for?
Travis Miller: 35:12
I’m old enough that I was a student when Drew Brees was there and Brees is an absolute legend. I got to go to the rose bowl when he took us to the rose bowl. And either that that’s kind of, that’s kind of my cubs winning the world series moment is I’m sitting in the Rose Bowl on new year’s day. kind of the moment that it really sunk for me was we have this [inaudible] a poem that they read as the band is presenting. I call her for the national anthem. It’s called I am an American and there’s always a line that they modify for the specific game. And it’s, you know, usually it’s you can sweep them clear across this bright September sky. And they said this beautiful southern California sky and every Purdue fan just went crazy.
Travis Miller: 36:01
And that was the pinnacle. We had reached it, we made it to the Rose Bowl. And I don’t think it’s going to get a whole lot better than this because I have no delusions that Purdue is ever even going to make the College Football playoff. I think if we made a big 10 title game, that would be that would be just wonderful, wonderful, wonderful year for us because we only have [inaudible] one 10 win season in Purdue history. So I would say competing for a big 10 championship, making it to Indy and if we were to win the big 10 title game and Indy, that would just be it.
Any bowl appearance or anything that would happen after that, we’re just being gravy because we can’t imagine it. Winning a college football national title is up there with, you know, you guys winning an NCAA national title in basketball. We just would like to get there and win a big 10 championship. That would be huge for us. And for a lot of Purdue fans, we got to see that in 2000 with Brees and uh, you know, it allows us to hold that over the heads of Indiana because they haven’t won one since 1967. Okay.
Jon Johnston: 37:08 There is that Indiana thing, Huh?
Travis Miller: 37:11
It’s not so much there in football. Mostly for Purdue fans. It’s okay. We’re not great. We’re better than Indiana. And football were that really is basketball because we have two here, the five banners, crap everywhere we go. They haven’t won a national title in 32 years, but they’ve still won five of them and we haven’t won one. And another personal thing for me is a lot of Purdue fans, we’ll be like, hey, we have one in 1932 and I’m like, okay. That was 1932 that was before the NCAA tournament even existed. That was an awarded title. And while, yes, we have the banner up in our arena and yes, it’s officially recognized as a national title. To me that’s just, you’re like, really? You’re getting back at somebody saying that they have their dusty banners and haven’t won one in 32 years and you’re reputation is, well, we did win one and it sure it was 90 years ago, but we won one.
Jon Johnston: 38:15
Okay, I’m going to change, I’m going to change to Purdue as a university.
Travis Miller: 38:21 Yes.
Jon Johnston: 38:22
My rotten son got accepted there. I have a photo of my son who is now my rotten son holding a poster that says Isaiah Johnston, congratulations you are a Boiler. He didn’t go to Purdue. He went to the University of Minnesota where he’s majoring in applied math. That’s why he’s my rotten son. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. Purdue has a huge influence in NASA, if I remember correctly. Just a little bit about Purdue as a university.
Travis Miller: 39:06
It is a major, Major engineering school and science technology school. That is definitely what we are known for. I believe we’re at 22 or 23 astronauts now, including a, I’m contractually obligated to say that, yes, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon was a Purdue alum. I also like to add that Gene Cernan, the last man on the moon was a Purdue alum,, so you have the first on, last off there. That is definitely what they are counting. This is officially also the 150th anniversary of the founding of the university in 1869 and conveniently the 100th anniversary of our most famous campus bar Harry’s chocolate shop.
Travis Miller: 39:53
It is definitely known for its science and its technology. I was the fool that went there for communications. We also have a very good vet school. My Dad was an alum of the pharmacy school, one of the very few universities that has a pharmacy school but does not have any medical school. And we are also one of the very few universities in the big 10 that does not have a law school. So we are very much a agriculture science, technology school like that. All of our alumns are fiercely loyal because we don’t have any national following.
You know, we’re little Purdue people think that we are a private school unless you were from the state of Indiana and you know that it is a state school. We’re technically the land grant college for the state of Indiana. So we’ve got that going for us. We just Kinda [inaudible] we, that’s what we are, is we’re, we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished and everything else. And we definitely tout the NASA thing that is [inaudible] our big a national thing. But we also have a couple of other famous alumni like Orville Redenbacher was a Purdue alum, Jim Gaffigan at least attended Purdue and was a walk on the football team in the 80s.
Jon Johnston: 41:17 I did not know that. I did not know that.
Travis Miller: 41:21
If you search, you can find a picture of him in his football uniform. I don’t know if he ever actually played, but he was a walk on.
Jon Johnston: 41:32
Interesting. Okay. Purdue, Pete, one of the most terrifying mascots in all of football.
Is he addicted to meth? Is he addicted to crack? Does he just follow each addiction epidemic as it goes along or what’s the deal? It’s Purdue Pete.
Travis Miller: 41:51
I think he also has Purdue tournament stress disorder, because he’s seen some stuff.
Travis Miller: 42:02
I think probably the closest thing that we’ve had in football... Purdue fans call it “the fumble” It’s 2004. Kyle Orton is leading the Heisman race. Purdue is ranked fifth in the nation, the highest ranking that we’ve had in decades. We have college game day on campus. We’re playing Wisconsin and we blow a 10 point lead against Wisconsin with eight minutes to go. We have the ball with about two and a half, three minutes to go. The lead is three points. All we really needed is a first down to salt the game away. Orton goes on a bootleg, he dives for the first town and fumbles the ball and Wisconsin returns for a touchdown and wins the game by three points, starts a four game losing streak.
And strangely enough, it started the downfall of Purdue football from the pinnacle of being ranked fifth there. To nine years later, we have the Hazel 0-11 year in 2013. If you look at every event in Purdue football from that point, it was a constant downward motion to the Hazel era and only now are we digging out of it with Jeff Brohm. So that probably does explain the haunted look to go with all the basketball and misery that we’ve had in the month of March. Because only at Purdue would we have a 30 win season and our one unstoppable offensive threat, busts his elbow in the NCAA tournament.
Jon Johnston: 43:42 Okay.
Travis Miller: 43:45
We’re, we’re leading by 20 plus points and he is just pulled to the ground by some nameless Cal State Fullerton forward. It just shatters his elbow and we went from, I just remember watching that game in the afternoon and it was like, oh, Hoss got hurt. He’ll be all right. He’ll shake it off and everything. He stayed in the game after that. And you know, we, we got our predictable win over the 15 seed too. Half an hour after the game at break, it comes out that he broke his elbow and his out for the rest of the tournament. And every Purdue fan is like, oh, you’ve gotta be fricking kidding me.
Jon Johnston: 44:23
Well I was going to ask you, who’s more terrifying? We both have biases. Purdue Pete or Lil’ Red?
Travis Miller: 44:35
I’m going to go with Pete. Pete has seen some stuff. There’s some real pain behind those eyes. That’s just a thousand yard stare that he’s got going.
Jon Johnston: 44:44
There are a lot of Nebraska fans who hate Lil Red. HATE. I am not one of them. I think he’s unique and bouncy and fun, but there are people out there that hate the idea that we have him for a mascot. Alright, we’re gonna wrap it up. We’ve been with Travis Miller, the founder and current site manager of HammerandRails.com the SB nation Purdue site. Is there anything else you’d like to say in closing, Travis?
Travis Miller: 45:15
We actually had our own version of Lil Red. If you look up Rowdy for Purdue in the early 2000s, he actually could be a Lil’ Red cousin, same look, same inflatable thing and everything else. He’s been retired for some time, but, I think that’s probably why we [inaudible] get along so well is because Lil Red doesn’t effect us when we had our own little red with Rowdy.
Jon Johnston: 45:42
That is, I did look that up and it’s, okay. Yeah. Whatever. All right, we’re gonna wrap it up. Thank you for joining me, Travis. I hope you have a good rest of the day, rest of the week. I wish you luck with your football program, but not that much.
This has been Jon’s Postlife Crisis. I thank you all for listening. Have a good day and goodbye.