Darrell Hazell put on a Boilermaker baseball cap Wednesday night at his introductory news conference as the new Purdue football coach. But he will wear two hats for the next month.
Hazell will still coach Kent State in its first bowl game in 40 years.
"For me to walk away right now," said Hazell, "when we're right at the end of our goal, didn't seem right to me. I wanted to finish through that goal."
Hazell said he will travel back and forth between West Lafayette, IN, and Kent, Ohio. Hazell will get to know his Purdue personnel, assemble a coaching staff and recruiting for the Boilermakers. At the same time, he prepares his Golden Flashes to face Arkansas State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on January 6th.
Purdue is also preparing for a bowl game under the direction of wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins, who was named interim head coach when Danny Hope was fired. The Boilermakers face Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl on New Year's Day at 12 noon. Hazell plans to attend Purdue's bowl game.
"Here's a program (Purdue) right now that's in the middle of the pack," said Hazell. "But I want to be at the top of the pack pretty quickly. I think we have an opportunity. When I took the Kent State job, people looked at me like I was crazy. 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 we went to work, and that's what we're going to do here, and we're going to win championships here."
Hazell said a quick goodbye to his former players at Kent State early Wednesday morning. He said hello to his new Purdue players at training table Wednesday evening.
"You can definitely tell he's a class act," said Purdue junior quarterback Rob Henry. "You can definitely see why he has been successful everywhere he's been. His demeanor and the way he presents himself, I think everyone on the team was very impressed."
Hazell is 48 years old. He spent two seasons at Kent State, leading the Golden Flashes to an 11-2 record and earning Mid-American Conference Coach of the Year honors this season. Hazell brought unprecedented success to a program with almost no history of winning football. This is the first winning season for the Golden Flashes since 2001. Hazell spent seven seasons previously as an assistant coach to Jim Tressel at Ohio State. He considers Tressel one of his greatest coaching mentors and consulted with his former boss before taking the Purdue job.
"Coach Tressel and I talked last night probably three different times," said Hazell. "He's a guy that always has a way of putting things to make you at ease. He did that for me yesterday when we were going through all this decision making. He has been an unbelievable guiding light for me."
Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke confirmed that Hazell has signed a six year contract. Burke says financial parameters will be released later. But media reports say the deal is worth $2 million a season. Hazell earned a base salary of $300,000 at Kent State.
Hazell becomes Purdue's first black head football coach and just the fourth in the history of Big Ten football.
"I want to give a lot of credit to the (Purdue) administration," said Floyd Keith, Executive Director of the Black Coaches & Administrators, based in Indianapolis. "All through this hiring process, I had great communication with Morgan Burke. We discussed candidates of color. There was an openness about it. Darrell was right there from day one."
Hazell is a 1986 graduate of Muskingum College. He and his wife, Annmarie, have a son, Kyle.