Burke ready to pass baton to Purdue's new athletic director

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke plans to spend his final months on campus doing the same old things.

He'll continue rooting for his alma mater, promises to lend a helping hand if asked and seems content taking a backseat to everything and everyone else around campus. Yes, after spending almost 25 years as the front man for Boilermaker sports, Burke is ready to step down and revel in becoming just another fan.

"I'm going back in the stands," he said during Wednesday's farewell news conference. "I've been a John Purdue Club member since '76. I've had football tickets forever. I have a lot of friends in the community, and I feel like Mike (Bobinski) knows the former AD won't be looking down over him. So I'm just going back into the stands."

Burke announced his retirement plan in February. After a six-month search, school administrators announced Aug. 9 that they had hired Bobinski, who plans to finish his own AD duties next week at Georgia Tech.

The official handoff is scheduled for Sept. 1.

So rather than create an awkward transition with two bosses essentially splitting duties, Burke plans to turn everything over to Bobinski next week. Burke, meanwhile, will complete his quarter-century of service at Purdue in a yet-to-be-defined role that will run through June.

Since taking the job in January 1993, Burke has seen just about everything — three straight Big Ten titles in men's basketball, national championships in women's basketball and women's golf, even a Rose Bowl trip following the 2000 season. His steady, confident demeanor helped Purdue remain poised when the football and men's basketball teams hit tough times.

He'll always remember the golf match he had with Drew Brees, when the former Heisman Trophy finalist and Super Bowl champion offered to donate money for a new education center.

While Burke did his best work behind the scenes, he presided over numerous renovations and expansion projects, countless celebrations and formed the "25-85" goal — a term that asked each team to aspire to Top 25 status on the field and produce a Graduation Success Rate of at least 85 percent.

But what stood out most to those who worked for Burke were his honesty, loyalty and unwavering commitment to put students first.

"I'll tell you the group he's loyal to the most is the students," football coach Darrell Hazell said. "He's really loyal to the students and the student-athletes; he has a special relationship with them and I think it may be because he was one of them."

Burke also takes prides that so many former athletes have credited their professional successes off the field to what they learned by playing at Purdue.

But he has grown weary of the 60 to 70-hour workweek, the 2 a.m. wake-up calls, the coaching searches and the day-to-day rigors of the job. He figures it's time he spends more time with his wife, Kate, than in the office.

And though Burke hasn't decided what the next chapter in his life will be, he insists that Bobinski is inheriting an athletic department on the move in all sports, including football, despite the shrinking crowds.

"We think what we've put in these last three years will pay dividends," Burke said when asked about the decline in football attendance. "Look, the fans are there. We saw it at the end of Gene (Keady's) tenure, we were down to about 9,000 in basketball. Look at it now. So we know the fans are there."

Burke tried to leave Purdue before, announcing his resignation in 1998 so he could return to private business. A few weeks later, he rescinded the resignation.

This time, he promises, it's over.

"I told (President) Mitch (Daniels) I'd help him any way I can," Burke said. "But I'm not going to just hang around because there is life after this job."


AP college football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org

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