Purdue’s Joe Tiller prepares for final season

While every Big 10 football coach is preparing to open camp next week, Purdue’s Joe Tiller is different; this year will be his final season before retiring.

“This will be [year] number 44 for me,” Tiller said at the Big 10 Media Day last weekend in Chicago.

“You know I think I’m probably as excited this year as I was at number one.”

Tiller’s first year was, by and large, a success for the program and, if it’s up to him, he’ll finish the same way.

“We were able to bring the Purdue program from the depths to being very competitive,” Tiller said.

After Purdue went 3-8 in 1996, Tiller turned around the program in his first year to finish with a 9-3 record and a win over Oklahoma State in the Alamo Bowl.

It was the first of many bowls with the Boilermakers, who, before Tiller, hadn’t been to a Bowl game since 1984.

“I think that when I went to Purdue they had 12 non-Bowl seasons and maybe 11 of the 12 had been losing seasons, what have you, to the fact where we’ve been competitive every year and will be one again this year. Probably that’s what most folks will refer to, I suppose,” Tiller said, when asked about his legacy.

Credited with bringing the spread offense to the Big 10, Tiller’s squad this year could be a final testament to the program’s coaching savior.

With senior quarterback Curtis Painter back under center and a healthy mix of receivers to throw to, including senior Greg Orton , Tiller is relaxed – so relaxed, in fact, he was the only coach at media day without a tie.

“I’m a big Joe Tiller fan because he can walk in here without a tie,” Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said. “If I got up here without a tie, I’d get heckled, so I admire a guy going into his last year and can wear what he wants and no one is going to say anything.”

As far as the development of the spread offense goes, Tiller remains relaxed and modest, saying that the system was going to happen “sooner or later.”

“Young people like to throw and catch and run around and high five each other and enjoy having fun playing the game,” Tiller said. “I think the style of offense is a fun style, I guess, to participate in.”

Tiller, who graduated from Montana State in 1965 with a B.S. degree in secondary education, sounds more like a sociologist when he talks about the spread.

“It’s almost, to me, a reflection of our society, in that things can happen in an instant in the spread offense,” Tiller said. “I often times refer to our society as being an instant gratification society, so the spread offense fits right in. We’ve just done our part to help America be better.”

Boilermakers associate head coach Danny Hope will take over the program following this year.

Paterno: “I don’t know”

Tiller might not be the only Big 10 coach to leave the conference and college football after this year.

Penn State’s longtime coach Joe Paterno is in the final year of his contract with the school, but isn’t considering his options until after this season.

“I want to make sure that when I [retire], I do it the way Rip Engle did it. When Rip Engle retired and gave me a shot, he left a lot of meat on the bones,” Paterno said. “I inherited a really good football team, and Rip knew that and Rip didn’t get out of it because it was worthless. I hope I can do the same thing whenever I decide to get out of it.”

If both Paterno and Tiller step down after this season, the conference will lose its two longest-tenured coaches.