For today’s second article, I’ve chosen to talk about the non-revenue sport programs at Purdue University. Members of the Purdue hivemind should be aware that Purdue offers the minimum number of sports required by the conference and is also currently tied for 11th in all-time Big Ten championships (73) with Chicago. That’s right. Penn State who has been in the league approximately 1⁄4 as long as Purdue has more league titles. Chicago hasn’t been in the conference since the 40s and has as many. Maryland is coming up from behind quickly. Just to complete the picture: remember that Purdue leads all Big Ten schools in basketball conference championships with 24. So that’s less than 50 in all other sports combined. As you can imagine some of the Purdue non-revenue sports have been bleak.
But we are here today to celebrate the accomplishments of Purdue’s student athletes and talk about the state of these programs, not the lack of past success. Each of these programs is deserving of their own standalone articles and I’m grateful for each of the athletes that chose to represent Purdue. While I’m unable to give any of them the justice they deserve as quite frankly I am not that knowledgeable of most of these programs, I’ll do my best to hit the highlights. Apologies to anyone whom I’ve left out.
Purdue volleyball plays in Holloway Gymnasium. An intimate location with capacity of just 2288, the Boilermaker Block Party (honestly no idea if they’ve kept this name - just what is was when I was there) makes it an intimidating atmosphere. There is an argument to be made that volleyball is the top athletic program at Purdue currently. I won’t go that far (I think women’s golf and men’s basketball are in front of them), but they are certainly among one of the few that has shown they can consistently compete at the national level.
Coach Dave Shondell took over the program way back in 2003. At the time Purdue volleyball hadn’t made the NCAA tournament since 1990. During his 19 years at the helm, the team has missed the tournament just 3 times. They advanced to the Sweet 16 ten times and the Elite 8 four times. What Shondell hasn’t been able to do is win the conference (it is the hardest volleyball conference for a reason) or make the Final Four. Turns out the whole Final Four thing is an issue for Purdue across the board.
This year’s lineup will skew younger as key contributors to last year’s Elite 8 run are all graduated: setter Hayley Bush, outside hitters Grace Cleveland and Caitlyn Newton, defensive specialists Jena Otec and Marissa Hornung, and middle blocker Jael Johnson are all gone and these 6 were among the top 8 in the rotation last season. Senior libero/defensive specialist Maddie Schermerhorn, senior outside hitter Emma Ellis, rising sophomore blocker and soon to be star Raven Colvin, and sophomore Ali Hornung will look to step into bigger roles and continued the program’s recent success.
Once upon a time, women’s basketball at Purdue was revenue neutral. Or at least that’s what the old timers tell me. And as far as team sports go, they have one of just 3 NCAA championships at Purdue. Unfortunately the last coach ran that reputation as one of the places for women’s basketball into the ground over the course of her 15 seasons at Purdue. Not only has Notre Dame clearly left Purdue behind, but Indiana has even been considered a better program in recent years.
In steps Katie Gearlds to do the difficult job of rebuilding a once proud program. Gearlds was a former Purdue star and the #7 pick in the 2007 WNBA draft. Prior to being announced as Sharon Versyp’s replacement in waiting after the 2020-21 season (and then given the head coaching job immediately just before the season), Gearlds was the head coach at NAIA Marian University for 8 seasons. While there Marian won two NAIA Division II national championships, won their conference regular season Gearlds’ final 6 seasons and also won their conference tournament multiple times. While her first year at Purdue was up and down experience, the Boilermakers showed improved effort and intensity throughout the season and their record improved upon the previous year despite the transfers out that typically follow a head coaching change.
Returning seniors Rickie Woltman, Abbey Ellis, Cassidy Hardin, and Jeanae Terry will lead the team alongside former Northwestern player Madison Layden. Layden was the star for the Boilers last year and since she is only a junior she will bridge the gap between the group of seniors and the incoming freshmen and last year’s redshirt freshmen who have some talent to work with.
Baseball at Purdue has a long history of being not very good. They have won just two Big Ten titles despite being a founding member of Big Ten baseball (1909 and 2012). Current coach Greg Goff was previously fired from Alabama after considering revoking scholarships from players which is against NCAA rules.
On the positive side, the program plays in nice, still newish Alexander Field which is a large step up from the previous facilities - although more of a trek for students to catch a game. Despite Goff’s history at Alabama, he’s been an okay coach at Purdue and helped keep Nebraska out of the Big Ten tournament by allegedly plotting with Maryland baseball to not play the final game of the regular season. Anything that makes Nebraska fans unhappy is good, so maybe Goff isn’t that terrible of a person.
I’d comment on the top returning players, but since the MLB draft isn’t for another month and that draft can completely upend college baseball between taking juniors and opening spots for outgoing transfers we honestly don’t know who will be returning yet.
Soccer at Purdue went 15-4-3 last season, finished the season ranked 24th, but fell to Notre Dame in the 2nd round of the tournament on penalty kicks. This was Purdue’s first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2009.
Unfortunately for fans of Purdue soccer, last year’s leading scorer Sarah Griffith (16 goals) was the 35th overall pick in the 2022 NWSL Draft. Last year’s goal keeper Marisa Bova was the 45th overall pick in the draft. Griffith and Bova are the only two NWSL draft picks in Purdue history so losing the two of them will be quite a blow. The highest returning goal scorers are Emily Mathews (6) and Sydney Duarte (3). No other returning players had more than 1. Head coach Drew Roff will look to build on the momentum of a 2nd place B1G finish, two draft picks, and a Round of 32 appearance.
Purdue softball went 24-31 this past season and finished 11th in the conference. Purdue has never won softball in the Big Ten and has made the NCAA tournament just two times (2008 and 2009). Current coach Boo De Oliveira will be in her sixth season and was an assistant on those NCAA tournament teams.
Departing senior Rachel Becker lead the team with a .429 average. Fellow departing senior Alex Echazarreta lead the team in homeruns hit (7) and ERA (minimum 2 appearances) with a 3.60 ERA.
Devon Brouse has retired after 25 years at the Purdue women’s golf coach. He brought Purdue their most recent team national championship back in 2010. He is being replaced by Zach Byrd who has been an assistant at Ole Miss (the 2021 national champions) the past four seasons.
This past season, the women’s team finished 12th in the NCAA tournament. Danielle DuToit, Sifat Sagoo, Ashley Kazlowski, and Jocelyn Bruch will return from the group of 5 players that led them to that finish.
Men’s golf is the third and final Purdue team to have won a NCAA national championship but that came way back in 1961. They are currently led by head coach Rob Bradley who will be entering his ninth year and are a program back on the right track as they have made the NCAA Regionals 6 out of 7 seasons (2020 was cancelled) making this the longest stretch of postseason men’s golf for Purdue since the 60s.
Men’s & Women’s Swimming and Diving
Apologies for lumping the men’s and women’s teams together but there are a lot of swimmers and divers and quite frankly I’ve had a difficult time finding information on them.
For the men, they finished 5th in the B1G competition despite having the best swimming and diving facilities in the conference (former athletic director Morgan Burke was a swimmer). Although none of the Boilermakers won any events at the conference meet, freshman Jordan Rzepka is a name to keep an eye on moving forward.
As for the women, they finished 10th (out of 12). Senior diver Maggie Merriman was one of the few bright spots and was an All-American.
Look Purdue wrestling isn’t Iowa or Penn State. But they have finished in the top 25 of the final rankings 6 of the past 8 years. Like volleyball, wrestling at Purdue has a Big Ten problem. The conference is too good at the sport and even a decent team from a national perspective is going to really struggle in conference play.
Women’s and Men’s Track and Field
The women finished 11th and the men 9th at the Big Ten championships. Senior Safin Wills won the men’s triple jump with a jump of 16.2 meters (2nd place was 15.93).
The women’s tennis program finished tied for 10th in the B1G last season and hasn’t been ranked (they rank like 70ish teams) since 2016. Laura Glitz is in her 15th season at the head women’s tennis coach. Junior Csilla Fodor was named All-Big Ten last season.
The men’s tennis program finished 8th (out of 10) in the B1G last season. I think it is important to note that Indiana’s men’s tennis program didn’t win a single match in conference play. Pawel Gajdzik will be entering his 13th season as head coach and the program has not been ranked since 2016 (they also rank like 70ish teams).
Senior Curt Eckstein and junior Emma Tate represented Purdue at the NCAA Cross Country championships last fall. They finished 137th and 156th respectively. Look, I ran cross country in junior high and high school. While it can be fun to compete in, it’s an awful spectator sport and there isn’t a lot I can say to make it interesting to non-runners. The men finished 7th and the women 9th at the Big Ten championships.
I have a hard time seeing any of Purdue’s non-revenue sports being true national title contenders next season except women’s golf and maybe volleyball but that volleyball team lost a lot of talent. The rebuilds continue and hopefully some of these programs break thru.
If you have a non-revenue sports story to share, do so in the comments. Otherwise answer the poll question. The correct answer is whichever sport finishes their season first since Purdue is sweeping the Big Ten championships next season in every sport they play (which would move them all the way up to... 10th in all time B1G championships, passing Northwestern), but feel free to enter an incorrect answer.
The next Big Ten champion at Purdue will be...
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