The month of October produced some of the most exciting football in Purdue's history, and certainly the most spectacular action I have ever seen over such a long period.
It started in Ross-Ade Stadium on October 2 when the Boilermakers were dominated by a highly ranked Michigan team and trailed by 18 points at halftime. They stormed back to win the game 32-31 on a last-second field goal.
A week later, playing at Northwestern, the team again fell behind early, but late in the first quarter the Purdue defense took control, and in a game marked by numerous dramatic plays, won going away 38-24.
On October 21, Patty and I were fortunate enough to be in Madison for a game that our family will be talking about for years -- since our daughter, Marian, is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin. Ultimately the outcome was decided in overtime by a field goal, which Purdue blocked and returned for a touchdown.
We didn't think the action could get more thrilling than that, but the following Saturday on their home field, the Boilermakers did it again in a crucial game with Ohio State. Three lead changes in the final three minutes left more than 68,000 fans in a state of hyperventilation. After Purdue seemingly had given away both the game and the lead in the Big Ten Conference race, quarterback Drew Brees launched a 64-yard pass to Seth Morales, who scored the winning touchdown with less than two minutes left for a 31-24 victory.
My initiation to Purdue and Big Ten sports has been much more than I bargained for. There has been enough action to last us all several years, and we're just getting started.
Although the competitive action in football and the other sports is a lot of fun for fans -- of which I certainly am one -- I am most excited by the idea that Purdue is able to compete at the highest intercollegiate level with young people who are true scholar-athletes.
Drew Brees is an outstanding example. He is a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy and All-America honors, and he also is an outstanding student in Purdue's highly ranked Krannert School of Management.
A few days ago, he was notified that he has been named a Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation. The honor includes a post-graduate scholarship valued at $18,000.
Although Drew currently is the most celebrated athlete at Purdue, he is part of a larger picture. Overall, Boilermaker student-athletes maintain a grade-point average that is slightly higher than that of the student body.
In addition to their remarkable athletic skills, these young people must have a high degree of self-discipline and the ability to handle tremendous pressure. We tell each of our coaches that their first obligation is to look after the welfare of their athletes -- not only as competitors but as students and as citizens. We also expect them to:
Play by the rules of the University, the Big Ten, and the NCAA,
Be good representatives of Purdue, both in and out of the competitive arena.
There is no question that some abuses have occurred in college sports, but these are exceptions, rather than the rule. When it is done well, intercollegiate athletics can be a tremendous experience for the athlete, the student body, and the entire university community.
When the action gets as exciting as it has for the Boilermaker football team in recent weeks, the entire country can enjoy it!