Morgan Burke has left an indelible mark on Purdue University while etching his name as one of the visionary leaders in intercollegiate athletics.
Now in his 21st year as athletics director at his alma mater, Burke continues to put his heart and soul into what he truly views as a labor of love. He has worked vigorously to ensure every student-athlete has a positive experience at Purdue.
Burke, who has the fourth-longest tenure among current athletics directors at FBS institutions and presently is serving as president of the Division 1A Athletic Directors Association, has set a high standard for the Boilermakers. The department's strategic plan outlines its goals for "Developing Champions / Developing Scholars / Developing Citizens." The term "25/85 Club" was coined to articulate a vision of an intercollegiate athletics organization that achieves an average finish in the top 25 across all sports and has a Graduation Success Rate of 85 percent. Few institutions achieve this lofty status, but that is Purdue's ambition.
Burke, who was promoted to university vice president in February of 2014, has been called the athletics director who came down from the grandstands because he was an avid fan and member of the John Purdue Club long before he was appointed to lead the department. No one wants to see the Boilermakers succeed more than Burke, and few expend more energy cheering them on to victory.
In 1992, the Purdue Board of Trustees voted unanimously to declare the intention to establish "a nationally prominent athletic organization that is excellent in all respects." That meant making up ground on the other schools in the Big Ten Conference and achieving in the classroom. It meant winning and playing by the rules. And it meant building new facilities and improving others to attract top coaches and student-athletes to West Lafayette.
Athletics Director Longevity At Same FBS Institution
Chris Hill, Utah - since October 1987
Jeremy Foley, Florida - since March 1992
Ron Wellman, Wake Forest - since October 1992
Morgan Burke, Purdue - since January 1993
When Burke succeeded George King as AD on Jan. 1, 1993, he pledged to build on the foundation already in place. Working with coaches and staff, aggressive goals were set.
On the athletics side, Burke's expectation was to improve the position of Purdue teams in the Big Ten and nationally. Significant strides have been made on both fronts. In 2009-10, 14 teams finished in the upper half of the Big Ten, the high-water mark in Burke's time at Purdue. On the national scene, 14 squads earned NCAA postseason opportunities in 2011-12, the most in school history.
Two teams have won NCAA championships - women's basketball in 1999 and women's golf in 2010 - while seven student-athletes have captured a combined 12 individual national crowns. The football team embarked on a run of 10 bowl games in 12 years from 1997 to 2008, and the men's basketball team achieved an unprecedented string of back-to-back-to-back Big Ten regular-season championships in 1994, 1995 and 1996. All told, Burke has overseen 20 regular-season conference championships and 13 tournament titles.
Facility Enhancements Under Burke
The athletics department has invested nearly a quarter of billion dollars in facility construction and renovation projects since early in the 21st century.
In 2001, work started on the renovation of Ross-Ade Stadium. Upon its completion, the remade Ross-Ade boasted vastly expanded concessions and restrooms along a wider concourse, wider aisles and individual seats, and increased seating for fans in wheelchairs. Towering over the west grandstands, the Ross-Ade Pavilion houses suites, indoor and outdoor club seats, the Buchanan and Shively stadium clubs, and facilities for the working press and game-day staff.
An extensive look at the south end zone of Ross-Ade currently is under way. This project will include new video boards, a new distributed sound system and overall stadium enhancements while also addressing needed concrete repair in the southeast and southwest corners of the main horseshoe.
The Boilermaker Aquatic Center - featuring the Doris Z. Holloway Pool - opened its doors in 2001 and since then has played host to multiple championship events, including the 2005 and 2010 NCAA Women's Championships and 2006 U.S. Open, plus four Big Ten Championships and four NCAA Diving Zones.
The Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex has undergone several facelifts. Pete Dye's redesign of the Kampen Course instantly provided Purdue national credibility, as it was the site of the 2003 NCAA Women's Championships and the 2008 NCAA Men's Championships. The Tom Spurgeon Golf Training Center subsequently was dedicated in 2005. Now, a major renovation is in the works to significantly upgrade the Ackerman Hills Course with another Dye design that will give Purdue the very best collegiate golf facility in the country.
Purdue's volleyball program, one of just five programs nationally to advance to the Sweet 16 or further each of the last four years, has received several major upgrades to its facility within Holloway Gymnasium. The volleyball court was revamped in 2006 and named after Boilermaker supporters Ron and Kay Belin.
The Dennis J. and Mary Lou Schwartz Tennis Center opened its doors in 2006 and played host to the 2007 Big Ten Men's Championships and the 2008 Big Ten Women's Championships.
Also in 2006, the Mollenkopf Athletic Center got a makeover, with a new FieldTurf field named after Richard, Alice and Kimra Schleicher.
The Mackey Complex project, completed in 2012, revitalized a campus landmark that has served as the home of Boilermaker basketball since 1967 while having a dynamic effect on all Purdue teams. Seventy percent of the nearly 280,000 square feet of new or renovated space benefits all 500-plus student-athletes. A new three-level structure adjacent to the arena features improved and increased space for sports medicine and sports performance, plus a basketball practice facility, new locker rooms and lounges, meeting rooms, offices and three club spaces for fans. The overall fan experience also was significantly improved with a wider concourse and additional concession stands and restrooms.
The Drew and Brittany Brees Student-Athlete Academic Center - formerly the Intercollegiate Athletic Facility - underwent a transformation that increased academic support service space from 6,500 to 11,000 square feet.
Also included in the Mackey Complex project was a master plan to further develop the northwest edge of campus, including an upgrade to the Boilermaker Soccer Complex and a new baseball stadium, named Alexander Field for the parents of former coach Dave Alexander. Both facilities were completed in 2012. Now, a new softball stadium is being constructed, with plans to begin play in the spring of 2015.
Similar excellence was expected in the classroom - to match or surpass the overall grade-point average of the general student body. That goal has been achieved each of the last 34 semesters - or 17 years. Following the 2014 spring semester, the cumulative GPA for all current Purdue student-athletes was a record 3.04. It has been above 3.0 for 11 consecutive semesters. The current four-year average Graduation Success Rate stands at 82 percent. Moreover, 90 percent of student-athletes completing their eligibility at Purdue graduate, and student-athletes who graduated in May of 2013 realized a 90 percent job-placement rate.
Furthermore, Burke articulated an expectation for all areas of Intercollegiate Athletics - from facilities to fund raising - to make measurable improvement.
Purdue Athletics is a self-supporting auxiliary enterprise - one of just seven such NCAA Division I programs currently - that receives no university or state funding and writes a check to the university for scholarships. As a result, financial resources constantly need to be expanded to support all sports. Burke has challenged Purdue alumni and fans to get on board to propel Boilermaker athletics to greatness by joining the John Purdue Club. The club's prime purpose is to fund athletics scholarships, and it has more than doubled in members and contributions during Burke's tenure. He and the staff are working to grow the club by an additional 50 percent to support scholarship costs that now exceed $10 million annually.
Recognizing the need for contemporary facilities, Burke and his staff have identified and addressed construction and renovation projects benefiting every program since the start of the new millennium - with an investment of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars.
Another goal of Burke's was to involve former student-athletes in the life of the department, to counsel and question, and provide ideas to keep the organization sharp. In 1993, he established an advisory council made up of 24 student-athlete alumni. The group meets annually to hear reports and make suggestions to Burke and senior administrators.
In 2003, former student-athletes found a new home in Intercollegiate Athletics with the founding of the Varsity P Club. A subset of the John Purdue Club, the Varsity P Club boasts more than 1,000 members who are welcomed back each fall.
A 1973 industrial management graduate and captain of the swimming team his senior year, Burke was a member of Phi Beta Kappa scholastic honorary. After graduation, he continued at Purdue and earned a master's degree in industrial relations in 1975. In 1980, he graduated with a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
Burke pursued a successful career with Inland Steel Co. after law school, moving through 13 positions in an 18-year span. He was vice president when he departed to return to Purdue.
Beyond Purdue, Burke presently serves on the NCAA Leadership Council, which identifies important issues surrounding the future of the NCAA and reports to the Board of Directors. He previously was a member of several Big Ten boards (Executive, Program/Budget and Compliance committees) and NCAA working groups (Championships and Competitions and Postseason Football committees). He was a vanguard for cost containment before the economic downturn forced other departments to take notice.
Left to right: Morgan, Molly (Morgan Jr.'s wife), Kate, Morgan Jr., Joyce (holding son Andrew), Ryan (Joyce's husband holding daughter Kate), Courtney (Patrick's wife) and Patrick sporting their Purdue hats that have been "Hazelled" by head football coach Darrell Hazell.
In 2010, Burke was honored as the Football Bowl Subdivision Central Region Under Armour AD of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics.
The 62-year-old Burke is married to the former Catherine J. (Kate) Mullane, a Purdue alumna and pharmacist. They have three children who are Purdue graduates. Joyce is a materials engineer; she and her husband, Ryan, and children, Kate and Andrew, reside in Austin, Texas. Morgan Jr. is a landscape architect and works for the Guzzardo Partnership in San Francisco, where he lives with his wife, Molly, and daughter, Parker June. Patrick is an MBA candidate at Harvard; he and his wife, Courtney, make their home in Chicago.