Morgan Burke enters his 10th year in fall 2002 as director of intercollegiate athletics leading a management team that presides over 18 varsity sports that continue to build on successes.
Burke has been called “the athletics director who came down from the bleachers.” A former Purdue varsity swimmer as an undergraduate and ardent fan, football season ticket holder and John Purdue Club member for years before his 1992 appointment as the 11th director of intercollegiate athletics at Purdue, Burke has never lost his competitive zeal. Often seen stopping and chatting with Purdue student-athletes, all of whom he seems to know on a first-name basis, Burke is an affable, passionate ambassador for Purdue intercollegiate athletics.
A 1973 industrial management graduate, Burke was captain of the swimming team his senior year and 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 and, in 1981, a law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago.
He 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 become the Purdue athletics director.
When Burke succeeded George King as athletics director on Jan. 1, 1993, Purdue had a solid reputation for playing hard and playing by the rules. Burke pledged to build on the foundation already in place. Working with coaches and department staff, goals were set for all areas.
Burke came to Purdue promising to build on the traditions and successes of the past to develop “a nationally prominent athletic organization that is excellent in all respects.”
On the athletics side, Burke’s expectation was to raise the average finish in the Big Ten Conference while moving up the national rankings. In 1991-92, the Boilermakers collectively had a 7.92 finish in the Big Ten. In 2000-01, after steady progress during the 1990s, that figure had improved to 5.25. In 2001-02, Purdue had an average finish of 5.55. The 11-year improvement is the best among all conference schools.
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 10 semesters. Following the 2002 spring semester, the career cumulative GPA of all current Purdue student-athletes was a 2.91.
More specifically, Burke articulated an expectation for all areas of Intercollegiate Athletics to make measurable improvement.
To achieve this improvement, greater resources for facilities, scholarships and sports budgets were needed. More aggressive targets were set for merchandising, corporate partners and a range of marketing initiatives to provide the resources necessary to succeed. Because Intercollegiate Athletics writes a check to the University for scholarships, financial resources had to be expanded greatly to support all sports. Burke challenged Purdue alumni and fans to get on board to propel Boilermaker athletics to greatness. He set a goal of doubling the size of the 4,350-member John Purdue Club as well as doubling the $2.5 million raised annually to support student-athletes. Both goals have been achieved.
Burke and his staff have identified and addressed a number of facility priorities, upgrading practice and competition venues to attract and retain top student-athlete and coaching talent. Of three high-visibility projects, one is completed and bearing fruit, one opened in 2001 to the delight of swimmers and divers, and a third is two-thirds of the way to providing a gleaming new home of the football team: The Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, featuring a total redesign of the old North Course by renowned designer Pete Dye, instantly placed Purdue golf facilities on the national map. The Kampen Course, the new name of the Dye-designed layout, hosted the 2001 NCAA Women’s Central Regional tournament and will host the women’s national championship in 2003. The Boilermaker Aquatic Center opened in fall 2001 and already has hosted an NCAA regional diving meet. The Big Ten women’s championships will be held at the new center in 2003. In spring 2001, work started on the $70 million renovation of Ross-Ade Stadium. When completed in fall 2003, the remade Ross-Ade will boast vastly expanded concessions and restrooms along a wider concourse, new concrete throughout, wider aisles and wider individual seats, and increased seating for fans in wheelchairs. Crowning the project will be a new four-story pavilion that will house suites, indoor and outdoor club seats, facilities for the working press and game-day staff, and offices for department staff.
As Burke embarks on his second decade at the helm of the Boilermaker athletics program, his sights are set higher still. A new long-term facility master plan, the result of months of benchmarking and dreaming in 2001-02, will guide the development well into the 21st century. Coaches and senior administrators reaffirmed the strategic goals and vision of the department this spring. The Boilermakers are gathering steam.
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 the Athletic Advisory Council, made up of 24 student-athlete alumni. The group meets annually to hear reports on the status of all programs and make suggestions.
Burke, 50, is married to the former Catherine J. Mullane, also a Purdue graduate. They have three children: Joyce, Morgan Jr. and Patrick. Joyce is a Purdue alumna working as a materials engineer in Texas, Morgan Jr. is a landscape architecture major at Purdue and Patrick is a high school sophomore.