Hollywood's finest writers and producers could not have scripted it any better.
Joe Tiller's final game as Purdue football coach was striking and vivid. The Boilermakers dominated intrastate rival Indiana 62-10 before a sellout-plus crowd of 63,107 fans at Ross-Ade Stadium on Nov. 22, 2008, to recapture the Old Oaken Bucket.
For Tiller, it put an exclamation point on an outstanding 12-year run on the Purdue sideline. The winningest football coach in school history, he wound up his career with an 87-62 record, including 53-43 in Big Ten Conference games and 10-2 against the Hoosiers Tiller's 149 games coached are the most in Purdue annals.
Prior to Tiller's hiring in November of 1996, Purdue football had played in a total of five bowl games. In the preceding 15 years, the Boilermakers managed merely a 54-107-5 record. Tiller introduced the spread offense to Purdue, featuring three, four, even five wide receivers and forcing defenses to cover the field from sideline to sideline. It was a radical change from the smash-mouth Big Ten style and, in the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, was dubbed affectionately "basketball on grass."
The result was 10 bowl games, including the 2001 Rose Bowl, an average of more than seven wins per season and a Big Ten championship in 2000. Tiller coached 53 Purdue players who went on to the National Football League, six All-Americans and two Academic All-Americans.
Tiller was recognized as the 1997 Big Ten and national Coach of the Year.
In addition to the Rose Bowl, the Boilermakers played in the 1997 Alamo, 1998 Alamo, 2000 Outback, 2001 Sun, 2002 Sun, 2004 Capital One, 2004 Sun, 2006 Champs Sports and 2007 Motor City bowls. Purdue was nationally ranked in the Associated Press poll for 80 weeks - tied for the most under any coach in school history - including a high of No. 5 during the 2004 season.
Tiller topped Jack Mollenkopf for the most wins by a Purdue coach with his 85th victory - a 32-25 verdict over Central Michigan at Ross-Ade on Sept. 20, 2008.
From 1983 to 1986, Tiller was assistant head coach, defensive coordinator and defensive line coach at Purdue under Leon Burtnett.
The charismatic Tiller endeared himself to Boilermaker fans everywhere with his sense of humor and humility.
In January of 2008, Tiller was awarded the Order of the Griffin, one of Purdue's highest honors, given to individuals whose commitment to the university goes well beyond the call of duty, and whose strength and vision have greatly benefited the institution. He was appointed head coach emeritus by the board of trustees Nov. 21, 2008.
Tiller was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame in 2012 and the Purdue Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. Joe Tiller Drive, located immediately north of Ross-Ade Stadium, was named in his honor in 2015.
Tiller's 18-year head coaching record, including six seasons at Wyoming, was 126-92-1, a .578 winning percentage.
TILLER'S PURDUE HEAD COACHING RECORD
|Year||Overall||Big Ten (Place)||Bowl Game|
|1997||9-3||6-2 (T2nd)||Alamo / Purdue 33, Oklahoma State 20|
|1998||9-4||6-2 (T4th)||Alamo / Purdue 37, Kansas State 34|
|1999||7-5||4-4 (T6th)||Outback / Georgia 28, Purdue 25 (OT)|
|2000||8-4||6-2 (T1st)||Rose / Washington 34, Purdue 24|
|2001||6-6||4-4 (T4th)||Sun / Washington State 33, Purdue 27|
|2002||7-6||4-4 (T5th)||Sun / Purdue 34, Washington 24|
|2003||9-4||6-2 (T2nd)||Capital One / Georgia 34, Purdue 27 (OT)|
|2004||7-5||4-4 (T5th)||Sun / Arizona State 27, Purdue 23|
|2006||8-6||5-3 (T4th)||Champs Sports / Maryland 24, Purdue 7|
|2007||8-5||3-5 (T7th)||Motor City / Purdue 51, Central Michigan 48|