The following was written by Tom Schott, senior associate athletics director for Purdue Athletics, for a commemorative book to celebrate Joe Tiller's career that was published by the John Purdue Club in 2008.
Joe Tiller's tenure as head football coach at Purdue University from 1997 to 2008 has been popularly labeled "Tiller Time." It's a crisp moniker that rolls off the tongue. But as history already is demonstrating, it's more than a catch phrase. Over the past dozen seasons, Tiller has altered the way football is played in the Big Ten Conference and changed the expectation level of Boilermaker Nation.
Tiller brought the spread offense to Purdue, featuring three, four, even five wide receivers forcing defenses to cover the field from sideline to sideline. It was a radical change from the smash-mouth Big Ten - forever prided on three yards and a cloud of dust - and was met with its fair share of skeptics. In the basketball-crazed state of Indiana, the spread was dubbed affectionately "basketball on grass."
Not only was Tiller confident the spread would work in the Big Ten - Midwest weather be damned - he believed it to be a talent equalizer and an exciting brand of football. In other words, it was the perfect shot in the arm for the Purdue program that had not experienced a winning season in 12 long autumns.
He was right. En route to becoming the winningest coach in school history, Tiller reenergized the Purdue faithful and rebuilt Ross-Ade Stadium. His wife, Arnette, got in on the act, as well, introducing "Boiler Up" to the university vernacular. Purdue football was fun again.
But an average of seven wins per season and 10 bowl games, including the school's second-ever trip to the Rose Bowl following the 2000 season, left many fans clamoring for more. Tiller has been called a victim of his own success, and it's true.
To defend the spread, other Big Ten teams put a greater emphasis on defensive speed. Then, in the ultimate case of flattery, they started running the spread, or at least some form of it, themselves. Purdue's secret weapon no longer was a secret.
For the last 11 years, I have been fortunate to be a part of the inner circle of Purdue football. Along the way, I have developed a treasured relationship with the head coach, who is as down to earth and humble as your next-door neighbor. Professionally, he has kept me on my toes while always coming through on the myriad requests that have come our way. But it's the personal association I have had with him that I value. Sure, we have talked our fair share of football, but the memorable discussions have dealt with family, politics, the stock market and our country.