After leading Kent State to an 11-win season—a dramatic turnaround for the Mid-American Conference program—Hazell was ready to take the next step in the coaching ranks, accepting Purdue's job offer. There was one thing holding him back, which he discussed with Tressel.
"There was never a question in his mind," said Tressel by phone, recalling the conversation in December. "The thing that weighed on him was that he had asked those kids at Kent to believe in him and trust him. Things worked out, then he was gone in two years. That weighed on his heart. We talked a little about that, but there was never a question that he knew this was a spectacular opportunity."
Hazell has been on the job in West Lafayette for more than six months, where he hopes to bring the success he enjoyed at Ohio State and Kent State over to Purdue.
Since becoming head coach, Hazell has faced many challenges such as building a recruiting class, winning over the current roster and forming a coaching staff, all while winning over the fans. It's an ongoing process which any newcomer must face.
Tressel has stayed in contact with Hazell and believes Purdue's new head coach will have a successful transition.
"I think he'll have no problem gaining the trust of the people that he works with," said Tressel. "He's very transparent, very inclusive, he will make the plan crystal clear, he'll ask for input in creating the plan, and then he'll work like crazy. Just like he did at Kent, I don't think anyone will have a problem knowing where he's coming from, what he expects, and to be right there alongside of him. I think he'll be good match."
Hazell joined Tressel's staff at Ohio State in 2004 after working with Rutgers for three seasons. He was the Buckeyes' receivers coach and was elevated to the role of assistant head coach in 2005, serving through 2010.
During Hazell's time in Columbus, Tressel observed some of the qualities which have made Hazell successful as a coach.
"I was very impressed with how he could communicate, to not just his position group, but the entire offense and entire team," Tressel said. "I have always believed that if you can communicate clearly and are open to suggestions, than you have a great chance to lead and serve. It was obvious that he had that ability and desire to communicate. The more he got to know our student-athletes, the most impact he had on them."
Tressel feels those qualities which helped Hazell in the past will serve him well at Purdue.
"When he got over there at Kent, he quickly created that relationship and communication with those guys," said Tressel. "He'll do it the way at Purdue. Obviously, it's a notch above and a highly competitive league. I think he'll be up for the challenge."
For more on Darrell Hazell, look for a long-form story on Boiler Sports Report, coming later this week.