UNIVERSITY PARK, Texas — Patrick Higgins jokes that he's “interim everything.” He was Purdue's interim offensive coordinator the last three weeks of the season. Now he's Purdue's interim head coach for the Heart of Dallas Bowl against Oklahoma State.
Neither job came under pleasant circumstances. Offensive coordinator Gary Nord was hospitalized with a back injury. Then coach Danny Hope was fired.
And it's not like Higgins' future is secure. Purdue has hired a new head coach, Darrell Hazell, and Higgins claims he doesn't know where his next job will be.
Yet Higgins claims the experience has been fabulous.
“I've gotten an opportunity to be a head coach for a month, take it for a test drive,” Higgins said, “and it's been awesome. The experience has been invaluable.
”The assistant coaches have been great. The kids have been great. I couldn't have asked for a better situation.”
Purdue has been on a roller coaster. The Boilermakers had to win their final three games just to become bowl eligible. They did that, but Hope was fired on the same day the bowl bid arrived.
“It felt strange when it first happened, but now we're comfortable with Coach Higgins,” said Purdue All-American defensive tackle Kawaan Smart. “He brings excitement. Coach Higgins is doing the same thing Coach Hope does.”
Higgins, 49, goes back a long way with Nord. Higgins coached at Texas-El Paso 1998-99, then spent four years as Nord's offensive coordinator at UTEP.
Higgins attended William Penn University and became its head coach at age 28. Higgins eventually coached at Columbia and Shepherd College before UTEP, then Louisiana Tech and Brigham Young after UTEP.
“As a coach, you know what this business is about, so you kind of learn how to segment,” Higgins said. “‘This is a time of the day that I'm very focused on the kids, getting the game plan ready, cultivating an attitude of that one-game season.'
“And then you take a little bit of time for yourself. ‘OK, let's go figure out what you're gonna do. It's just all part of the job.
“I know tomorrow, I'm gonna get up, work out, have a great day, come here and coach again. I'm a 24-hour guy right now. So it's awesome.”