TERRE HAUTE —
When Indiana State head coach Mike Sanford last graced Purdue’s campus, Ross-Ade Stadium had about 5,000 more seats than it does now and Rose Bowl memories at the time were most recently connected to Leroy Keyes, not Drew Brees.
Sanford was Purdue’s quarterback coach under head coach Fred Akers in 1987 and 1988. The Akers regime might be a quarter-century in the past, and might even seem longer in the mind’s eye, given the success that Joe Tiller brought to the Boilermakers in the 1990s and 2000s, but it won’t keep Sanford from reliving fond memories when the Sycamores play the Boilers at noon.
“Purdue is a great place. My son went to kindergarten and my daughter went to elementary school there. We have a lot of affinity for it,” Sanford said.
ISU’s game at Ross-Ade Stadium won’t be Sanford’s first trip back to West Lafayette since the late 1980s — he visited as a member of Notre Dame’s staff in 1997 — but visits to West Lafayette have been rare since Sanford left Purdue in 1989 to become an assistant at Southern California, his alma mater.
At the time Sanford was a Purdue assistant, the program was at a low point. Akers took over in 1987 after Leon Burtnett suffered four losing seasons out of five. Ultimately, Akers would struggle too, never winning more than four games in a season in West Lafayette.
Sanford was there for half of the four-season Akers era. Sanford coached Purdue quarterbacks Doug Downing, Brian Fox and Shawn McCarthy. Like many coaches, Sanford still has a bond with his former players, and still maintains contact with Downing and Fox.
“That’s one of the great things about coaching are the relationships you build. I’ve stayed in contact with Doug Downing, who is coaching [at Eastern Michigan], and we’ve talked several times over the years. Brian Fox is a photographer and he did some photography for our families and of my grandchildren,” Sanford said.
While Sanford is visiting one of his old stomping grounds, ISU center FN Lutz is headed home. The popular lineman played at Harrison High School and was All-State his senior season.
If Lutz was a Purdue fan before he signed at ISU, he didn’t cop to it.
“They were the hometown team and my grandpa was a Purdue guy, but once I signed on that dotted line, I’ve bled blue ever since,” Lutz said.
He is looking forward to playing at Ross-Ade Stadium for the first time, he expects to have at least 40 family members there, even though it’s not his favorite place to play.
“It’s a neat opportunity. It’s going to be fun and I have a lot of family there, but my favorite place to play is Memorial Stadium,” Lutz said.
Redshirt freshman lineman Jack Timmons is the only other Tippecanoe County player on ISU’s roster.