Mike Cleff

Saying Goodbye

June 12th, 2013 at 11:02 pm by under Sports 18

Wednesday, June 12,

This is the hardest subject I’ve had to write about in my 6 1/2 years at WLFI-TV—-saying goodbye.

I will be leaving WLFI on Friday, June 14 to take a new position at WTHI-TV, the CBS and Fox affiliate in Terre Haute. I will be the weeknight news anchor at 6 & 11 there and succeeding a first-class gentleman, Mark Allen, who is irreplaceable. Mark is a Hall of Fame broadcaster who’s been in the Wabash Valley for 46 years, the last 23 of those years at WTHI. Mark is retiring at the end of this month, which created the job opening that I’m leaving for.

I cannot put into words how special it’s been to be in the News 18 and Sports 18 viewing area since October 25, 2006. It’s the best place that I’ve ever worked and the best place I’ve ever lived. This is one of the truly special places in the country and the people are the reason why.

The list of people to thank is a very, very long one. My current sports staff members, Ross Bolin and Caleb Martin, who are as loyal, hard-working, and dependable as they come. Ross and Caleb will continue to provide you with outstanding sports coverage. I have the utmost faith in them. I also am most grateful to former WLFI Sports Department members Tiffanie Dismore (now Tiffanie Terry), Matt Wettersten, Kelly Crull, Gage Butterbrodt, and Larry Clisby. As well as GoldandBlack.com Publisher Alan Karpick and his tremendous staff. Along with the classy WASK radio group in Lafayette, where I worked part-time the past two years. I also want thank the management at WLFI for the wonderful opportunity of working here and the countless athletic directors, coaches, and student-athletes who have made my job most enjoyable and very memorable.

Most of all, I want to thank you, the AWESOME viewers of WLFI, for welcoming me into your homes and making me feel most welcome. The warmth, genuineness, and class of this wonderful community I simply can’t put into words. You have treated me wonderfully and I will always be grateful.

Thank you and I wish each and everyone of you the best.

Best wishes and thanks again,

Mike Cleff

 

 


Hope & Hazell

March 8th, 2013 at 6:38 pm by under Sports 18

Friday, March 8, 2013,

This is the first time that I’ve blogged in a long time and also the first time that I’ve blogged since I interviewed former Purdue Head Football Coach Danny Hope in late February.

The amount of feedback that I received on the interview with Coach Hope was staggering. In a nutshell, I was glad that Coach Hope gave me the time for a nearly one hour interview. I’ve always liked Coach Hope and felt like we’ve had a solid relationship. However, I’ve also been critical of him on several occasions and he knows that. He did some good things at Purdue but there were enough setbacks—-mainly costly losses and poor attendance—-that cost Coach Hope his job. The interview, in my opinion, gave Coach Hope a chance to say some of the things that he was feeling and move on. He’ll coach again, whether it’s this upcoming season or the 2014 season. He’s too good of an offensive line coach to be on the unemployment line.

As far as the interview goes, I had several conversations with Coach Hope leading up to the interview. I wanted him to know that I had to ask tough questions but we also felt that a confrontational interview wouldn’t be productive for either one of us. A couple of local media scribes—writers that I respect and like—felt I should have asked follow-up questions . They are entitled to their opinion and I respect that. I just felt at the time the interview was taking place a follow-up question would turn the tone of the interview to be confrontational. I wanted it to stay interesting and informative, which I think it was.

With that being said, I think Purdue Athletics Director Morgan Burke had no choice but to make a coaching change. Attendance was awful last season and the majority of the fans’ patience with Hope had worn thin. I have always respected fans’ rights and opinions. They choose how they spend their hard-earned money. And one thing I know about Burke from being around him for 6 1/2 years: he’s smart and he cares dearly about Boilermaker sports. And I think he’s made a terrific hire in Darrell Hazell.

Coach Hazell did a live interview with Sports 18′s Ross Bolin at 5:45 THIS MORNING (Friday) prior to the Boilers’ final day of early conditioning drills. It’s very clear that Hazell is going to be a very accessible coach to the media and the community. And that’s a very good start to his Boilermakers head coaching tenure. As far as on the field in 2013, if Hazell navigates the Boilermakers to five wins in a brutally tough schedule he’ll continue to build on his strong first impression with Boilermaker Nation.

Blog to you soon,

Mike


Back From Dallas

January 4th, 2013 at 12:00 am by under Sports 18

Thursday, January 3,

Happy New Year and I’m back from Dallas after covering Purdue football in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Obviously, my prediction for the game was WAY off the mark. Oklahoma State scored more than the 48 points I predicted—-the Cowboys scored 58 and could have scored more—but the Boilermakers offense hurt themselves with five turnovers. Being on the sideline, the game felt over when the Cowboys took a 21-0 lead in the second quarter.

To the Boiler players’ credit, they didn’t make excuses after the game. They credited the Cowboys and said that they (Purdue players) were terrible. Obviously, the Cowboys’ speed was just way, way too much for Oklahoma State to handle.

New Boiler coach Darrell Hazell was in attendance and I had a chance to say hi to him. But he was not made available to myself or any of the other area media that traveled to cover the game. He did a brief interview with Purdue Sports Properties’ radio network and with ESPNU, which televised the game. Hazell will coach Kent State in the GoDaddy.com Bowl on Sunday then report to work for the Boilermakers. Obviously, I didn’t get the chance to ask him what he thought of the bowl game. Just speculating, Hazell knows he’s got a significant amount of work to do after watching the Cowboys dismantle the Boilermakers.

We’re back with the Friday Night Frenzy starting tomorrow, January 4. Glad to be trekking out to high school hoops matchups tomorrow night. Again, Happy New Year!

Blog to you soon,

Mike


Deep In The Heart Of Texas

December 31st, 2012 at 11:27 am by under Sports 18

December 31, 2012,

In about 24 hours Purdue football will take on Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl at the Cotton Bowl, a game in which the Boilermakers are heavy underdogs.

My biggest impression since arriving in Dallas is how relaxed the Boilermakers are. Watching their one-hour practice yesterday, their attitude is fun-loving but, at the same time, you can tell this bowl game means a lot to them. I have thoroughly enjoyed visiting off-camera with a number of Boiler players, especially quarterback Robert Marve. You can just tell how much he’s enjoying his final days of college football player. We were at a non-football event hosted by the Heart of Dallas Bowl last night, a place called Top Golf, in which the Boilermaker coaches and players tried their best at hitting golf balls at a spectacular driving range facility. It  was a fun and humbling experience for a lot of the Boilers, and I had a chance to talk with Marve about subjects other than football. I really like the guy. And, quite frankly, I really like a lot of the Purdue football players.

Which brings me to interim head coach Patrick Higgins. I can’t tell you how impressed I am with him. I think he has handled what could be a very difficult situation with class. And he’s been a lot of fun to conduct interviews with. I think he’s also a darn good football coach. I’ll be real curious where he coaches next season because he definitely won’t be unemployed.

As far as the game, I think the Boilermakers will play well. Do I think they’ll play well enough to win? Just a prediction, I think the Cowboys squeak out a 48-42 victory over the Boilermakers.

More to come tomorrow night…..

Happy New Year,

Mike

 


Good First Impression

December 6th, 2012 at 12:02 am by under Sports 18

Wednesday, December 5,

I came away impressed with newly-hired Purdue head football coach Darrell Hazell after his introductory press conference Wednesday night.

Going into the press conference, I was impressed with the turnaround that he had orchestrated at Kent State, leading the Golden Flashes to their first bowl game in 40 years. I thought he answered every question thoughtfully and with good insight.

How will this translate on to the field? Good question. I have a hunch Hazell is going to do well at Purdue. He’s not afraid of challenges and he knows there’s some work to do at Purdue to get the fan base re-energized. But I think Hazell knows that and he’ll work hardest to get that turned around—-by getting more wins on the football field.

After one day of being the Boilermakers new gridiron leader, I think Darrell Hazell is off to a good start.

Blog to you soon,

Mike


Tough Day

November 26th, 2012 at 12:06 am by under Sports 18

Sunday, November 25

A number of Purdue fans got their wish Sunday when Boilermaker Athletic Director Morgan Burke fired Danny Hope as the Boilers head football coach. And in my six years here I’ve learned that Boiler fans are passionate but they’re not mean-spirited. A number of those same fans feel bad for the now-former Boiler head coach.

I can tell you from working with Danny, he’s a good guy. As I’ve blogged before, I really like him. I also like his wife, Sally. I’ve dealt with Mrs. Hope and had numerous enjoyable conversations with her. None of us can put into words how hard this has been on her and her husband, as well as their son, Chaz. Danny was always respectful toward me. Always gave me the time of day. Cordial on the record with me and absolutely delightful and most interesting off the record.

I wish Coach Hope would have shown the public his personality that he showed to me in private settings. I know why he’s a good recruiter because he relates well with all kinds of people. He’s a great guy, a good father, a terrific husband, and his players love him. They played HARD for him against IU, knowing more than likely it was his last game.

I’ll always wonder if Hope showed more of his energetic personality in public settings if it would have gotten more fans to come to Ross-Ade Stadium. Maybe. Maybe not. A lack of consistent success is the main reason Burke decided to let Hope go, but Burke acknowledged during a Sunday evening news conference that poor attendance was also a major factor. A number of fans showed that they hadn’t warmed to Hope by not attending games.

Firing a college football coach at a major university is tough on a number of people. It’s not a pleasant story to cover, it’s hard on the entire athletic department—-including Burke, and it’s very difficult on coaches and their respective families. And it’s hard on Boilermaker fans. Like I said, Gold and Black fans are passionate. And they’re very smart fans. But the majority of them aren’t mean-spirited. And that’s why it’s tough day for all that are involved with and follow Purdue Football.

Blog to you soon,

Mike


A Memorable Knight

November 17th, 2012 at 2:51 am by under Sports 18

November 17, 2012

I was covering Friday night’s Class A semistate football game between Central Catholic and Sheridan, a game in which the Knights defeated the Blackhawks 13-3 on the Blackhawks home field.

The win means that Central Catholic Head Coach Kevin O’Shea, his coaching staff, and the Knights players are one win away from winning their fourth consecutive Class A state title, which they can achieve by defeating Indianapolis Scecina Friday afternoon at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Friday night’s win by the Knights showed once again that not only are the Knights a talented bunch, but they’re extremely tough and can win under just about any kind of circumstances. To Sheridan’s credit, they turned the game into a limited possession contest. But the Knights adapted and, thanks in large part to a tremendous defense and a superb evening by punter Andrew Hubertz, are headed to the home field of the Indianapolis Colts for the fourth year in a row.

This is a coaching staff and group of players, both past and present, that I’m most impressed with. And that’s why I’m very confident by this time next week they’ll be hosting yet another state championship trophy.

Blog to you soon,

Mike

 


The slump continues

November 3rd, 2012 at 11:43 pm by under Sports 18

Saturday, November 3,

There’s no other way to put it. What looked like a promising season just five weeks ago for Purdue football has turned into an utter disaster. In just five games the Boilermakers went from a 3-1 record—with their only loss a 3-point setback at Top-5 Notre Dame—to an 0-5 record in the Big Ten and a 3-6 record overall. The latest loss, a 34-9 loss at Ross-Ade Stadium to Penn State, was  the third straight home loss in which the Boilers were beaten decisively.

Although Head Coach Danny Hope said after the game he felt his players were confident going into the game, I sense that the players have lost a great deal of confidence, especially when things don’t go their way during the course of the past five games.

Purdue Athletic Director Morgan Burke attended Coach Hope’s postgame press conference, which he normally does, but Burke didn’t make any public comments after the game. But the Boilermaker AD couldn’t have liked one bit what he saw Saturday. A game in which the attendance was listed at 40,000 but, in reality, the stadium was half-capacity at best. And, during the final minutes of the game there couldn’t have been more than 10,000 fans left on a chilly Saturday afternoon and evening.

I like Danny Hope a lot. And I give him credit for publicly handling himself in a cordial manner, even when asked after the game if he was concerned that he was going to get fired. And, as a member of the media, I can tell you this is not a pleasant situation to report on. Families are involved and people’s livelihoods are at stake.

Coach Hope will probably lose his job in the near future. It’s a decision that Burke won’t enjoy making because Hope was his hire and, essentially, the Boiler AD will be admitting to a mistake by hiring Hope to replace Joe Tiller.

I truly hope the Boilermakers can turn things around, defeat Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana, and become bowl eligible. But I don’t think it will happen. And I think it will cost Coach Hope his job.

I hope on both counts that I’m wrong.

Blog to you soon,

Mike

 


Not Good

October 13th, 2012 at 11:16 pm by under Sports 18

Saturday, October 13,

There’s no other way to put it. The performance by Purdue Football in its Homecoming game against Wisconsin was very poor. Even though the Boilermakers scored in the opening minute of the game to take a 7-0 lead, the Badgers dominated. Wisconsin racked up more than 600 yards in total offense. Ouch.

Purdue Head Coach Danny Hope used the word “underperformed” when describing his team’s performance. The Boilermakers’ leader was being kind and certainly—as he normally does—-didn’t throw his players under the bus.

A lot of fans were even more frustrated about today’s performance by the Boilers than last Saturday’s struggles against Michigan.

Can the Gold & Black bounce back next Saturday against nationally-ranked Ohio State? After what’s happened the past two weeks, most of Boilermaker Nation would answer “probably not”

Blog to you soon,

Mike

 


Replacement Referees

September 26th, 2012 at 12:10 am by under Sports 18

Tuesday, September 25,

I was able to watch the end of the Monday Night Football game between the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks after anchoring the 11 p.m. sportscast on WLFI. I can truly say that it’s the most bizzarre ending to a pro football game that I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s been well-documented that what appeared to be an interception by the Packers’ M.D. Jennings on the last play of the game was ruled a TD catch by Seahawks’ wide receiver and former Notre Dame standout Golden Tate.

To date, it’s BY FAR the biggest of many gaffes by the replacement referees, who are filling in for the regular NFL referees because of a labor dispute between the refs and the NFL.

I’m not going to continue the “dumping” on the replacement refs, who are trying their hardest but also are clearly in over their heads. I will be surprised if this doesn’t speed up the negotiations between the two sides toward a settlement. But, at the same time, a number of people think that the NFL will hold firm in its stance against the regular refs, due to the fact that the NFL is the country’s most popular sport in several areas, primarily in the television market.

I just know that I’m still stunned what I saw on the final play of Monday night’s game.

Blog to you soon,

Mike