Prior to the Ohio State game, fan criticism of head coach Brady Hoke had reached a crescendo. Michigan had lost three of its previous four games: a beating at the hands of Michigan State, last-minute losses to Nebraska and Iowa, and a three-overtime victory over Northwestern made possible by a remarkable field goal.
Michigan, which had entered November in the hunt for the Big Ten legends division and a possible Rose Bowl berth, was reeling. Questions were circulating about Brady Hoke’s future.
To calm the gathering storm, Michigan athletic director David Brandon issued a statement of unequivocal support for Hoke on the official University of Michigan website.
His message was a well-crafted treatise addressing recruits, fans and alumni.
Brady Hoke is our coach and will be leading our football program well into the future. There is no question about it. Brady has done a great job rebuilding the program and reshaping the culture to the level it was under coaches Bo Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr.
Brandon begins by supporting Hoke and invoking the names of previous Michigan coaching greats. Dropping the great coach’s name not only cloaks Hoke but is a reminder of Brandon’s lineage—he was a backup quarterback for Schembechler.
Also, note that Brandon specifically uses the phrase “reshaping the culture,” something that many Michigan fans believe Rich Rodriguez tossed out when he succeeded Lloyd Carr. Culture is a topic that Brandon often refers to when he talks about revamping the Michigan athletic department.
Brandon continues, "Anyone making efforts to stir up a coaching controversy at Michigan is ill-informed and is likely promoting a personal agenda that is not in the best interest of Michigan Football."
Translation: You are with us or you are against us.
The good news is that top commitment Jabrill Peppers, who a few days before the Ohio State game tweeted his intention to take additional visits, was impressed by Michigan's efforts against Ohio State.
Good Job out there fellas! I liked the 2 pt. conv call, could've went either way! More than impressed by the guys! #GoBlizzyBlue— Breezy (@JabrillPeppers) November 30, 2013
Controversy is a natural result when a team drops five out of its last seven games. Michigan is a 7-5 team that nearly lost to lowly Akron (5-7) on the last play of the game and needed a remarkable field goal to force overtime versus Northwestern (5-7).
However, the only threat to our continued success in recruiting is the same old, tired tactic being used by some who wish to see us fail -- to try and scare young recruits into believing that our coach "is on the hot seat" -- which simply isn't true. In fact, this is the same guy that was Big Ten and national coach of the year two seasons ago.
Hoke won these awards with players brought in and developed by previous coach Rich Rodriguez. The biggest threat to recruiting is barely beating Akron at home. Take care of the on-the-field product and the rumors will dissipate.
I have seen firsthand what Brady and his coaching staff are doing to make this program better. It takes time and sometimes patience by all of us before we can build the consistent winner that meets our expectations.
Hoke has completely shut down media access to practice and strictly controls the communication of his players. The openness that marked Hoke’s first season—specifically access to practice—disappeared after the team’s Sugar Bowl victory.
Will Brady Hoke and David Brandon bring Michigan football back to national prominence?
The only things that fans and media can judge now are results of the games. The ineffective offensive line, the inconsistent offense and the porous defensive secondary are all obvious concerns.
From prowling the sidelines to regularly reviewing game film with the coaches and meeting with recruits, Brandon is in a good position to comment on the internal workings of Michigan football.
But rising ticket prices and mandatory seat donations have depleted the patience of Michigan football fans.
We recognize what makes Michigan so special is the passion and enthusiasm that our fans have for the team. However, those individuals who are spreading inaccurate rumors and saying inappropriate things about our coaches, players and recruits don't know what's happening inside Schembechler Hall or on that practice field.
The Internet is rife with rumors, especially concerning recruiting. Brandon’s statement is a necessary endorsement of Brady Hoke.
Brandon realizes that no matter how many facilities he builds or how much money pours into the athletic department, his legacy will be determined by the success or failure of Brady Hoke.
His predecessor Bill Martin rebuilt the athletic campus, but he is remembered with disdain for the failure of Rich Rodriguez.
Next season, Michigan needs to end November competing for Big Ten title. Brandon—and Hoke’s legacy—depends on it.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations in this article were obtained via Press Conference Source.