The heat is on Michigan and it's been building for a while
Last week Michigan Wolverines head football coach Brady Hoke announced that Doug Nussmeier, formerly of Alabama, was replacing outgoing offensive coordinator Al Borges. The change was hailed by fans disappointed after Michigan fell from Big Ten title contention to the depths of the Legends Division after an epic November collapse.
After the press conference, Michigan athletic director David Brandon told the media that Hoke’s job was not in jeopardy, per Nick Baumgardner of MLive.com. "This has nothing to do with Brady keeping his job, it's Brady's job. Brady is the coach of the University of Michigan football team, he was national coach of the year his first year here. None of us are happy, and that parade is led by Brady Hoke after this last season."
Brandon’s comments were similar to a statement he issued on mgoblue.com prior to the Ohio State game:
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. 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.
But an evaluation of Hoke’s record at Michigan seems to tell a different story. With a 15-11 record over the last two years, two consecutive bowl losses and a 2-4 record versus Big Ten rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, questions about Hoke’s status are legitimate.
Concerns escalated when the team collapsed during the final month of the season, going 1-4 followed by a lackluster performance versus Kansas State in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Even Brandon acknowledged as much after the dismissal of Borges, per Baumgardner. "My level of concern is defined in the following words: Seven and six. That's not Michigan."
How hot is Hoke's Seat?
Unfortunately, since the retirement of coach Lloyd Carr, Michigan has averaged a 7-6 record—the level that even Brandon recognizes as unacceptable. Hoke’s 11-2 first season appears to be an outlying data point—an aberration followed by two mediocre seasons.
Michigan was evaluated as the fifth-most valuable NCAA football team in the nation by Forbes last season. But after six mostly disappointing seasons, fortunes on the field will need to improve to preserve that value.
How bad has Michigan football floundered during the last six seasons?
Since 2008, Michigan ranks in 55th place nationally in winning percentage.
That’s right, Michigan trails mighty Toledo, the difference being a loss to the Rockets, 13-10, when the teams played in 2008.
Michigan regularly plays in front of 110,000 fans—the largest crowd to watch a football game in America. And many of those fans are season ticket holders who have been squeezed by rising ticket prices coupled with mandatory seat donations. Fans are growing restless.
Hoke surely has reason for optimism; next season his roster will be dominated by highly rated players he recruited to play his style of football. Michigan may soon return to reclaim its past glory as an elite football program.
But the pressure is building whether Hoke or athletic director David Brandon care to acknowledge it. Both men are trying to reverse a slide that began before their tenures.