Jim Harbaugh was the first name that came to the minds of Michigan fans when Rich Rodriguez was fired. Actually, Harbaugh’s name was starting to surface before Rodriguez was officially let go. Based on his success at Stanford, and the fact that he is a “Michigan man,” it seemed like a perfect fit.
Logic doesn’t always prevail when it comes to coaching decisions. Fans thought that Harbaugh would jump at the chance to return to his alma mater and restore it to its former glory. After all, what coach wouldn’t want to come back to his old school as the program’s savior?
Apparently, the pull towards the NFL was much stronger than the pull towards Ann Arbor. In retrospect, it doesn’t appear as though Michigan was ever at the top of Harbaugh’s list.
The next logical choice in the search for a “Michigan man” to replace Rodriguez was LSU head coach Les Miles, whose Ann Arbor roots run even deeper than Harbaugh’s. Both men played under legendary Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler, but Miles is the only one who has Michigan coaching experience (1980-1981 and 1987-1994).
Before Rodriguez was hired by Michigan, it was reported that Miles had accepted the position. Those reports proved to be false, and Miles held a press conference before coaching in the SEC championship game to reaffirm his commitment to LSU.
When Harbaugh accepted the head coaching position with the San Francisco 49ers, it was believed that Michigan was Les Miles’ job for the taking.
Miles maintained that he had yet to be contacted by Michigan leading up to LSU’s Cotton Bowl matchup against Texas A&M. However, sources claimed that Miles would accept the job if offered.
Shortly thereafter, Miles signed an extension with LSU, and Brady Hoke was announced as the new head coach of the Wolverines.
According to Michigan Athletic Director, Dave Brandon, Hoke was always “plan A.” Brandon stated that neither Harbaugh nor Miles was ever offered the position, but that seems to be a bit of a technicality. It’s possible that Brandon never made a formal offer, because he didn’t want to be rejected by his top two choices and make it look like Hoke was a hire of last resort.
The head coaching position at Michigan was once considered one of the premier jobs in all of sports. But somewhere along the way, the program started to falter and the position lost a bit of its luster.
Many “experts” believe that the head coaching position at Michigan is no longer a desirable job for potential hires. That may be true for some, but if you listen to the passion and pride in Hoke’s voice about being the new head coach, you will see that this is still a dream job for some.
When Brandon called Hoke to offer him the job, he accepted it immediately, even though he had no idea what the compensation was going to be. According to Brandon, the only other coach that he knew of who accepted a coaching job in that manner was Michigan’s Bo Schembechler.
During his press conference, Hoke stated, “We would have walked to the University of Michigan!”
Rodriguez was never a good fit, but Hoke is a perfect fit for the Wolverines.
Hoke may have been the least known of the three candidates with Michigan ties, but after seeing and hearing how passionate he is about Michigan football, there is little doubt that he is exactly what this program needed after cutting ties with Rodriguez.
Growing up in Ohio, all of Hoke’s friends were Buckeye fans. He deliberately chose to go against them to be different. If anyone knows how important it is for Michigan to beat Ohio State, it’s Hoke.
The more Hoke spoke during his press conference, the more he made you believe that Michigan was going to leave the past three years behind them and return to the Schembechler glory days.
Here are some of Hoke’s press conference highlight quotes:
“The foundation for the program is character. This is true for players and coaches. Character wins in life, and character wins on the football field.”
“This team will be built on toughness at every position on the field and will compete with a high degree of effort every time that they take the field, whether it is in practice or in a game.”
“This is an elite job. This will continue to be an elite job. This is Michigan, for Godsakes!”
Hoke paused as he tried to regain his composure towards the end of his press conference. Swelling with pride and choking back the tears, he simply stated, “Go blue!” and left it at that.
Whether Hoke was the first, second or third choice is irrelevant at this point. The bottom line is that he is the right man for the job, because he treats the position with the reverence that it deserves and not as an opportunity to use it as leverage to negotiate a better deal with other teams or institutions.
In Brandon’s closing remarks, he talked about Hoke’s history with the program, and the fact that he was on the staff when Michigan won their last national title.
“He’s a Michigan man,” stated Brandon. “And Michigan men create other Michigan men.”
Any Michigan fan who was disappointed not to get Harbaugh or Miles should watch Hoke’s press conference and rejoice in the fact that Michigan truly hired the best man for the job.