Embarrassing losses to Notre Dame, Utah, and now Minnesota have put Brady Hoke in the firing line as angry fans call for his job. Joining him in the criticism is athletic director David Brandon, whom fans blame for hiring Hoke and for engaging in a series of public relations gaffes.
The future looks grim for both, as fans are fed up with repeated failures on and off the field.
Michigan losses to Minnesota are rare—the Wolverines have lost only four games in the series since 1968. But this 30-14 loss makes the chances of Hoke saving his job as remote as the Little Brown Jug which is now back in Minnesota.
He tried to jump start his struggling offense by benching fifth-year quarterback Devin Gardner in favor of backup Shane Morris. The result was a single rushing touchdown with Morris (7-for-19 passing for 49 yards and two turnovers) at the controls.
Morris stayed in the game despite a leg injury and after being staggered by a big hit. The injuries added to a rough performance in which he missed receivers, lost the football without even being hit and threw a pick six.
Hoke stubbornly defended his decision to start Morris and said he didn't see the aftermath of the hit that staggered his sophomore quarterback.
"I don't know if he had a concussion or not, I don't know that," said Hoke.
Morris later left on the field on a cart.
Gardner (3-for-6 for 39 yards) returned late in the fourth quarter to lead the team to a touchdown, but by that point the game was out of reach.
The loss adds to a bad week for athletic director David Brandon who had to retract a ticket promotion that allowed fans to get two tickets included with the purchase of two soft drinks. Season ticket holders were infuriated.
End-zone tickets for the Minnesota game start at $75 per seat, plus an additional donation to the athletic department. Tickets for premium games cost even more.
Angry fans flooded local sports talk shows and discussion boards with complaints but the gripes were best described by author John Bacon on the ThePostGamecom:
When they discount and dump thousands of tickets, do they expect their season ticket holders not to notice? When you paid a few thousand bucks for your four tickets, and the guy sitting next to you got in for a couple of Cokes, do the department's leaders really think you will pony up for the same sky-high prices next year?…Michigan has somehow created a world where loyalty is punished with price hikes, and disloyalty is rewarded with freebies.
Fans are upset that ticket prices have steadily risen under Brandon’s leadership, even as the team has faltered. Surrendering home games for neutral-field spotlight games, a diminished role for the Michigan marching band and changes to the stadium's game-day experience have added to the overall level of frustration.
The student section at Michigan stadium has also shrunk over the last few seasons as a result of rising prices and unpopular seating policies.
Brandon finds himself inextricably linked to Hoke after hiring him to bring back traditional Michigan football in the wake of Rich Rodriguez’ dismissal. When Hoke went 11-2 during his first season, Brandon took a high profile role, roaming the sidelines and basking in the success of the program.
But the success was short lived. The next season Michigan was blown out by Alabama, 41-14, on way to a 8-5 finish and last season the team slid further, finishing 7-6.
Brandon was a backup player under Bo Schembechler and probably dreamed of hearing his name chanted by the Michigan Stadium crowd. But today the calls were for his dismissal.
The only hope for Hoke (and by extension Brandon) is for Michigan to somehow beat in-state rival Michigan State. The task looks nearly impossible for a Michigan team that has struggled on the road under Hoke and appears be to unravelling.
After the game Hoke said, "the team's goals of winning a championship are still out there."
But it looks increasingly like those goals will be left for the next coach and athletic director.
Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand