Michigan hires San Diego State coach Hoke
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Brady Hoke has a few things in common with the late Bo Schembechler.
He is from Ohio, he didn’t attend Michigan, he’s climbing the coaching ladder – and he’s about to take over the football program that Schembechler built into a national power.
Michigan hired Hoke away from San Diego State, with athletic director Dave Brandon announcing the move Tuesday at a previously scheduled team meeting not long after LSU said Les Miles was staying in the Bayou instead of going to coach at the Big House.
“We thought it was going to be a meeting about classes and the weight room,” tight end Kevin Koger said. “Mr. Brandon came in and dropped the news on us.”
Brandon insisted Hoke was always Plan A. What about Miles or Jim Harbaugh, who left Stanford for the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers?
“The job was never offered to them,” Brandon said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We did have different discussions with them that were helpful and positive.”
College football’s winningest team got a Michigan man, just not the one most of their fans were clamoring for after Brandon fired Rich Rodriguez a week ago.
Harbaugh was the popular pick when Brandon bought out the last three seasons of Rodriguez’s three-year contract. When he dropped out of the picture, Miles appeared to be a logical choice to return Michigan to the glory days of its past.
Instead, it will be Hoke. And he knows his way around Ann Arbor, too.
After coaching Michigan’s defensive line during the 1997 national championship season, he went on to turn around Ball State as a head coach from 2003-08 and pulled off another feat the past two seasons at San Diego State.
“Brady Hoke understands Michigan and he wanted this job because it has been dream job,” Brandon told The AP. “We won’t have to teach him the words to “The Victors” and I believe our players will respond to him because I got 100 percent positive feedback from anybody who played for him here or since he left Michigan.”
Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is one of the many former Wolverines, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who rave about Hoke.
“I’m excited for Brady Hoke and even for Michigan,” Woodson, who won the Heisman Trophy and 1997 national championship at Michigan, wrote in a text message. “I’m glad this process is over and we can begin to restore the tradition and respect that was once Michigan.”
Hoke replaces Rodriguez, who was fired after going 15-22 in three disappointing seasons with the Wolverines. That includes an 0-6 mark against the Buckeyes and Spartans and a 38-point drubbing two weeks ago by Mississippi State in Michigan’s worst-ever bowl defeat.
Michigan’s players were told to show up for a team meeting at Schembechler Hall and were surprised to find out the school had hired a new coach.
“Dave Brandon was sold and we are, too,” receiver Darryl Stonum said. “I don’t know too much (about him), but I’ll find out (Wednesday).”
Hoke is scheduled to meet his new team Wednesday morning before being introduced at a news conference and perhaps fans at the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game.
He has 28 years of college experience with assistant coaching stints at Grand Valley State (1983), Western Michigan (1984-86), Toledo (1987-88), Oregon State (1989-94) and Michigan (1995-2002). He graduated from Ball State in 1982 and as a coach helped the program to a school-record 12 wins three years ago.
San Diego State gave Hoke a five-year contract worth $3,525,000 in December 2008 to replace the fired Chuck Long. He went 4-8 his first year but last season led the Aztecs to their first winning season (9-4) and bowl berth since 1998.
Hoke had been courted recently by Minnesota, which ultimately hired Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill. Last month, Hoke signed a two-year extension through 2015 that came with a raise – and a $1.5 million buyout.
“We like what we’re doing here,” Hoke said at the time. “We have a lot of work to do and a lot of work that we’re looking forward to doing here in San Diego.”
He’ll get a fresh start in the Big Ten, a huge upgrade from the MAC and Mountain West, where he was coach of the year. And he’ll be picking up the reins of a once-proud program eager to get back among the nation’s elite, not to mention challenging Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa in the Big Ten.
Rodriguez replaced retired coach Lloyd Carr in a marriage that seemed doomed from the start. He was fired after three lackluster seasons and he embarrassed alumni by getting hit with NCAA violations tied to practice time.
Brandon bought out the last three seasons of Rodriguez’s contract for $2.5 million on the first anniversary of taking the job. His latest decision was a big one, too.
Brandon needed to find a new coach who would fit in on the field and campus along with exciting a fan base and donors who fill the Big House and still new luxury suites.
Whether Hoke can do those things is an open question, and the last week was full of speculation that Miles would be the best choice Brandon could make. The LSU coach was the popular choice among fans when Carr announced he was retiring after the 2007 season, but he stayed in Baton Rouge then and did again this time around after meeting with Brandon on Monday.
One of Hoke’s first tasks will be persuading Denard Robinson to stay put. The sensational quarterback, who became the NCAA’s first player to throw and run for 1,500 yards, came to Michigan because he wanted to run Rodriguez’s spread offense.
Robinson wouldn’t commit to returning if Rodriguez was fired and he hasn’t commented publicly since.