News came out that many have expected for some time now; Brady Hoke has been fired as the head coach of Michigan. After a 5-7 season this news was not a surprise to many especially considering the fact that the Wolverines had gotten worse, record wise, in each of his four seasons at the helm. Now with an opening at one of college football’s premier programs the obvious question will be: Where does Michigan go from here in their search for a new head coach?
Brady Hoke had a history with Michigan and that was a huge reason for his hiring. He spent eight seasons on Lloyd Carr’s staff as a defensive line coach and eventually as an associate head coach before taking his first head-coaching job at his Alma matter, Ball State, in 2003. He greatly improved the Ball State program during six seasons, finishing his last year there with a record of 12-1, before taking the job at San Diego State in 2009. In his two seasons as coach of SDSU he again turned around a struggling program improving from a 4-8 record in his first year to a 9-4 record in his second year. Before their Poinsettia Bowl victory in 2010 under Hoke, San Diego State had not won a bowl game since 1998 and this turn around caught the eye of Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon.
Hoke was hired at Michigan in January of 2011 after the tumultuous Rich Rodriguez era. Although Rodriguez had shown signs of improvement in his three years at Michigan his style of play did not mesh well with a lot of Wolverine fans and boosters. The Big 10, Michigan’s conference, has long been known for their tough defenses and power running schemes and Rodriguez tried to change that with his spread read-option offense.
Now in the wake of the Hoke firing fans have to be wondering if they made a mistake in firing Rodriguez 4 years ago. Hoke’s first year was very successful with the Wolverines going 11-2 and getting a win over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. Because of the decrease in wins in each of Hoke’s next three seasons, many have attributed the success in 2011 to the good recruiting done by Rodriguez in the years he was there. Now with Rodriguez leading Arizona, a much less prestigious program than Michigan, to a place in the Pac 12 title game in his third season there, his firing to hire Hoke has to be questioned.
Since Rodriguez’s main issue with Michigan fans and boosters was his change to a read-option offense, Michigan has to now consider what they really want in a coach because Hoke made a deliberate attempt to return the Wolverines to a more Big 10 style of team and it clearly did not lead to success. The problem for Michigan in their firing of Hoke is timing, because there is a major lack of high-profile coaching candidates looking for new jobs.
The first two candidates for Michigan that come to mind are the first two candidates that passed the job when Hoke was hired: Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles. Both Harbaugh and Miles played at Michigan and are brought up as candidates every time the Michigan job has been mentioned over the last few years. Because one is in the NFL, Harbaugh, and another is at one of the most stable college programs in the nation, Miles at LSU, these are probably not realistic options for a program in Michigan that has a lot of history but is not in the best shape. Michigan has a serious lack of talent compared to some of their biggest rivals in Michigan State and Ohio State currently, and that will not be a good selling point for any potential new coach.
In their coaching search Michigan might have to get creative and not go after people who have ties to the school considering many of those candidates will likely turn down the job. Names like Dan Mullen, Butch Jones and David Shaw will be brought up but considering their very stable current jobs it is unlikely they take the job. The hire may have to come in the form of a current NFL or college coordinator or maybe a coach of a lesser known college team who has had some success, but there are no real obvious candidates who would have a good reason to take the job other than just wanting to turn around one of college football’s most historic programs.
Michigan’s firing of Brady Hoke was something that many in college football saw coming for most of this year. His decrease in wins during each of his four seasons was a legitimate reason for the firing, but now it looks unclear as to how this program returns to the pinnacle of college football as it once was. It will be very interesting to see not only who they hire, but who is brought in for interviews considering the stark contrast in the last two coaching hires that the Wolverines have made.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Photo Courtesy of Mgoblog – Creativecommons License