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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2011

New Wolverines leader not a home run choice

University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon. University of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

No disrespect intended, Brady Hoke, but when did the University of Michigan become Virginia or Baylor or any of the dozens of schools where football coaching hires barely cause a ripple? No offense, but when did Michigan become a nonelite job?

The athletic director of the winningest program in the college game just butchered firing one coach and came up woefully short of the wow factor in hiring another.

Like I said, no disrespect intended. I've known Hoke professionally since he coached linebackers at Toledo in the late 1980s. He's a good guy. He'll work hard, recruit like crazy, and his history as a head coach says he'll build a winner.

Hoke understandably calls Michigan his dream job. But when did so many others stop dreaming? And how, why, and when did Hoke become UM's dream coach?

The problem is that the clock in Ann Arbor is still ticking in the 1980s. There was Bo and then Mo and then Lloyd and, well, we know what happened when the bloodline was broken.

They weren't going to risk that again. Enough of that new-fangled stuff. Outsiders need not apply. They were going to find a Michigan Man, a guy who understands you run the ball down people's throats and you put great athletes on defense and stuff teams and you beat that school down south now and again, and visit Pasadena now and again.

So the athletic director, Dave Brandon, got in touch with Jim Harbaugh, Michigan Man, but it was a late start and the Stanford coach opted for the NFL. Then he met with Les Miles, Michigan Man, but for whatever reasons the Mad Hatter decided to remain down on the Louisiana bayou.

And that brings us to Brady Hoke, Michigan Man. It's a good thing he wanted the job because we were running out of Michigan Men.

They will hold a press conference today and someone will undoubtedly note that Bo Schembechler would like this hire. If Gary Moeller and Lloyd Carr are in town they'll surely be there to welcome their former assistant.

The Rich Rodriguez nightmare is over. A Michigan Man is again in charge. To satisfy Michigan Men everywhere, the Wolverines tapped the head coach at … San Diego State?

That's Brandon's problem. Harbaugh would have been a grand slam hire. Miles would have been a home run. He has a strong resume that includes a national championship with LSU. He is 90-38 after four years in the Big 12 and six seasons in the SEC.

Hoke? He has a 47-50 record with three winning seasons in eight years as a head coach, first at Ball State and then San Diego State. But he was a member of Carr's staff in 1997 when Michigan won a national championship and he's tasted victory against Ohio State and he'll remove three years of negativity. Brandon was on the ropes, so it was enough.

Michigan is not one of those places where a coach moves the needle on ticket sales or big donors. They'll open the gates on Sept. 3 to play Western Michigan and 109,901 will file in pretty much regardless of who leads the team out of the tunnel. The alumni open their wallets out of habit.

We don't know who all Brandon contacted about the job. We don't know if the money matched the marketplace. We do know two former UM players weren't interested in a job for which you'd expect coaches to line up. As it is, the line ended at Brady Hoke; no wow factor, but a Michigan Man.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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