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Published: Wednesday, 1/12/2011

University of Michigan hires Brady Hoke

ANN ARBOR -- In the end, it seemed the only football coach who wanted the Michigan job was the one who really, really wanted the Michigan job.

"We are pleased to announce the hiring of Brady," Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement to the media.

"He is a terrific coach and will be a great ambassador and leader for our football program. We look forward to having him build a championship program on the field and in the classroom."

When Hoke, a Michigan defensive assistant from 1995 to 2002 under Lloyd Carr, chose not to sign a contract extension with SDSU about a month ago, it may have been because he first wanted to see what happened at Michigan.

What happened was a whirlwind of events, beginning with the firing of Rich Rodriguez and ending with the hiring of Hoke. Plenty happened in between.

First, leading candidate Jim Harbaugh turned down the job at his alma mater to coach the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald declined an interview. So did Missouri's Gary Pinkel. Nebraska's Bo Pelini said he wasn't interested.

Louisiana State's Les Miles seemed like a near perfect hire. But Miles, a Michigan alumnus, announced Tuesday he'll stay put in Baton Rouge after meeting with Brandon on Monday evening. It's unknown whether Brandon offered Miles the job.

Hoke, the 2010 Mountain West Conference coach of the year, was the ace-in-the-hole all along. A native of Dayton, Hoke, 52, reportedly once told SDSU athletic director Stephen Weber that he envisions the Michigan job at the "end of the arc" in his career.

The feeling, at least initially, did not appear to be mutual. Why? Perhaps because Hoke is just 47-50 in eight years as a head coach and has never won a conference championship. Still, he is regarded as a solid coach credited with turning around two struggling programs. Hoke took his alma mater, Ball State, through a perfect 12-0 regular season in 2008 before accepting the SDSU job.

This season, Hoke's Aztecs appeared in a bowl game for the first time in 12 years, beating Navy 35-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl and finishing 9-4. Its four losses were by a combined 15 points, including a 40-35 road loss to unbeaten TCU.

Early returns on the hiring from Michigan players, both past and present, were positive.

"Excited to meet the new coach tomorrow," junior tight end Kevin Koger tweeted.

Receiver Darryl Stonum wrote: "There you have it guys …. Brady Hoke is my new head football coach. Can't wait to meet him."

Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who got to know Hoke when the two crossed paths at Michigan, is happy with the hire.

"I'm excited for Brady Hoke and even for Michigan," Woodson, now a star with the Green Bay Packers, wrote in a text message to the Associated Press. "I'm glad this process is over and we can begin to restore the tradition and respect that was once Michigan."

Hoke spent eight years as Michigan's defensive line coach before leaving to become Ball State's head coach. Considered a strong recruiter, Hoke was behind Michigan signing quarterback Tom Brady, now a star quarterback for the New England Patriots.

Hoke has also been an assistant at Oregon State, Toledo, Western Michigan, and Grand Valley State.

He made about $700,000 this year and didn't sign an extension that would have raised his pay to about $850,000 annually.

Michigan briefly considered Hoke for the same job in 2007 but instead hired Rich Rodriguez, who was dismissed last week after three seasons.

In Hoke, Michigan may have failed to hit the home run many were anticipating, but two years ago, Auburn fans were disenchanted with the school's hiring of Gene Chizik.

On Monday, Chizik led the Tigers to the BCS National Championship.

NOTES: The San Diego Union Tribune reported Tuesday night that SDSU defensive coordinator Rocky Long will become the Aztecs head coach and offensive coordinator Al Borges will follow Hoke to Michigan. ... Michigan assistants Calvin Magee (offensive coordinator) and Tony Gibson (defensive backs/special teams) have accepted jobs at Pittsburgh under new coach Todd Graham, AOL FanHouse.com reported Tuesday night. Graham, who left Tulsa this week to take the job with the Panthers, previously worked with Gibson, Magee, and fired Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, at West Virginia.

Contact Ryan Autullo at: rautullo@theblade.com or 419-724-6160.



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