Brady Hoke has continually downplayed the emotion angle of this Saturday's game against his former team, San Diego State. Aztecs coach Rocky Long, giving off the impression he and Hoke are reading off the same script, has done the same. No one should be so naive to believe them.
San Diego State will roll out of the visitor's locker room at Michigan Stadium filled with all kinds of emotion. They will be the athletic equivalent of a scorned ex-lover, angry that Hoke abandoned them for the supposed prettier option, and that he had the nerve to explain it to them through a mass text message (holding a team meeting wasn't possible, Hoke said, because SDSU was on break).
To them, Hoke isn't the biggest reason San Diego State is good again. They are.
For Hoke, the bed he's about to lie in looked far more comfortable in 2010 when he made it, quite literally, by scheduling a game against a team he would take over just eight months later. In January, he decided he is better off without San Diego State. On Saturday, the Aztecs hope to show Hoke they are just fine without him.
For the rest of us, this is a cautionary tale of why athletics and emotion can be a dangerous combination, and why loyalty and athletics is a topic best researched in the fiction section. Did Hoke use San Diego State as a stepping stone to get to his dream job? Sure. Should he feel remorse for it? No. But I'm not so naive to think Hoke's former players will agree.
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