CHICAGO — There is one loss Michigan coach Brady Hoke won’t mind this season.
In a widely publicized story that gave a feel-good edge to one of college football’s most intense rivalries, a 12-year-old Ohio State fan named his cancer “Michigan” — and beat the disease.
Hoke on Wednesday said he was “all for” the fan, Grant Reed, beating “Michigan.”
“Being a father, our children are so important, and you try and put yourself through what that family has gone through,” he said, noting that his daughter spent five months in the hospital as an infant.
Hoke invited Reed, who reportedly completed his final chemotherapy treatment a couple weeks ago, to the UM-Ohio State game in Ann Arbor this fall. Reed gladly accepted the invite to enemy territory, where he will have fans on both sidelines.
“Though we play football and the rivalry is so big, what he’s fighting is so much bigger,” UM quarterback Devin Gardner said. “If what he needs to do is name his cancer ‘Michigan’ and says he needs to beat ‘Michigan,’ I’ll fully support it. Beat Michigan in that aspect.
“When it comes to the game,” he said with a laugh, “I don’t support that in any way.”
FRIENDLY RIVALS: Could the Ohio State-Wisconsin rivalry be losing its edge?
Besides the departure of Bret Bielema and an impending divisional realignment that will split the schools, OSU’s Urban Meyer and new Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen are good buddies.
In fact, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez called Meyer before hiring Andersen from Utah State. Andersen worked under Meyer as the defensive line coach at Utah in 2004.
“We talk often,” Meyer said. “He was arguably one of the most important hires I’ve ever made. We hired him and went undefeated. He took one of our weakest units, the defensive line, and just his overall presence, positive attitude, and character [made it a strength]. [Utah coach and then-defensive coordinator] Kyle Whittingham came into my office and said, ‘I need to have Gary Andersen.’ I was going to go in a different direction, but I went to dinner with Gary and his wife and was completely blown away. ... I love Gary Andersen.”
Andersen, 49, went 26-24 in four seasons at Utah State. His team last year capped an 11-2 season with a 41-15 win against the University of Toledo in the Idaho Potato Bowl.
BECKMAN UPBEAT: No Big Ten coach may be sitting on a warmer seat than Illinois’ Tim Beckman.
But the former UT coach is eager to begin Year 2. The Illini, who went 2-10 in his Beckman’s debut season and were largely noncompetitive in conference play, welcome 33 new players this season — including five junior-college transfers.
“One thing we talked about as a group is we’re taking one challenge at a time in a very, very positive way," he said. “We’re not going to let negativity infiltrate our program.”
Beckman was especially high on senior defensive lineman Tim Kynard, saying the St. John’s Jesuit graduate took over as one of the team’s top leaders in December.