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Nicole Auerbach: Alumni rally around Hoke hire

BY NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
Published January 11, 2011

As with any big news event, the response was immediate.

In the minutes after the Michigan football program announced it had hired San Diego State's Brady Hoke as its next coach, former Wolverines grabbed cell phones and turned on laptops to spread the news.

Their reaction on Twitter was anything but negative:

Braylon Edwards (2001-04): @officialbraylon: I want to congratulate #BradyHoke. He coached my 1st 2yrs, he's a good friend of mine & a great coach #GoBlue

Desmond Howard (1989-91): @desmond_howard: Brady Hoke will be Michigan's next head coach! I've heard nothing but positive things about him since midseason.

Mike Hart (2004-07): @MHart203: Hoke = Great choice he knows and Michigan Football.

Cato June (1999-02): @catojune: Congrats #GoBlue we have a new coach and his name is Brady Hoke!

Dhani Jones (1996-99): @dhanijones: Congrats @DaveBrandonAD on the hire of Brady Hoke. He's felt a Michigan Championship. Time to return! #goblue #michiganman

"I'm excited for Brady Hoke and even for Michigan," Green Bay Packers and former Michigan star Charles Woodson 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."

Whew. That’s about as much support as you can get — and that impresses me.

Yes, Hoke is a Michigan Man. He understands Michigan’s unique traditions. He was a part of the coaching staff that won a national championship at Michigan. That was certainly an important part of this hire.

He’s also a defensive-minded coach — which is a sight for sore eyes after watching Michigan’s defense the past three seasons. Recall Athletic Director Dave Brandon’s comments last week at his press conference: “Is there a thought of a defensive-minded head coach? There’s a thought of getting a defensive-minded everything. I want the ball boys to be defensive minded.”

There’s a lot to like about this guy, and I’m sure we’ll all hear a lot more about that in the coming days. But what I like best is that former Wolverines like this guy.

These are the same big-name alumni who criticized Michigan after humiliating losses to Ohio State and Mississippi State. These are some of the same former players who didn’t show this kind of support for former coach Rich Rodriguez throughout his tenure.

When you’re a program like Michigan and you pride yourself in producing Michigan Men who go on to compete in the NFL, it’s clear how important your alumni network is. You want former players to effectively act as recruiters. You want them pumping up the program when it’s down.

You want a guy like Steve Hutchinson, a member of that 1997 national championship team, to remain connected and committed to Michigan. According to current players after their team meeting Tuesday evening, Hutchinson had previously called Brandon to voice support for hiring Hoke.

Maybe that’s what the Wolverines need here, as they transition from the Rodriguez era into the future.

They need a guy that former stars support, and a guy that current players can get excited about — and they are. Several players said they all applauded Brandon’s announcement in their team meeting. Multiple players gave the media thumbs up on their way out of Schembechler Hall, where the meeting was held.

The next step for the players?

“Everybody (has to) buy in,” junior linebacker J.B. Fitzgerald told the assembled media. “I think everybody realizes that. You know, the first time it didn’t really go as well because everybody wasn’t really buying in. … The chemistry is real good right now. Everybody’s excited, and everybody’s ready to get it started.”

Maybe it’s not always about a big-name coach or even a guy with a career head coaching record over .500. Maybe alumni support and players buying in means a lot more than we originally thought.

If that’s the case, then Michigan fans should feel pretty confident about the Hoke hire. A Wolverine fan base excited about its coach? I can’t wait to watch.

— Auerbach can be reached at naauer@umich.edu.


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