Max Cohen: In East Lansing, they love Brady Hoke

By Max Cohen , Daily Sports Editor
Published October 25, 2014

EAST LANSING — Brady Hoke’s 13 biggest fans arrived at Spartan Stadium on Friday morning, willing to camp out overnight to show their support for their second-favorite college football coach. They wanted to be in the front row of the Michigan State student section, where Hoke could see how much they adore him.

They painted their chests a coat of white Saturday morning, and then added a letter in green. Their message: Keep Brady Hoke.

They’ve been Michigan State fans their entire lives, but the past four years have shown them how much they can support a Wolverine. Three wins over a historically superior football program will do just that.

Michigan State junior Bryce TeBos wanted to show support for Hoke, and thought of the idea for the chest painting last week and decided to share it with his 12 friends, all members of a Christian group on campus called CRU. TeBos has been following Michigan’s season and really approves of the direction Hoke has taken his team.

“Let me tell you, man, it’s comical at times, and I like it,” TeBos said. “They’re just breaking records left and right for sucking this year. It’s great. It’s a historic year.”

TeBos and his friends found their spots in the ideal student-section location, standing the entire game in the front row of Section 11. The friends stretched between the 10- and 20-yard lines, adjacent to Michigan’s bench.

Whenever Hoke edged closer to the group, they offered their unfailing support.

“We love you, Brady,” they screamed during a timeout in the fourth quarter.

They loved Hoke when Devin Gardner threw both of his interceptions. They couldn’t be happier that Hoke’s most important player has regressed, that a skilled player looks like a shell of what he could be.

They loved when Hoke clapped twice in the direction of his players after big Michigan State plays. The claps amuse them. They serve as reminders that Hoke should be Michigan’s coach forever, no matter the scrutiny he faces.

They chanted “Keep Brady Hoke,” throughout the game, even when the score was still close. When the game got out of hand late, much of the stadium joined in.

In East Lansing, the fans appreciate all that Hoke has done for them. Last year, their Spartans demolished the Wolverines, 29-6. Saturday, it was an equally embarrassing 35-11.

Before the game, a plane flew over Spartan Stadium with the same message TeBos and his friends had on their chests. TeBos said the entire line of students outside the stadium cheered when they first saw the plane in the morning.

“We get to win when Brady Hoke is coach,” said Michigan State sophomore Ryan Gronwick, a member of TeBos’ group.

They want to show their appreciation for Hoke any way they can. Late in the fourth quarter, freshman Amari Ellsworth yelled toward Hoke, offering to bake him cookies.

“I’d give him a hug if I could,” Ellsworth said. “He hates us, but he still needs a hug sometimes.”

If they keep up Hoke’s spirit, maybe he will do just enough to keep his job. They’re thrilled their Spartans crushed his team, but Hoke won’t last long if Michigan keeps laying eggs every week.

The friends were disappointed Hoke didn’t acknowledge their efforts once during the game. Hoke has said he hears the calls for his job at Michigan Stadium, but said he didn’t hear the people yelling the opposite at Spartan Stadium

“Please don’t get fired!” one member of the painted group screamed during a fourth-quarter timeout.

The group’s satisfaction with Hoke’s performance increased with each Michigan mistake on the field.

“I see a coach out there who tries really hard, but at the end of the day he has absolutely nothing to show for it. I mean, at least he cares about his players, right?” TeBos said with a straight face before erupting into a fit of laughter, referencing Michigan’s mistreatment of Shane Morris’ concussion earlier this season.

It was a miserable day for Hoke. He was angry with himself for failing to adequately prepare his team for its rivals over a timespan of two weeks. Hoke was upset his team once again failed to execute, even after saying all week that he liked what he saw in practice.

Hoke’s team is 3-5 after Saturday, and the rest of the season will feel like a slow, merciless march toward irrelevance. Back in Ann Arbor, people call for his head increasingly with each loss.

Whenever he’s asked about his job status, Hoke says he doesn’t think about it. He just cares about his 115 student-athletes.

But in East Lansing, the students care about Hoke. Whenever he’s despondent or worried about his job status, he can drive northwest, to the place where he’s loved.

They’ll have plenty of hugs and cookies waiting for him.

Cohen can be reached at maxac@umich.edu and on Twitter: @MaxACohen.