After three consecutive letdown seasons, Brady Hoke has been fired from his position as Michigan’s football coach.
The move follows the Wolverines’ 5-7 campaign this fall that featured a bevy of historic defeats. Michigan was shut out for the first time since 1984, surrendered the Little Brown Jug to Minnesota for the first time since 2005 and had three losses before October for the first time ever.
The season ended Saturday with a 42-28 defeat to Ohio State, the Wolverines’ third consecutive loss against the Buckeyes. With the result, this year’s Michigan football team became just the third in the last 40 years of the program to not play in a bowl.
“I met with coach Hoke today and informed him of my decision to make a change in the leadership of our football program,” said interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett in a statement. “This was not an easy decision given the level of respect that I have for Brady. He has done a great job of molding these young men, making them accountable to their teammates, focusing them on success in the classroom and in the community.
“I wanted to make sure that Brady received adequate time to exhibit the results that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady and our coaching staff had enough time to produce those results and unfortunately they are not there. In the end, I feel that moving in a different direction is the right decision. I wish Brady and his family all the best in the future.”
Because Hoke was let go before Dec. 31, his buyout is $3 million. Had he been fired on or after Jan. 1, 2015, his buyout would have dropped to $2 million.
Hoke was signed to a six-year contract before the 2011 season that included a $1.5 million stay bonus this offseason. Excluding game-specific incentives, the former coach would have averaged $3.25 million per year had he fulfilled the entirety of his contract.
But Michigan went just 31-20 under Hoke and never reached the Big Ten title game.
“I feel very fortunate to have been an assistant and head coach at the University of Michigan,” Hoke said in a statement. “I will always support the University and this football program. This is a special place and one that Laura, Kelly and I have enjoyed representing during our time in Ann Arbor. I want to thank all of the sons that played for our teams and appreciate the commitment that our coaches and support staff made to the program every day.
“I will miss the relationships that I’ve been fortunate enough to make within this university and community. I additionally appreciate all of the support that our fans, alumni, students, administration and former players have provided our program. I leave with fond memories of my experience at Michigan. Thanks and Go Blue!”
Hoke’s first season with the Wolverines was also his best. In 2011, Michigan went 11-2 with wins over Notre Dame and Ohio State and an overtime triumph against Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
The Wolverines dropped to 8-5 in 2012, 7-6 in 2013 and then 5-7 this fall, losing five of six to the Buckeyes and Michigan State in that span.
Hoke entered 2014 on the hot seat, and further lost public support during the fifth week of the season, when, in the fourth quarter of a blowout defeat to Minnesota, he failed to pull Shane Morris in a timely manner despite the quarterback’s difficulty to stand following a helmet-to-helmet hit.
But criticism of Hoke had generally stemmed less on that individual incident and focused more on the coach’s win-loss record, his teams that worsened from year to year and his perceived struggle to develop talent.
Michigan has yet to name Hoke’s replacement, but San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and LSU coach Les Miles have all been rumored as potential candidates for the job.