We wanted Jim Harbaugh.

The man looked perfect on paper and on the field. A one-loss season at a prestigious academic institution, a Heisman-contender quarterback with great recruits surrounding him and integrity on and off the field. Sure, he had made some negative remarks about his alma mater’s academic standards, but who could blame him? All it takes is one look at the Demar Dorsey incident to see that we have been attempting to recruit football players below our typical academic level.

But Harbaugh said no. The hottest coach available this season, he went to the NFL to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

We kicked and screamed. We asked how a “Michigan Man” could turn his back on this great University.

Then we saw Les Miles.

He ran a spread offense, so the transition would be easy. He has a National Championship under his belt and, best of all, he had to beat Jim Tressel and the Ohio State Buckeyes to get it. Miles played under Bo Schembechler, and he has recruiting ties to what is often considered “the best conference in college football” — the Southeastern Conference. Yes, he had over signed some recruits, and he had an odd habit of eating grass. But we knew we would win with him.

But Miles said no too. Louisiana State retained their head coach for another season.

We were silent. We hung our heads in disappointment and despair. If not Miles, then who? Who could take up the torch of the winningest college football program?

Enter Brady Hoke.

A dismal overall record at Ball State and only one winning season at San Diego State. He disapproves of the spread and has even called it “basketball on grass.” The transition would be tough. What’s more is that he is known to run the despised 3-3-5 defensive scheme that Rich Rod was often criticized for running. He may be a “Michigan Man” and he may have had some moderate successes, but they’ve come from lower-end conferences and teams.

But Hoke said yes. Many were disappointed that we only got our third choice for coach.

I was, like many others, rooting for Harbaugh. Then for Miles. I wanted anybody before I wanted Brady Hoke to be our next coach. I didn’t think he would be successful based off the numbers. He only seemed to manage to turn around Ball State’s program and he had moderate success at SDSU. A 9-4 season isn’t satisfactory to the Michigan fan base.

But he is now our coach. He is the next man to lead our football team, and we need to support him. It’s that or bust again, like it was in 2008.

We’ve lived through 3-9 and 5-7. Finally, things seemed like they would improve going into 2010. But they didn’t. Not enough to beat Ohio State, Michigan State or Mississippi State, or even play remotely competitively in any of those match ups. It seemed like yet another failure of a season, despite the improved record.

But look at former football coach Gary Moeller. The man had a terrible record in the Big Ten before we hired him away from Illinois. He was a coach under Bo for a while and finally — when he got his turn — he led us to three Big Ten Championships in five years. We gave him the benefit of the doubt and he succeeded. We need to do the same for Hoke.

Brady Hoke — in spite of his seemingly unimpressive successes as a head coach — coached under Lloyd Carr. He coached the same defense which featured Heisman trophy winner Charles Woodson. He helped to coach our team to a National Championship and to two more Big Ten Championships in his previous time at Michigan.

So why the lack of faith?

Here we have a man who understands Michigan football. He knows what it means to us. He might just be able to restore our program to its former glory.

We’re at a fork in the road of Michigan football history. You may deviate and oppose the Hoke hire and say bad things about him as a coach or as a person. Or you may maintain the path that Hoke will now be leading us down. That path may or may not lead to victory. I don’t know any better than anyone else which it will be.

I can assure you, though, that no matter where Hoke will lead us, opposing him will not bring Michigan to victory. He is our only hope right now. You don’t have to believe in Hoke to support him. If you believe in Michigan, and if you bleed Maize and Blue, you will cheer Hoke and his men forward. You will stay.

After all, that is the only way to become a champion.

Eric Szkarlat can be reached at eszkarla@umich.edu.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.