I would like to preface this by saying that any assertions by a fan before a coach has held his first practice, let alone his first game, is going to be problematic. I understand there are probably things about new head coach Brady Hoke I don’t know that will make him a successful coach who can beat Michigan State and Ohio State more frequently than the previous coach — which means one time.
Having said all of that, I think this was a pure panic hire that was the result of a botched succession plan put in place by Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon. The time to fire coaches is not in January — it’s at the very latest Dec 1. It is incredibly unfair to expect a coach to put together a decent recruiting class in 17 days, especially one who is coming from the West Coast — where it’s unlikely his recruits would follow. Everyone knew former head coach Rich Rodriguez was gone in December, and the only thing the lame-duck period did was to put coach Hoke under the gun now. At best, the next class of athletes will be a rag-tag group of Michigan fans and players who failed to attach themselves to another school beforehand.
But that is just one class, and had Brandon pulled a Harbaugh or Miles out of his hat, it likely wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Instead, he got a coach whose record is woefully unimpressive. In his eight years as a head coach, Hoke has compiled a losing record of 47-50. This is not the worst thing in the world, as it’s incredibly hard to compile a winning record at schools like Ball State where it’s the team’s job to lose games to teams like Missouri, Boston College and Michigan. However, it’s the lack of consistency and team building that worries me more than anything else.
The sterling mark on Hoke’s record was the miraculous 2008 season when he coached Ball State to a 12-0 regular season record, which was marred by a loss in the Mid American Conference championship game and a loss to Tulsa in the bowl game. This is impressive, no qualifications needed. But the problem I see is that in the following year, this team went 2-10 with wins against Eastern and Western Michigan and losses to schools like New Hampshire and Temple — not exactly powerhouses. It seems that Hoke didn’t leave his team in good shape.
This makes me think that maybe the coach had less to do with it than three once in a generation players in Nate Davis, MiQuale Lewis and Sean Baker who all clicked at the same time. Lewis ran for over 1,700 yards, Davis was a consummate leader who is currently in the NFL and Baker had 94 tackles and six interceptions. Once again, I have all the respect in the world for Hoke’s coaching and recruiting these players, but his unimpressive record — 35-46 in other years — is very concerning.
I want to be wrong about this. I want coach Hoke to be mentioned in the same sentence as coaches like Lloyd Carr, Bo Schembechler, Fielding Yost and Fritz Crisler. I want him to beat OSU coach Jim Tressel out of his sweater vest and return Michigan to the glory days. Unfortunately, I don’t think this is going to happen. I think we are in for another three or four years of mediocrity and losses in big games. But I would really appreciate it if coach Hoke makes me sound like a fool with a win on Oct. 22 and Nov. 26, 2011.
Asa Smith can be reached at email@example.com