Published November 20, 2014
Brady Hoke has at least a few things in common with the late, great Bo Schembechler.
They both hail from the Buckeye state, didn't attend Michigan and climbed the coaching ladder before getting a shot to lead the Wolverines. Schembechler restored Michigan as a national power after being welcomed with "Bo Who?" headlines.
Hoke? Despite successful head coaching stints at San Diego State and Ball State, the former Michigan assistant might get a lukewarm reception, too, after fans clamored to bring Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles back to their alma mater.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon picked Hoke as his new football coach Tuesday, insisting he was Plan A and not a backup option after Harbaugh left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers and Miles stayed at LSU.
"The job was never offered to them," Brandon said in an interview with The Associated Press Tuesday after informing the team of his decision. "We did have different discussions with them that were helpful and positive."
Harbaugh was the popular pick when Brandon bought out the last three seasons of Rich Rodriguez's three-year contract last week. When Harbaugh went to the NFL, Miles appeared to be a logical choice to return Michigan to the glory days.
Instead, it will be Hoke. And he knows his way around Ann Arbor, too.
"Brady Hoke understands Michigan and he wanted this job because it has been dream job," Brandon told The AP. "We won't have to teach him the words to "The Victors" and I believe our players will respond to him because I got 100 percent positive feedback from anybody who played for him here or since he left Michigan."
Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is one of the many former Wolverines, including New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who rave about Hoke.
"I'm excited for Brady Hoke and even more excited for Michigan," Woodson, who won the Heisman Trophy and 1997 national championship at Michigan, wrote in a text message. "I'm glad this process is over and we can begin to restore the tradition and respect that was once Michigan."
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who retired after the 2007 season, also endorsed the hiring of his former assistant.
"Brady Hoke is a great choice for Michigan," Carr wrote in a text message.
Brandon's search started much later than many thought it would — shortly after the Rodriguez-led Wolverines lost by a school-record 38 points in a bowl game on New Year's Day — and lasted seven days that were filled with speculation.
Tight end Kevin Koger and his teammates showed up at a previously planned meeting and found out they had a new coach.
"We thought it was going to be a meeting about classes and the weight room," Koger said. "Mr. Brandon came in and dropped the news on us."
Hoke is scheduled to meet his new team Wednesday morning before being introduced at a news conference and perhaps fans at the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game.
He was on Carr's staff from 1995-2002, coaching the defensive line during the 1997 national championship season, and went on to turn around Ball State and San Diego State.
Hoke had four straight losing seasons, but led the Cardinals to a 12-1 record in 2008 as the Mid-American Conference coach of the year before leaving to lead the Aztecs. In his second and final year at San Diego, he help the program have its first winning record and bowl berth since 1998 and was named Mountain West Conference coach of the year.
The Dayton, Ohio, native replaces Rodriguez, who was fired after going 15-22 in three disappointing seasons with the Wolverines. That includes an 0-6 mark against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.
Hoke has 28 years of college experience with assistant coaching stints at Grand Valley State (1983), Western Michigan (1984-86), Toledo (1987-88), Oregon State (1989-94) and Michigan (1995-2002). He graduated from Ball State in 1982.
San Diego State gave Hoke a five-year contract worth $3,525,000 in December 2008 to replace the fired Chuck Long. He went 4-8 his first year but last season led the Aztecs to their first winning season (9-4) and bowl berth since 1998.
Hoke had been courted recently by Minnesota, which ultimately hired Northern Illinois coach Jerry Kill. Last month, Hoke signed a two-year extension through 2015 that came with a raise — and a $1.5 million buyout.
"We like what we're doing here," Hoke said at the time. "We have a lot of work to do and a lot of work that we're looking forward to doing here in San Diego."
Brandon needed to find a new coach who would fit in on the field and campus along with exciting a fan base and donors who fill the Big House and still new luxury suites.
Whether Hoke can do those things is an open question, and the last week was full of speculation that Harbaugh or Miles would be the best choice Brandon could make. The LSU coach was the popular choice among fans when Carr announced he was retiring after the 2007 season, but he stayed in Baton Rouge then and did again this time around after meeting with Brandon on Monday.
One of Hoke's first tasks will be persuading Denard Robinson to stay put. The sensational quarterback, who became the NCAA's first player to throw and run for 1,500 yards, came to Michigan because he wanted to run Rodriguez's spread offense.
Robinson wouldn't commit to returning if Rodriguez was fired and he hasn't commented publicly since.
Receiver Darryl Stonum said he didn't know much about Hoke, but has faith the school's first-year AD is making the right choice.
"Dave Brandon was sold and we are, too," Stonum said.