ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Brady Hoke set the tone for a new era of Michigan football with his mouth and fist, pounding the lectern with each word when asked about the suddenly lopsided rivalry with Ohio State.
"It's like none other in football," Hoke said when he introduced as the leader of college football's winningest team Wednesday, a week after Rich Rodriguez was fired. "Being engaged in that battle for eight years and growing up in the state, you knew Bo and Woody and the great fights they had. It is the most important game on that schedule. Not that the others aren't important, but it is the most important game on that schedule.
"It's almost personal."
The late, great coaches of the stories programs — Michigan's Bo Schembechler and Ohio State's Woody Hayes — likely would've loved the passion that poured out of Hoke when he landed his dream job.
"I think my dad is probably as happy as anybody right now," Shemy Schembechler said with a smile after attending Hoke's news conference. "This is an exciting day for Michigan."
Hoke, who turned around San Diego State and Ball State after being a Michigan assistant for eight seasons, might not have been the fans' first choice because many of them wanted Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles to restore the program as a national power.
Athletic director Dave Brandon said he had discussions with both of them, but insisted Harbaugh and Miles weren't offered the job in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday night.
The next day, he seemed to try to knock the luster off the coach who left Stanford to lead the San Francisco 49ers and the one who stayed at LSU.
"All that glitters is not gold when it comes to some coaches," Brandon said. "A two- or three-hour meeting with a coach uncovers much more than you could learn scanning the Internet or sifting through statistics.
"Sometimes the hype or the PR doesn't match the real person."
Brandon had Hoke on his list of candidates from the start and toward the end of the seven-day search, he liked him even more after talking to coaches who played against him and hearing from former Michigan stars such as Tom Brady and Charles Woodson lobby him to hire Hoke.
"He is clearly a players' coach," Brandon said. "Unlike some other coaches, it's not about him, it's about his team."
Hoke was so excited about accepting the job that he didn't ask how much he would be paid in a six-year contract that hasn't been finalized.
"We would have walked here from San Diego," Hoke said.
After meeting Hoke at the Big House, some of the current Wolverines sound as if they would try to run through a brick wall for their new coach.
"He's an intense guy, a passionate guy," safety Jordan Kovacs said. "The first thing he talked about was championships — Big Ten championships. He emphasized that we have 42 and we plan on getting 43 very soon."
Former defensive end Glen Steele, who was coached by Hoke in 1997 when Michigan won the national championship, looked fired up enough to suit up for another snap.
"He loves it here and you can see it in his eyes and you can hear it in his voice," Steele said.
Hoke's chances to have success next season are tied to his ability to persuade Denard Robinson to stay after becoming the NCAA's first player to throw and run for 1,500 yards in Rodriguez's spread offense. Robinson's high school coach, Art Taylor, said Wednesday afternoon he has already heard from at least 10 to 15 schools inquiring about the dual-threat quarterback.
"Every school wants Denard — trust me," Art Taylor said.
Michigan does, too, even if it has to postpone its return to a traditional-style of offense to keep Robinson.
"When you have talented players, it's your job as a coach to mold that into what's best for your football team," Hoke said.
Robinson declined comment during the second half of the Ohio State-Michigan basketball game after the crowd roared when he stood, smiled and pumped his right fist with each "hail" in "The Victors" as the band belted out the school's famed fight song.
When Rodriguez was hired to succeed retiring coach Lloyd Carr on Dec. 17, 2007, he was handed a blue button with "Beat Ohio State" in maize letters.
Rodriguez, who later put the button in the top draw of his desk on one of the many days he was mad, didn't do that once.
The Wolverines slipped from being consistently good — and sometimes great — under Schembechler, Gary Moeller and Carr to awful, mediocre and average in Rodriguez's three seasons
But Hoke bristled at suggestion that the program has slipped in stature.
"This is an elite job and will continue to be an elite job," he said. "This is Michigan for God's sakes."
The native of Dayton, Ohio, has to do something about Michigan's unprecedented seven-game losing streak to the Buckeyes to prove his point.
"That school in Ohio and growing up in Ohio, I understand both sides of it," Hoke said.