When Brady Hoke left his alma mater before the 2008 GMAC Bowl a chain of events started that no one could have foreseen. In the last two years, BSU football has certainly struggled on the field, there’s been several incidents off it, the press and fans have painted the administration as uncaring, incompetent, and non-committal all because Hoke took the opportunity to rebuild the San Diego State Aztecs and cement his resume for the next time the University of Michigan, his dream job, came open. With the announcement yesterday that Hoke has taken the reigns at the Big House, perhaps this can bring the last two years to a close. The complaining/bitching/pissing/moaning about Hoke’s leaving, Stan’s staying, President Gora’s commitment, Tom Collins’ ability, the funding of the program, etc. can hopefully be put to bed because this decision to hire Hoke for the Wolverines make the events that led to the last two years an inevitability, whether they happened in 2008 or 2011.
- It’s not all Gora & Collins
We’re certainly not Gora/Collins apologists on this blog. There are significant things that one could point to as a failure of leadership and a lack of direction in the area of intercollegiate athletics. But as the old adage goes, no matter how thin you slice a piece of cheese, there is always two sides. Unfortunately for Gora and Collins, and fortunately for the fans who want to either cause chaos, live in dramatics, or scream and yell, the side that supports their point of view has quite the megaphone from their bully pulpit at the Kansas City Star and Fox Sports. Jason Whitlock, for all his passion and fervor for BSU athletics, plays a dangerous game with his columns. His goal of holding people accountable through his printed word has tremendous reach. Prospective coaches, prospective athletes, fans, etc. all see his ranting and raving and either dismiss the University as a small-minded program or dismiss his columns as biased one-sided rhetoric. Neither a good option and neither ultimately resulting in lasting and positive change. Being a change agent is all about making things happen and finding actual solutions instead of just pointing out the problem. WebMD can tell you what’s wrong, but I’m going to an actual doctor for treatment.
- Hoke is not a Saint
Fans act as if Hoke walked on water and shat frozen yogurt. That simply isn’t the case. I’ll stick to the onfield things because ultimately, I don’t want to ruin his reputation, but this was a coach with basically one great year and one pretty good year. Two Bowls for BSU is fantastic, but let’s not forget his sub-.500 overall record… and that’s with a 12-1 record figured in. As much as I appreciate and respect what Hoke did for the Cardinals, I feel it was far more equal of a deal than a coach out of the goodness of his heart coaching his alma mater because he loves them so much. BSU hired an unproven head coach with no coordinator experience and who struggled his first two years to win games and win the fans. It wasn’t until a perfect storm of a senior dominated team and a weak schedule led to the perfect storm of12-0 that fans were ready to fire the President and AD to retain him.
- Ultimately Brady Was Looking to Leave
Perhaps there was nothing the University could have done to keep Hoke in 2008. Perhaps he was gone regardless. Every one of us who supports the Cardinals likes to think of BSU as a great destination for a head coach and a proud football program. But facts are facts, and it isn’t… yet. Could it be? Of course. But there was virtually nothing that BSU offered Brady Hoke that San Diego State didn’t trump. Nice weather, great stadium, Mountain West Conference, powerful alumni, a vested fanbase, and most importantly, significantly more money. And those are just the tangibles. They speak not to his second career head coaching job on a larger stage, in a better conference, with the chance to rebuild them as well. Which he did. To further give him interview talking points when he interviewed for a certain Big 10 head coaching opportunity in Ann Arbor. Which he did. To make himself The Choice when Michigan needed someone to come in and restore their luster. Which he did. Whether he was in Muncie, San Diego, or Minnesota, when this job gets offered, Hoke takes it. Period. End of story. And he should have.
The bottom line is if BSU had ponied up the money to keep Hoke, which they couldn’t have afforded and potentially wouldn’t have made him stay anyway, come 2011 when Michigan came calling he still would have been gone and that’s the piece that most fans won’t realize. Look on the bright side, thanks to Brady bolting for the Aztecs, we got the Parrish years and the post-Brady chaos out of the way earlier than we would have now. At least that’s a small victory, right?
This piece probably seems anti-Brady, but it isn’t. I worry, though, that Michigan isn’t in fact Notre Dame as Brian Cook of MGoBlog likes to point out, but instead is inching closer to BSU in 2008. In a panicked desperate move, the administration at BSU freaked out and hired an in house coordinator to quiet the fans and hopefully maintain the momentum that was building. Michigan did much the same, only the “in house” became “Michigan experience” and the “maintain momentum” became “rebuild the program”. In BSU’s case, the failsafe went 6-18. Let’s hope for UM’s, Brady’s and everyone associated with the Wolverines’ sanity that the performance isn’t also duplicated, lest they become the target of one particular columnist with a national audience, a significantly close connection to the head coach, and a nicely sized ax that could always use some grinding.