Hoke takes rebuilding project at UM
Former UM D-line coach returns at top of Wolverine program
The Associated Press
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan picked San Diego State's Brady Hoke as its new football coach on Tuesday, hours after LSU said Les Miles would be staying in the Bayou.
Hoke is not a Michigan man - he's an Ohio native and Ball State alumnus - but he is a former Wolverines assistant from better days and athletic director Dave Brandon praised him highly in announcing his decision.
"He is a terrific coach and will be a great ambassador and leader for our football program," Brandon said. "We look forward to having him build a championship program on the field and in the classroom."
Hoke, who will be introduced at a news conference in Ann Arbor on Wednesday, brings something of a rebuilder's reputation with him after stints at Ball State (2003-08) and San Diego State (2009-10).
A defensive line coach at Michigan, Hoke helped the defense lead the nation in rushing defense and was on the staff during the 1997 national championship run. During his tenure, Michigan went 5-3 against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State and in bowl games.
"I'm excited for Brady Hoke and even for Michigan," Green Bay Packers and former Michigan star Charles Woodson wrote in a text message to The Associated Press. "I'm glad this process is over and we can begin to restore the tradition and respect that was once Michigan."
Hoke replaces Rich Rodriguez, who was fired after going 15-22 in three disappointing seasons with the Wolverines. That includes an 0-6 mark against the Buckeyes and Spartans and a 38-point drubbing two weeks ago by Mississippi State in Michigan's worst-ever bowl defeat.
Hoke has 28 years of college experience overall 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 and as a coach helped the program to a school-record 12 wins three years ago.
San Diego State gave Hoke a five-year contract worth $3,525,000 in December 2008 to replace the fired Chuck Long. Hoke 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."
He'll get a fresh start in the Big Ten, a huge upgrade from the MAC and Mountain West, where he was coach of the year. And he'll be picking up the reins of a once-proud program eager to get back among the nation's elite, not to mention challenging Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa in the Big Ten.
Rodriguez replaced retired coach Lloyd Carr in a marriage that seemed doomed from the start. He was fired after three lackluster seasons with college football's winningest program and was hit with NCAA violations tied to practice time.
Brandon bought out the last three seasons of Rodriguez's contract for $2.5 million on the first anniversary of taking the job. His latest decision was a big one, too.
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 Miles would be the best choice Brandon could make. The LSU coach was a 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.