Michigan football coach Brady Hoke: 'That school in Ohio' always a key game
Brady Hoke is back with the Michigan football program, this time as its head coach.
Athletic director Dave Brandon hired Hoke on Tuesday and the 19th coach in Michigan history was introduced Wednesday. Hoke returns to a school where he worked between 1995 and 2002 as the Wolverines' defensive line coach.
With San Diego State looking to lock Hoke into a long-term contract extension, Hoke made no bones about it. He wanted to be at Michigan.
But the new Wolverines coach who was hired on Tuesday faces a big challenge - first in playing catch-up on the recruiting trail and then in restoring order to a program that has fallen on hard times over the past three years.
Brandon said he traveled to five cities in six days and interviewed several coaches in person and over the phone. He said there were people he wanted to see and people he wanted to talk to. He refused to specify who else he talked to or what was discussed, saying it wasn't fair to go back on his confidentiality agreement with those he spoke to.
Brandon said he met several coaches with different personalties while "testing the market." He said he met with coaches who had varying levels of interest in the Michigan job. But over the course of three-hour meetings, Brandon said he learned something else.
"I learned that all that glimmers is not gold when it comes to coaches," Brandon said.
Brandon said he believes he has achieved what he set out to do when he began a national search after firing Rich Rodriguez. He set out to set up confidential meetings to keep the process from becoming a circus. He said Hoke was on the short list from Day 1, saying he knew Hoke by reputation, but that he wanted to get to know Hoke much better.
Brandon said he called Hoke early Tuesday morning, forgetting about the time difference between Ann Arbor and San Diego. He said he waited about 90 minutes to speak with Hoke and said he immediately offered him the job. Hoke characterized the job as his dream job and accepted an offer for a six-year deal.
Brandon said Hoke has a reputation of a players coach and said, different than other coaches, "It's not about him." He said he is known as a coach who can turn programs around, who can recruit great players and who can get his players to play for him.
"This is a special coach," Brandon said.
Hoke said he would have walked to Ann Arbor from San Diego.
"Getting over the Rockies would have been a little tough, but we would have figured that out," he said.
Hoke said it will always be about the team. He said he is dedicated to building a team around character and a program that will be accountable. He said his players will be accountable in the classroom and will be accountable in the community. He said if his players aren't accountable, they are letting their teammates down.
"We are going to be a team that competes with a high degree of effort every time we take the field," Hoke said. "You can't win unless you compete."
Hoke became emotional when talking about the thousands of players Michigan football has been able to touch.
Hoke said he wouldn't discuss what his staff will look like, but he said his staff will work to mold his offense around special players like star quarterback Denard Robinson. Hoke said he spent about 15 minutes with the sophomore, but he was well aware of what Robinson brings.
"We've got a special guy in Denard - he's a guy that can do things for your football team."
Hoke, who ran a 3-3-5 defense at San Diego State, said he believes it can work in the Big Ten. But he said people often don't understand the scheme, which he said can be flexible. Hoke said the scheme allows for multiple changes as evidenced by a Aztecs defense that he turned around and which ranked 40th in the country last year.
Hoke said Michigan is a place where he believes there are three natural rivals - Notre Dame, Michigan State and a university Hoke referred to as "that school in Ohio." Hoke, an Ohio native, said when you play at Michigan what games are important that that he will get out in front of the games that matter most.
He called the Ohio State game the most important game Michigan will play every year.
"The last Saturday in November at 12 - that ball being kicked off, there's nothing like it," Hoke said.
Hoke, who met with current players Wednesday morning, said he plans to spent a lot of time with current players and Michigan's seniors in the next day or so. He also plans to get on the phone and talked to players who have committed to Michigan and who are still weighing their options, hoping to catch up on recruiting trail.
"There's no doubt about it - we've got a lot of work to do," Hoke said. "We have to work our hind end off to reach all those people. Recruiting is a people business."
Asked whether he considered Michigan was still an elite job, Hoke bristled, asking whose opinion that was. When told ESPN personalities suggested it wasn't, Hoke replied, "God bless them. ... But they're wrong. This is Michigan, for God's sake. This is Michigan."