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Posted on Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

The top 5 first-year coaching jobs in Michigan football history ... and Brady Hoke's among them

By Kyle Meinke


Bo Schembechler's first season at Michigan famously ended with an upset of No. 1-ranked Ohio State -- he's shown during that game, talking with running back Glenn Doughty -- to salvage an 8-3 season and a No. 9 ranking in the final polls.

File photo

It took Michigan football coach Brady Hoke only one season to return the Wolverines to prominence, despite following the worst coaching hire in school history. The defense, likewise, made one of the greatest single-year leaps in the school's history.

Not bad for a guy who many considered a Plan B hire.

But where, exactly, does Hoke's first-year coaching job rank in the long, accomplished tradition of Michigan football? assembled a list of the top five debuts among the Wolverines' 18 coaches -- and, yes, Hoke makes the cut.

Not to jinx the guy or anything, but the other four went on to do pretty well for themselves (three are Hall of Famers, and the other is a Michigan legend).

Without further ado, your first-year wonders:


Fielding H. Yost

File photo

Year: 1901.

Record: 11-0.

Titles: National, Rose Bowl.

Captain: Hugh White.

All-American: Neil Snow.

What happened: The first season of Yost's famed "point-a-minute" offense averaged 50.0 points per game — although one would have done just fine for Michigan to still go 11-0. Michigan was unscored upon in Yost's first season, and outscored opponents by a combined 550-0. It culminated with a 49-0 victory against Stanford in the first bowl game, the 1902 Rose Bowl, and the first of his four consecutive national titles. The season predates the modern era, sure, but its feats are too great to be ignored for the top spot. Simply put: They'll never be repeated (much to the chagrin of Greg Mattison).

What followed: Yost went on to have the longest tenure in program history, guiding the team through 1923 and again from 1925-26. His "point-a-minute" teams from 1901-05 outscored opponents 2,821-42, and went 56 consecutive games without a defeat, the second longest streak in history. His run helped give Michigan the lead in all-time wins, which the Wolverines still maintain to this day.

Legacy: Six national titles, 10 Big Ten titles, 165-29-10 record, inducted into College Football Hall of Fame.



Bennie Oosterbaan

File photo

Year: 1948.

Record: 9-0, 6-0 Big Ten.

Titles: National, Big Ten.

Ranking: No. 1.

Captain: Dominic Tomasi.

All-Americans: Richard Rifenburg, Pete Elliott, Alvin Wistert.

All-Conference: Dick Rifenburg, Wistert, Tomasi, Elliott.

What happened: Oosterbaan is the second -- and most recent -- coach in Michigan history to win a national title in his first year, and was named national coach of the year. The Wolverines' most-impressive victory was a 28-0 win against then-No. 3 Northwestern, which propelled them from fourth to first in the national rankings. They recorded five shutouts and allowed an impressive 4.9 points per game.

What followed: Oosterbaan won Big Ten titles in each of his first three seasons and went on to win the 1951 Rose Bowl, but never again had a season like his first. He lost fewer than three games just twice after his second season, and went 2-6-1 in his final season (1-5-1 in the Big Ten).

Legacy: 63-33-4 record, three-time first-team All-American as a player (as well as a two-time All-American in basketball and all-Big Ten baseball player), his jersey was the first to be retired by Michigan.



Fritz Crisler

File photo

Year: 1938.

Record: 6-1-1, 3-1-1 Big Ten.

Titles: None.

Ranking: No. 16.

Captain: Fred Janke

All-American: Ralph Heikkinen.

All-Conference: Heikkinen, Forest Evashevski, Tom Harmon.

What happened: Michigan's only loss was to Big Ten champ Minnesota by a 7-6 score, and the Wolverines tied Northwestern, 0-0. It fell half a game short of catching the Gophers in the Big Ten standings. This also was the first season with wings on the Michigan helmets, which Crisler employed to aid the passing game. It worked, as Michigan nearly doubled its passing yards, cut its interceptions by almost half and improved its completion percentage.

What followed: Crisler introduced the "two-platoon" system — a fancy way of saying offensive and defensive specialists — to football in general, and the winged helmet to Michigan in particular. He was, in other words, a revolutionary who had a significant effect on modern football despite most of his tenure pre-dating the modern era. His 1947 team is considered by some to be the greatest team in the history of Michigan football.

Legacy: 71-16-3, inducted into College Football Hall of Fame, finished lower than second in the Big Ten only twice, .805 winning percentage ranks him second in school history behind only Yost.



Brady Hoke

Melanie Maxwell |

Year: 2011.

Record: 10-2, 6-2 Big Ten, pending bowl game.

Titles: None, pending bowl game.

Ranking: No. 17, pending bowl game.

Captains: David Molk, Kevin Koger, Mike Martin.

All-Americans: N/A (Haven't been announced, although none are expected to be first-teamers).

All-Conference: Molk, Martin, Taylor Lewan, Denard Robinson.

What happened: Hoke did not win a national title, nor did he win a Big Ten title. What lifts him to fourth on this list -- and one spot ahead of a key mentor -- is he was able to join Yost as the only coaches in Michigan history to win 10 games in their first season, despite facing the unique challenge of following the worst coaching hire in Michigan history. He has a chance to match Yost's first-season record of 11 wins in the Wolverines' impending bowl game, even though his team features mostly the same players who went 7-6 the year before and posted the worst defensive performance in school history. The Wolverines rocketed up to No. 9 in scoring defense under Hoke. He also ended a seven-year losing streak to Ohio State, the longest in school history.

What followed: N/A.

Legacy: It took Hoke only one season to bring winning football back to Ann Arbor, rescuing the program during a time in which some considered Michigan to be losing its footing as a national power. The rest of his legacy, naturally, is yet to be written.



Bo Schembechler

File photo

Year: 1969.

Record: 8-3, 6-1 Big Ten.

Titles: Big Ten.

Ranking: No. 9.

Captain: Jim Mandich.

All-Americans: Jim Mandich, Tom Curtis.

All-Conference: Mandich, Phil Seymour, Curtis, Dan Dierdorf, Guy Murdock, Billy Taylor, Marty Huff.

What happened: Schembechler's first season culminated with a win against top-ranked Ohio State, which snapped the Buckeyes' 22-game unbeaten streak and secured an unexpected Big Ten championship for the Wolverines. It's considered the greatest win by the school's winningest coach, and ended a run of futility against the Buckeyes, much as Hoke did in his first year. Despite the upset of a top-ranked team, and the league title, Schembechler slides in behind Hoke because he inherited a team that went 8-2 the season before his hire and had returning stars such as Jim Mandich and Tom Curtis. His first season was exemplary, but Hoke's was more difficult to achieve.

What followed: Schembechler became one of the all-time greats, and established a winning tradition that, with the exception of the Rodriguez era, has kept Michigan among the nation's elite programs. He won Big Ten titles in five of his first six seasons, and eight of his first 10. He finished worse than second in the conference only four times in 21 seasons. He finished with more than four losses only once. The only blemish was his performance in bowls, where he lost his first seven bids and finished 5-12, and never won a national championship.

Legacy: Winningest coach in school history with 194 victories (as well as 48 losses and five ties), 13 Big Ten titles, two Rose Bowl wins, six-time Big Ten coach of the year, established Michigan as an elite program, inducted into College Football Hall of Fame.

Kyle Meinke covers Michigan football for He can be reached at 734-623-2588, by email at and followed on Twitter @kmeinke.



Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 4:32 a.m.

I happen to assert that inclusion of Brady among the list is a mistake. Why? He has no track record. The first year success does not mean much unless it is a beginning of the legacy.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 4:21 a.m.

Lloyd Carr deserves a mention and more respect here. His first year groomed his second, which was as important a season as any in the modern era. At one point LC was 10-0 against top 10 teams. Did any of the others on the list achieve that? Apologies for my outdated handle, it will be changed now that the streak has ended.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 1:33 a.m.

Why is RR's name coming up in the comments for this article ? He doesn't deserve to be anywhere near this article, unless someone thinks that a 3-9 first season and a 6-18 career B1G record is worthy of being mentioned. Being that Coach Hoke completely turned around our program from the "worst coaching hire in school history" (very well stated), he deserves to be in this discussion, and should be in the top 2 or 3. Looks like Coach Yost has the top spot sewed up, outscoring other teams 550-0. I would have loved to see that team play.

Terry Star21

Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Now there you go Mick, I must agree. If we're talking wins, the the above ranking is pretty accurate. If we're talking 'impact on a program' - I have to believe Hoke is the top first year coach ! impact on players, team, & faithful as good as Coach Hoke.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 4:28 a.m.

Brady has no track record. One year success alone is not enough.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 11:01 p.m.

Tough choice for me between Yost and Hoke, I went with Hoke because of today's competitive environment and rescuing us from a potential abyss of a situation.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 10:42 p.m.

I would put both Brady and Bo on an equal rating but I think if you asked Brady, Brady would rate Bo ahead of himself.

Lorain Steelmen

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Yost's first year was the greatest, since it set the tone for 110 years. Next would be Bo, since he re-energized the program, for 40 odd years. Interesting comment from MRunner73, about the porgram going dormant during the late Carr years. Moeller had a tough job following the legend, but he did very well for 5 seasons. When Mo was let go, Bo was beside himself. Fortunately, Moeller had just hired Hoke, and with Mattison was on the staff, the passion was maintained through 2002. When they both left, under Carr the passion dissipated, and culinatied in the terrible 2007 year. Rodriguez never knew what happened to him, and after 3 years, Hoke was brought on to rekindle the passion, that had been dormant since 2002. Hoke has a tough job going forward, as Mattison may not hang around long. Additionally, Hoke will need to groom a 'replacement', who is also commited to the passion, as Bo did with Moeller. I wish him well. the past TEN YEARS have been very tough to take!


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 4:09 a.m.

@LS -- "Mattison may not hang around long" ... I think we've got him for at least three years, maybe five. My guess is he'll finish out his coaching career here. I don't see him going to any other school, or for that matter back to the NFL. There was an article that mentioned Al Borges' name being mentioned for HC openings, and that Hoke "would support him." That worries me a bit ... I'd like to see Borges and Mattison stick around long enough for Hoke imprint the program with their thinking and coaching styles. * * * Since the previous coach has been mentioned here ... local Tucson sports radio was saying that the rumor is Jeff Casteel will come to UofA to be DC. If so, then that changes the dynamics a bit. My sense is Casteel is one of the few people Rodriguez trusts to "do that defense thing" without interference. With Casteel as his DC and a couple of good recruiting years RR could very well put together a tough UofA team.


Sat, Dec 3, 2011 : 4 a.m.

I worry about Mattison not being here for a long time. Hopefully he'll be with the program for at least 4 more years so that a D-coordinator can be groomed from among the coaches we've got (I feel that was a strength of the Schembechler years). Obviously, Hoke hit a home run with his coordinator hires (both Borges and Mattison, imo), which has a huge effect on how good the team is. I'd love to see both coordinators stay for a long time, but in the meantime, I hope that some of the coaches within the program are learning the ropes and might be able to take over under coach Hoke when the time comes. As for coach Hoke grooming a replacement for himself, I'm hopeful the need for that won't come for at least 15 years.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 8:42 p.m.

Good article; Brady Hoke's accomplishment could be the most significant, given the huge slide this football program took in the previous three seasons. Fans were also becoming increasingly dissatisfied during Lloyd Carr's final season. It started with the two losses to end the 2006 season after starting 11 and 0. I had to vote for Bo because of the change in culture that did last through 2006. It seemed to have dissappeared with Bo's passing but was only dormant and now Brady Hoke as revivied it. Brady has to maintain this level which Bo did after his first season so the book is open. Hoke's 2012 recruiting class might be a clue to sustained success. Michigan will have a tougher schedule in 2012 and "only" 6 home games. The margin or 2 less than what we had this year could be a factor. Time will tell as we will take 'em one game at a time.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 7:55 p.m.

just a thought here.. does Brady get any cred for being a D-Line coach on the 1997 National Championship team ? GO BLUE..


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 7:48 p.m.

..."despite facing the unique challenge of following the worst coaching hire in Michigan history." That's an understatement if there ever was one. Sooooooooooo glad RR is long gone.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 7:27 p.m.

I would place Bo ahead of Brady. The win over the No1 Ohio State team, who was then compared to an NFL team, was likely the greatest single game accomplishment at Michigan. Also, Bo has the track to back up his first season success. Would you include Brady if he ends up with losing all Ohio State games after this year?


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 7:16 p.m.

Great Job Kyle.. your research was spot on.. Had to vote for Yost ! Michigan was unscored upon in Yost's first season, and outscored opponents by a combined 550-0. It culminated with a 49-0 victory against Stanford in the first bowl game, the 1902 Rose Bowl, and the first of his four consecutive national titles. I think we should have a poll amongst commenter s and faithful for: The best football reporter/writer of 2011 Kyle Meinke 1 Kyle you got my vote,and your leading 1-0 HAIL Yes This is MICHIGAN...


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 6:22 p.m.

TRIVIA REQUEST: Why is Blue BASKETBALL arena named after a FOOTBALL coach? Seems weird.


Sun, Dec 4, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

Why does tohio play basketball in Value City Arena...named after a discount dept. store?


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 8:50 p.m.

Michigan hockey plays games at Yost Arena. I think it's just the way the university chose to honor two of its greatest coaches.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 8:34 p.m.

Good question; I often why Michigan was never renamed Ufer Memorial Stadium. FYI: Canham Nanatorium for the swimmers.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 7:24 p.m.

deep down osu you want this knowledge,because you also want to be a MICHIGAN MAN.. its all right,just get in the back of the line..

Terry Star21

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5:46 p.m.

What a great article, what great history - so great to be a Michigan faithful. Fielding Yost - are you kidding me with those stats (just mind boggling) ! Although I've seen all the stats and the history before - it is so great to see a fine display of reporting and writing and yes, I could read these every day, over and over. Thank you kyle. I agree with Go Blue in part, coaches like Hoke pay great homage to our legends and best - they are a celebration to everything those other coaches, their athletes, teams, school and faithful accomplished. And in retrospect yes, they are smiling and feeling pretty great about Coach Brady Hoke. MgoBlueForTim.....Coach Hoke, Fielding called - bring that bowl win back to Michigan.

Go Blue

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 2:12 p.m.

Ahhhhh, at last. Fielding must be smiling and Bo as well. Coach Hoke, you bring out the best in our team and our game. It is an honor to have you.

Terry Star21

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5:48 p.m.

I'm sure Fielding would say the same !

Theo's Brother

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:57 p.m.

Hoke is in GREAT company! Yost had the most dramatic change with the 3 straight titles and was undefeated for the longest time. Crisler turned around fortunes after Kipke fell off toward the end of his career. Oosterbaan had a full cupboard after Crisler retired. Bo...well enough said. Brady's turnaround is truly remarkable. I was at that Gator Bowl against Miss State. Painful to watch, and 10x more painful because I currently live in MS and have several friends that attend school and play on the team there...they still haven't let me forget that game lol. It's night and day from last year. Props to Hoke and the entire coaching staff for that. GO BLUE!


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:32 p.m.

I love Brady and what he has done for the program. One thing to keep in mind is that Bo faced 3 ranked teams in 1969 (4 with the bowl). Brady only faced 2. (3 with the bowl.) This also included the #1 team in the country. Looking at Bo's schedule, he played Venderbilt, Washington, Missori and the whole Big 10, less Indiana and Northwestern. Brady played the likes of EMU, WMU, San Diego State etc., I think I would judge Bo's schedue tougher. Maybe swap spots with Brady. Tough to say until we see the bowl results.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:05 p.m.

Some interesting facts about Yost for those who like history. Yost was from West Virginia and played football at West Virginia (like Rich Rod!). He invented the position of linebacker. As athletic director he built Michigan stadium, Yost Ice Arena, and the University golf course. He co-invented the first bowl game. The pronunciation MEE-she-gan came from Yost's West Virginia accent . It was copied down through the years by announcers. Yost was among the first to allow Jewish athletes to play football, but because of a bitter fued between Yost and Knute Rockne -Yost led a big ten boycott of Notre Dame (some say he was anti-catholic). A West Virginian was the first "Mee-she-gan man. What a hoot. Maybe RR's singing of Josh Groban was appropriate.

Terry Star21

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5:57 p.m.

It doesn't matter where Yost came from - when he stepped in Michigan he was a 'Michigan Man' and hence, the success began !


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 5:07 p.m.

If I recall correctly, Yost was not an ice arena until after the basketball team moved to Crisler. The hockey team played at the awful Coliseum.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 4:43 p.m.

If ifs and buts were candy and nuts... Well you know the rest


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:24 p.m.

Indeed, Yost is from WV like RRod. And if RRod had had a similar first season to Yost, this article would have been written three years ago, RRod would now be demanding a renegotiation of his contract, and people would be talking about some guy from San Diego walking to Illinois.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

I believe he also had an African-American player somewhere back around 1902 as well ... but I can't recall the details.

Wolf's Bane

Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Informative and smart article. Thanks!


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:53 p.m.

I gotta put Bo's first season, and his win over Ohio State above Coach Hoke's season. This year was a remarkable turn around and Coach Hoke and his staff deserve a lot of credit for that but when the 1969 team beat the Ohio State juggernaut and set the foundation for the current program it was an incredible season


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 4:30 p.m.

Everyone has an opinion, and that's ok. The problem with your opinion is that 2008, 2009 and 2010 were coached by a coach who had NO connection to Bo. All the others, including Hoke, have that connection. Having played for Bo, and having known him personally, I can tell you he would have never allowed the hire of Rich Rodriguez. Bo had more power over the football program than former AD Bill Martin. Someone connected to Bo would have been hired and I guarantee you we wouldn't have had to suffer those 3 years.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 1:19 p.m.

IMO, the accomplisments have to be seen in the context of that particular season. If you're going to credit Bo's 1969 season with laying the foundation for the 2011 season, you have to also blame that season for the failure of seasons 2008 and 2009, and the mediocre 2010 season.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

Fielding Yost's 550 to zero. 56 straight wins. Even if it were in the stone age- that'wild. Ditto on the picture. Dapper suit and crazy smile.


Fri, Dec 2, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

You forgot to add that Yost did it all with major swag. It looks like in the picture that Yost is about to say "I don't know how to put this, but I'm kind of a big deal." The man is a legend.