Thus begins the Brady Hoke era by AlanB

On Jan 11, 2011 Brady Hoke became just the 19th head football coach in the 132 years of Michigan's storied football program.  The hiring of Brady Hoke ended a controversial and a seemingly endless coaching search.  The search of 2011 reminded many fans of the circus like atmosphere that surrounded the 2007 search which ended with the hiring of Rich Rodriguez. Just like three years ago fans scoured message boards and plane tracking sites trying to draw some type of conclusion into whom the next coach was going to be from each and every tidbit they received.  When the smoke settled and the 19th coach was to be Brady Hoke the initial fan reaction was that of a guy who thought he was going on a date with Vida Guerra only to open the door to see Snookie from the Jersey Shore standing there.  Luckily for Coach Hoke that disappointment quickly dispersed.  

The very next day the Michigan nation was on the edge of its seat.  For three agonizing years we all witnessed some of the programs lowest of lows and each season when it felt as if things couldn't get any worse, those lows only stung deeper after brutal beat downs at the hands of our arch nemesis Ohio State and in-state rival Michigan State. On the day of the press conference, after Coach Hoke and Athletic Director David Brandon paused for just a moment to snap a picture together holding Michigan's famed 'Winged Helmet', the vehement filled maize and blue faithful sat and anxiously awaited to hear what he was going to say.  Coach Hoke would not disappoint. For the next 50 or so minutes he grabbed the attention of the Wolverine nation and hasn't let go.

From the very beginning it wasn't hard to see how much passion Coach Hoke has for the University of Michigan.  Barely a minute into his speech he stated  "we would have walked to the University of Michigan." It was quite a statement to make since he just came from San Diego St. but not a person watching that conference doubted he would've carried through with it. Brady Hoke made it very clear his focus is about the team and the kids wearing the winged helmets.  Throughout the entire conference he sparingly looked down at his notes, most of the time he speaking from the heart.  His blue-collar, "average-Joe" type of personality resonated throughout the press conference. What was intriguing was his way of greeting each reporter by name and attentively listening to each question.  The highlight of the conference came when he was asked to comment about Michigan's recent poor record against Ohio State.  It was refreshing to see him confidently reply to the reporter with "Sure", "Well, you wanna win em."  Later on he was asked the same type of question and again confidently answered. This time he deliberately pounded his finger on the podium as he uttered "IT-IS-THE-MOST-IMPORTANT-GAME-ON-THAT-SCHEDULE!"

To the average fan the hiring of Brady Hoke may seems unorthodox at best.  There are those that will point to his 47-50 overall coaching record and question whether he was even qualified to be offered the job in the first place.  As impressive as his first press conference was there are those that will undoubtedly wait to give their "approval" until they see the product on the field.  However, if you ask anyone of the former players and coaches that came to support him in person that should be an indication of good things to come. A good majority of those in attendance had or currently are playing in the NFL.  It says a lot about a coach when players are willing to fly from all over the country just to support him in person.  If anything it shows just how tight knit the Michigan family can be for one another.  While some may see this type of support as overkill.  I would respectfully disagree. 

In my opinion Brady Hoke is a vastly underrated football coach.  Hoke took Ball State and San Diego St and made them respectable teams during his tenure.  People need to remember recruiting top notch players to a school such as Ball State and San Diego St just doesn't happen.  Essentially he took two programs and turned them around with lower tiered talent.  Here is a quick breakdown on what he has accomplished at those two schools.

In 2006 Ball State was 5-7. At the end of the 2008 season Hoke lead that team to an undefeated regular season before losing in the MAC Championship Game and in the GMAC Bowl.  While the losses at the end of the season were tough to swallow the regular season was nothing short of one hell of a coaching job.  Along with an undefeated season, two first time milestones were accomplished.  (1) For the first time in school history Ball State defeated a BCS conference opponent by beating Indiana 42-20 in Bloomington, Indiana.  (2) A month later they were ranked for the first time in school history and even was ranked as high as #12 during the 2008 season. (Ranked #12 in BCS Standings and Coaches poll in week of Nov 30, 2008)

In December of 2008, Hoke left Ball State to become San Diego State's 17th Head Football Coach.  During his first year in 2009 he led the Aztecs to a 4-8 season.  Those that knew Brady Hoke fully understood just how much that record stung.  After all when he became the coach he was quoted as saying, " "Number one, this program is going to be a program that's based on toughness. To play football at the Division I level, to compete academically at the Division I level and balance both, you have to be tough-minded. You have to be physically tough and mentally tough."  (wikipedia)  For those that may have doubted Coach Hoke for his first year record he certainly came through with his words during the 2010 season.  The 9-4 record the Aztecs achieved does not do the team any justice.  They played substantially better than a typical 9-4 team.  Two of their losses were to BCS ranked opponents.  One of the losses was to then ranked #2 TCU by a mere 5 points with a final score of 40-35.  TCU went on to win the 2011 Rose Bowl by defeating Wisonsin and ending the season  The other was to #12 Missouri by a mere 3 points with a final score of 27-24.  The Aztecs finished the season with an impressive 35-14 win over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl.

Coach Hoke's success is no fallacy.  If anyone watched their game against Navy you would have seen an extremely well coached football team.  His teams are known to play nearly mistake free football.  They are known to play complete and fundamentally sound football.  Brady Hoke is no stranger to smash-mouth,  fundamentally sound football.  He spent 8 seasons on Michigan's football staff under Coach Carr.  He was with Michigan for three Big Ten titles and was the defensive line coach for the 1997 National Championship team.  Coach Hoke garners the respect of his players because he is tough, fair and compassionate.  He has been labeled by many as a "players coach."  There is something to be said about a coach that not only wants to win but is truly passionate about their job. 

Brady Hoke may not have been the most popular hire. He may not have been the fans number 1 choice but at the end of the day he will prove he was the best choice.  Coach Hoke will win with tough football.  He could care less about putting up 60 points.  He would much rather his players play tough, play smart and play as a team.  He would much rather his teams play fundamentally sound football and beat their opponents by smashing them in their mouths.  He expects accountability from his players and his teams and doesn't deal with any type of bull.  I remember playing for coaches like Brady Hoke.  They didn't let anyone slack off.  It didn't matter if you were a bench warmer or the star of the team. If you slacked or got out of line you weren't playing at all.  That mentality carries over into the real world.  In my 10 years in the military, I have been mentored by a few sergeants that have the same mentality.  They were fierce but fair.  When you disappointed them you knew it. You held yourself accountable before they even spoke to you.  Which only made the butt-chewing and pain of hundreds of extra flutter kicks even worse.  However, these sergeants and coaches were the best of mentors. When you truly needed them they walked with you and took care of you. They became a lot of our "second fathers" or "second brothers" showing unconditional compassion and ensuring you had everything you need to succeed in your job and in life.

When Coach Hoke first spoke to his Wolverines he told them, "the goal of this program, the expectation of this program is to win the Big Ten Championship. If we fail and we don't do that then we need to get it right. We need to reload, we need to compete harder, we need to work harder, we need to get after it with a sense of urgency."  If Coach Hoke is as successful at Michigan as he was in the past then the Wolverines are in for some brighter days ahead.  The nation will undoubtedly see a complete, well coached and tough football team.  Granted mere words do not make wins and promises don't guarantee a thing.  We are not guaranteeing Coach Hoke will succeed at Michigan but if all the signs on the road point to success then each  Michigan fan should definitely be excited.      (written by Alan B.)

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