Hoke a Michigan Man with plenty to prove

January, 11, 2011
1/11/11
4:44
PM ET
Brady Hoke will face a different set of challenges at Michigan than his predecessor did.

Unlike Rich Rodriguez, Hoke won't have to worry about showing everyone how much he loves Michigan and all of its history and tradition. He won't constantly be asked about the importance of the Ohio State game. He won't have to defend how he runs a program because Michigan fans know him and have seen his methods before.

[+] EnlargeBrady Hoke
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziBrady Hoke is 47-50 as a head coach, but he led the Aztecs to a 9-4 record this past season.
Brady Hoke will have to show everyone that he can win big on the big stage. He'll get the chance at Michigan, which hired him as its 19th head coach Tuesday afternoon.
"We are pleased to announce the hiring of Brady," athletic director Dave Brandon said in a statement. "He is a terrific coach and will be a great ambassador and leader for our football program. We look forward to having him build a championship program on the field and in the classroom."

Hoke isn't a big-time name. He doesn't have a big-time record (47-50). He hasn't held a big-time head-coaching job (Ball State and San Diego State). Unlike Rodriguez, he hasn't won a BCS bowl or a conference championship.

Most coaches only land a job like Michigan after building an impressive legacy elsewhere. Hoke must build his legacy in Ann Arbor.

He needs to prove himself to Michigan and its large and passionate fan base, a good portion of whom aren't doing cartwheels about this hire. Brandon might have wanted Hoke all along and former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr certainly is in his corner, but the hire lacks the hype that many fans want, even if hype doesn't matter in the end.

Hoke could very well end up being the right man to restore Michigan among college football's elite. Not many candidates seemed jazzed about that challenge, but Hoke has made it clear that this is his dream job after serving as a Michigan assistant for eight seasons.

It took him a while to get things going at Ball State, but his work both there and at San Diego State is impressive. Hoke produced some dynamic teams and players at programs that longed for success. Michigan has a similar longing, but the challenge in Ann Arbor will be much greater.

The best-case scenario is Hoke rebuilds Michigan into a Big Ten power. The Wolverines upgrade their defense and continue to improve on offense. They end the losing streaks to Ohio State and Michigan State and get back to BCS bowls.

He also could turn out to be a flop on the big stage, a guy better suited to jobs like San Diego State and Ball State. Michigan can't afford too many more years like the last three, especially in an improving Big Ten Conference.

If Hoke fails, Brandon will justifiably take the blame. He wanted a Michigan Man. So did Carr and some of the other power brokers behind the scenes. Well, they got one. Is Hoke the best coach available? Judging by his credentials, nope. But he still could be the right coach for Michigan.

Michigan didn't release contract details Tuesday, but you can bet Hoke will be given some time to get things on track. This isn't the type of school that likes rapid change and it just fired a coach after only three seasons.

Hoke's big moment has arrived. Can he capitalize?

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