- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Brady Hoke just completed his introductory news conference at Michigan, and the new Wolverines coach handled himself quite well.
He hit on the key topics for Michigan fans and used the right words to appeal to the fan base. He showed genuine emotion when talking about the thousands of players he has been able to coach. He promised to produce teams that display great toughness and effort.
Michigan often gets accused of being arrogant, but Hoke doesn't fit that description. He took the job as soon as it was offered and didn't even discuss salary, according to athletic director Dave Brandon.
"We would have walked to the University of Michigan," Hoke said to open his remarks.
Hoke and Michigan agreed to a six-year contract, which is still being finalized.
Here are some notes and observations after watching Hoke and Brandon today:
Hoke effectively played up the Ohio State rivalry, refusing to use "Ohio" and "State" in the same sentence but talking about how The Game is personal for him as an Ohio native who was an assistant coach at Michigan. Despite growing up in Ohio, he didn't root for the Buckeyes because all of his buddies did and he wanted to be different. "It is the most important game on that schedule," Hoke said, banging his fist on the podium between each word. "I have great respect for Ohio, there’s no question about it. The last Saturday in November at 12 o'clock, that ball being kicked off, there’s nothing like it. ... If you’re at Michigan and you wear that Maize and Blue, it’s personal." I'm sure Michigan fans are pleased, but let's keep perspective. Michigan will start beating Ohio State when it has a better team than Ohio State, not when it has more desire or passion.
Hoke didn't talk much about schemes or his staff, but he discussed quarterback Denard Robinson, the 2010 Big Ten offensive player of the year. He met with Robinson for 15 minutes earlier Wednesday and plans to talk more with the star. "We understand we’ve got a special guy in Denard," Hoke said. "He’s a guy who can do an awful lot for your football program." Hoke sounds like he'll adjust his system to fit Robinson -- Brandon wanted the new coach to be able to adapt -- and will do all he can to keep "Shoelace" in Ann Arbor.
Brandon added that all discussions with Hoke during the process included Robinson's name as well as those of other players. The AD said backup quarterback Tate Forcier isn't with the program and couldn't elaborate on the situation because it's an academics issue.
It was very interesting to hear how Hoke listed winning a Big Ten title as the team's top goal and didn't talk much about a national championship. The Big Ten has drawn criticism in the past for being too focused on its own title and the Rose Bowl rather than winning the national crown. "If you don’t win your conference championships, there’s no way in heck you’re going to win a national championship," Hoke said. "Our goal is to win the Big Ten championship."
The clock is ticking on the 2011 recruiting class, and Hoke admitted he has a lot of work to do. He plans to call all of Michigan's verbally committed recruits Wednesday afternoon and do all he can to get things squared away before National Signing Day on Feb. 2. "Recruiting is a people business and it’s trust and it’s having something special that you want to present to families and young men," Hoke said. "We have that at the University of Michigan and in the tradition and legacy of this program."
One other interesting note on recruiting from Hoke. "The lifeblood of your recruiting has to be in the Midwest and has to be in the state of Michigan," he said. Although previous coach Rich Rodriguez still recruited pretty well both in the state and in the region, expect Michigan to be more regionally focused under Hoke.
Hoke defended the 3-3-5 defense, an alignment that drew a lot of criticism during Rodriguez's tenure. "People need to be educated on what that defense is," Hoke said, adding that it can work in the Big Ten. "There are multiple ways to play it with the personnel you have on the field.”
Hoke bristled when asked why some folks no longer consider Michigan an elite job. "Who said that? I’m serious," he said to a reporter. "This is an elite job and will continue to be an elite job. This is Michigan. People can say what they want to say and people are going to have opinions. That doesn’t mean anything. … It baffles me how people can make a comment like that." There's no doubt that Hoke loves Michigan.
Brandon really tried to emphasize that he conducted a national search, reiterating how exhausting the last week has been, going to five cities in six days. He said he spoke to multiple candidates in person and several others over the phone. He tried to emphasize that he didn't really know Hoke until the search process began. While I'm sure Brandon did his homework, he'll have a tough time convincing people this was truly a national search when the main targets (Hoke, Les Miles, Jim Harbaugh) all had strong ties to Michigan.
Hoke on the divisions within Michigan's fan base: "It’s sad that this great university and this great program and the tradition has divisions. ... How dare us divide what Michigan is?"
Brandon on Hoke: "He doesn’t have to learn the words to 'The Victors.' He has sung it many times in the locker room. He doesn’t need a map to get around Ann Arbor."
One last Hoke quote: "There isn’t pressure. If you don’t have that self-imposed drive and competitiveness and mental toughness to prepare your guys in the right way, to do all the things that are encompassed, that should be where the pressure is."
Good stuff. Your thoughts?