Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Hoke-Meyer could conjure memories
By Michael Rothstein WolverineNation
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan-Ohio State game has never needed an extra jolt. As one of the best rivalries in college football, there is always intensity and passion and excitement surrounding the game.
The past four days, though, have given the rivalry a bit more juice anyway.
On Saturday, Michigan beat Ohio State, 40-34, for the first time since 2003. On Monday, Ohio State hired former Florida coach Urban Meyer, placing one of the most successful coaches over the past decade at the helm of the Wolverines' biggest rival.
Could Brady Hoke and Urban Meyer start another Ten-Year War?
Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel weren't the most quotable coaches when it came to adding some zest to the pomp surrounding Michigan-Ohio State. They didn't play the game in public like former Michigan coach Bo Schembechler and former Ohio State coach Woody Hayes did.
That might come back. This could be the birth of Woody vs. Bo, the sequel.
Take it from those who know -- coaches who faced both Michigan coach Brady Hoke and Meyer during their Mid-American Conference days. Hoke and Meyer never overlapped in the MAC, but some of the league's coaches, whose schools are firmly planted in the Big Ten footprint, faced both of them.
"It's not a prediction, but it wouldn't surprise me if this becomes the stuff of books the way the 'Ten Year War,' if I'm not mistaken, was the title of one book about Woody and Bo. It is not surprising that we could be looking down the barrel at that kind of rivalry," former Buffalo coach Jim Hofher said. "Not only between the schools but between the men who are running those football programs.
"In many ways that's great for the Big Ten, great for the national scene of college football, and it'll be great for their respective schools."
While the relationship between Meyer and Hoke is different than that of Hayes and Schembechler -- Schembechler played for Hayes at Miami (Ohio) and then also coached under him there -- there are similarities in their backgrounds.
Both got their head coaching starts in the MAC -- Meyer at Bowling Green and Hoke at Ball State. Both left the MAC for the Mountain West -- Meyer to Utah and Hoke to San Diego State. At both the MAC and Mountain West stops, Hoke and Meyer were revered as program-changers.
Both were born in Ohio and have deep affinity for this rivalry. Both also appear to view their current jobs as destination stops, which considering that Hoke is 53 years old and Meyer is 47, could be a long time. Maybe even more than a decade if things go well for them.
There is something else, too, which could play even more of a factor into Woody-Bo, Part II: Both coaches seem somewhat comfortable doing some playful jabbing publicly.
Since he started at Michigan -- and even beforehand -- Hoke has referred to Ohio State only as "Ohio." Then there is Meyer, who didn't tweak the Wolverines during his introductory news conference Monday -- instead he called Michigan-Ohio State the "game of games" -- but he has had fun with rivalries in the past.
During his first head coaching job at Bowling Green, he consistently referred to rival Toledo as "the school up north." Sound familiar?
"It got a chuckle out of me," former Toledo coach Tom Amstutz said. "And I understood where it came from. It made us want to beat them even worse and teach him where he was and made the taste of victory that much sweeter."
Both Meyer and Hoke grasp that with this rivalry. Each said this week how much respect he has for the other school. But they also get the importance of the game to the universities and the respective fan bases.
Meyer has a framed picture of Hayes in his home. Hoke regularly stops while walking through Schembechler Hall and thinks about Schembechler.
"They already have it in their DNA the ability to capture the essence of the natural rivalry, and they know how to develop it, know how to play it up, and it'll be a lot of fun for everybody involved in college football and those guys especially as they deal with that rivalry," Hofher said. "Not that it is the only one for each of their schools, but Ohio State-Michigan is one of the great rivalries in all of college football and maybe all of college sports."
And it is one that is about to see a renewed vigor from both sides.
Michael Rothstein covers University of Michigan sports for WolverineNation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @mikerothstein.