In social media age perception is reality more than ever before. Simply put, ideas need little if any substantiation to pick up steam. A Michigan football example of this phenomenon is the growing belief in some fan circles that Brady Hoke is more figurehead than head coach. Some would have you believe that the recent decision to fire former offensive coordinator Al Borges and hire new offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier was the latest example of Hoke doing the bidding of Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon. It’s a notion so untenable to Michigan’s fourth-year headman that he hardly reacts when it’s mentioned.
“Number one, I can’t control what other people think,” said Hoke. “I do know I was hired to do a job by my boss Dave (Brandon). I make all the decisions happening in this program. I’ve got guys who I respect on this staff… that when we need to talk about different issues that come up, we’re going to talk about it as a staff. I’m going to come up with a solution no matter what it is and we’re all going to go the same way. We’re going to lock arms and go the same way. Believe me, every decision that I’ve made I have made for this program and the legacies and the traditions of this program and for the kids that are in this program.”
The truth of the matter is it doesn’t matter how adamant Hoke is with those assertions, some minds just won’t be changed. That’s why he doesn’t spend time trying to. Besides, such talk is only a problem if those within the team question who’s in control… and on that matter Hoke insists there is no ambiguity.
“The staff if you ask them, they know who is in charge of this program,” Hoke said with a little more seriousness. “I don’t think you would find (them saying) anything different. From recruiting to how we eat, when we eat, what we do, how we work out… all those things. From how we recruit and the guys that we’re going to offer, to how we’re preparing each week… believe me, that’s on me. We’re going to do it so we can help these kids on the field, off the field, within the community and within the academic world.”
One off the field issue Hoke is currently grappling with is the impact of social media on his team. It’s not nearly as significant as hiring a new offensive coordinator, but still of importance as evidenced by the growing number of coaches expressing concern about (the latest being Michigan State headman, Tom Izzo). Whether it’s the fans interacting with players in sometimes negative ways, or players expressing their discontent, it’s a topic that Michigan’s man in charge is giving considerable thought.
“We talk about it and try to educate 17-22, 18-23 year olds,” Hoke stated. “Do I like it for them? No I don’t because I think there is a consequence both ways. It can be positive and it can be negative. Our quarterback was getting killed on social media. These aren’t professionals. There is nobody getting paid. They are getting a scholarship and all that stuff, but they’re not professionals. I also believe when you are 18, 19-year-old at times, you don’t understand the ramifications of what you put out there on social media. I’m not a big believer in it. I don’t twitter or anything like that. I really think that not just your team but in the recruiting world, it is tough on kids. I just think we try and educate them as much as we can.”
The tough question for all coaches is what measures should be taken to police the practice? Is preparing players by talking to them enough? Should staff members take on the herculean task of monitoring every team member’s social media activities? Should the use of social media be partially or totally restricted? That last one is a question more and more coaches are asking themselves, including Hoke.
“There are some things and there are times right now that it may come to that at some point,” he admitted. “You want to hope that your team as it grows gets a little wiser and a little bit more understanding of what they put out there. (However) sometimes it is harmless and it becomes a big deal because somebody is making it a big deal.”
If and when decision has to be made on the matter, Hoke will be the one making it.