ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan is a far cry from the program that once ruled Ann Arbor.
The Wolverines (5-5) are fighting for bowl eligibility this afternoon at home against Maryland (6-4), an achievement that was seemingly an afterthought for 40 years.
Despite that, Michigan interim athletic director Jim Hackett offered support and spoke highly of Brady Hoke amid the Wolverines struggles on and off the field.
“I’ve had a number of meetings with Brady and I’ve really enjoyed the time talking to him because I learn more and more about what he’s had to address and deal with,” Hackett said Saturday.
“Every football coach that I’ve known in my life and I’ve known more than one that I played for, I would tell you it’s always not obvious all the variables that they are managing in a very complex way to have the best outcomes they can. There’s probably always two stories, there’s what our fans see on the field and then there’s things that they don’t see that they have to manage through.
Hackett continued, “I think in Brady’s case, for example, the progress we’re making in academics is the best in recent times under Brady, so he’s managing that, the kind of values he stands for, that really matters in a football program. He’s managing that and of course he’s dealing with things like a quarterbacks down or somebody can’t play and when you mix all that up, that’s what defines great coaches.”
Of course Hoke’s job security remains a point of contention among fans and those seeking answers for the mounting losses and plethora of off the field moments that do not reflect fondly on Michigan.
And Hackett, who has now been on the job as interim athletic director for just under a month, will have the authority to make that call as given by school president Mark Schlissel.
“I have decided that that’s a discussion I’m going to have with the coaches,” Hackett said. “I think that I can give you extreme confidence that there’s a number of variables as you heard me say about in my business life and define what fit this is, what we are at the highest competitive level; what does that need to be?
“That’s about as much as I want to say today because it’s part of the dialogue with people that work for me and we’ll be able to talk about that.
Hackett adding, “I’d also add that it’s true in life that when things aren’t going the way you expect, the people closest to them know that as well as anybody. So we have a football coach who’s had a long lived history as being a good coach and has won at many places, he won here, and he knows we’re not where we need to be right now.”
Hoke’s career record as a head coach is 78-68 heading into Saturday’s tilt with Maryland.
Noting Michigan still has two games remaining including today’s senior day match-up with the Terrapins followed by the season finale at Ohio State, Hackett wasn’t in the mood to release too much of his evaluation criteria to the public.
Whether or not Michigan reaches six wins, Hackett’s timeline for a decision on the future of Hoke and his coaching staff also leaves several question marks.
“I’m going to leave it that I’m really proud of where he’s been right now,” Hackett said. “The evaluation of his go forward status is going to come and I’ll be making that decision.”
Pressed further on the issue, Hackett drew a line in the sand.
“I’m going to give you a really fair answer on that when we get to the end of the season cause it’s a body of work,” Hackett said. “We have two more games, one of them a red letter game in a really important rivalry. And when that’s all done it won’t be vague or unclear about where we stand.
“I’ll also emphasize we’re not where we need to be and he knows that, the coaching staff knows that.”