There are very few things more obnoxious to a fan base than to hear about how their coach is on a “hot seat” all season long. It creates added chaos, questions, and tension within a program.
As Michigan starts conference play this week, one must ask whether or not this will be head coach Brady Hoke’s last run in the Big Ten with the Wolverines.
Recruits don’t seem to be buying the “hot seat” hype, while only No. 17 in the rankings, Michigan has the 3.91 star average recruit according to Scout.com - good for No. 1 in the country at this point. Hoke has always been a great recruiter; the issue has been the play on the field.
Fans have become impatient and questions regarding coaching the big one have started to fester. Consider this, in 2012 the Wolverines pulled the No. 4 recruiting class in the country. In 2013 even better, No. 2 overall.
“The point is we are building a program with a great foundation, and that is important from the academic side to the athletic side,” said Hoke. “That is important, the foundation that we have.”
While that sounds nice and the Big Ten has long valued academics more than the other major conferences, it takes more to succeed at this level. Fans don’t keep buying tickets because the academics are good and the program is still getting the foundation set up in year four. It is time for winning. Losses to Utah at home and a blowout to Notre Dame makes for a pessimistic season in the Big Ten.
“Who thought we would go to the Sugar Bowl in the first year. Did you? No,” Hoke recently said when asked about where he thought the program would be after four years.
While it was a good 11-2 season with a BCS win, it seems like the distant past. It gave Michigan and Hoke a renewed standard of winning after the Rich Rodriguez era. Michigan is a pedestrian 17-13 since the Sugar Bowl win and the renewed standard has left Wolverine fans filled with disappointment.
When asked if the program is in crisis, Hoke had an emphatic, “No.”
Leadership guru and author of “Good to Great”, Jim Collins, says great leaders “Face the brutal facts, but hold to unwavering faith.” One would have to ask whether or not Hoke is facing the brutal facts of where his program currently stands. The last thing Michigan fans want to hear after a blowout loss at home to Utah is that the team is “staying the course.”
“The frustration level people may have, don't think those kids have the same frustration. Don't think that is part of it,” said Hoke. “What they do have is a great belief in each other. They have a great belief in the program. They come out and compete and challenge each other every day, and this will be a good football team.
“I know how hard they work, what they do everyday day and what they believe.”
The head coach says he “never judges things like that,” referring to how far along his program is, but he can be assured that his athletic director, David Brandon, and the fan base most certainly do.
Can Hoke successfully navigate Michigan’s Big Ten slate or will this be his last run through the Big Ten? It’s just one of the most interesting storylines in the conference as Big Ten plays begins. Will Michigan continue to struggle? Or play like a cornered animal.
*** Josh Harvey contributed to this story and the views and opinions expressed in this commentary are not that of Scout.com ***
Brady Hoke post-Utah presser this past Saturday: