ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon is learning that Brady Hoke is a pretty popular coach.
Hoke might not have been the fans’ first choice to take over college football’s winningest program, but Brandon became convinced he should have been after calling his former players and hearing the same thing time after time.
“He is clearly a players’ coach,” Brandon said Wednesday in his opening remarks at a news conference to introduce Hoke. “Unlike some other coaches, it’s not about him, it’s about his team.”
“If you’re going to find out about a coach, the best thing to do is ask the players who played for him,” Brandon said Tuesday night. “I did that, not only with the players with him here at Michigan for eight years, but also since he left Michigan.”
Clearly, Hoke has landed his dream job.
“We would’ve walked to the University of Michigan,” he said.
Cleveland Browns player Aaron Shea, who asked former teammates like Tom Brady to lobby for Hoke, was one of the many people with ties to the program that are happy with the choice.
“Brady will make a great head coach at Michigan,” Shea said. “He understands and knows about the great tradition, he has been part of that great tradition, and now he will be the one to bring back that great tradition.”
“If you love the University of Michigan, whether you’re a fan or a former player, you should give Brady Hoke all of your support,” Brandon said.
Hoke has at least a few things in common with the late, great Bo Schembechler.
They both hail from the Buckeye state, didn’t attend Michigan and climbed the coaching ladder before getting a chance to lead the Wolverines. Schembechler restored Michigan as a national power after being welcomed with “Bo Who?” headlines.
Hoke? Despite successful head coaching stints at San Diego State and Ball State, the former Michigan assistant might get a lukewarm reception, too, after fans clamored to bring Jim Harbaugh or Les Miles back to their alma mater.
Brandon picked Hoke as his new football coach Tuesday, insisting he was Plan A and not a backup option after Harbaugh left Stanford for the San Francisco 49ers and Miles stayed at LSU.
“The job was never offered to them,” Brandon said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday after informing the team of his decision. “We did have different discussions with them that were helpful and positive.”
Harbaugh was the popular pick when Brandon bought out the last three seasons of Rich Rodriguez’s six-year contract last week. When Harbaugh went to the NFL, Miles appeared to be a logical choice to return Michigan to its glory days.
Instead, it will be Hoke. And he knows his way around Ann Arbor, too.
“Brady Hoke understands Michigan and he wanted this job because it has been his dream job,” Brandon told The AP. “We won’t have to teach him the words to ‘The Victors’ and I believe our players will respond to him, because I got 100 percent positive feedback from anybody who played for him here or since he left Michigan.”
Green Bay Packers cornerback Charles Woodson is one of the many former Wolverines, including Brady, who rave about Hoke.
“I’m excited for Brady Hoke and even more excited for Michigan,” Woodson, who won the Heisman Trophy and 1997 national title at Michigan, wrote in a text message. “I’m glad this process is over and we can begin to restore the tradition and respect that was once Michigan.”
Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr, who retired after the 2007 season, also endorsed the hiring of his former assistant.
“Brady Hoke is a great choice for Michigan,” Carr wrote in a text message.
Brandon’s search started much later than many thought it would — shortly after the Rodriguez-led Wolverines lost by a school-record 38 points in a bowl game on New Year’s Day — and lasted seven days that were filled with speculation.
Tight end Kevin Koger and his teammates showed up at a previously planned meeting and found out they had a new coach.
“We thought it was going to be a meeting about classes and the weight room,” Koger said. “Mr. Brandon came in and dropped the news on us.”
Hoke was on Carr’s staff from 1995-2002, coaching the defensive line during the 1997 championship season, and went on to turn around Ball State and San Diego State.
Receiver Darryl Stonum said he didn’t know much about Hoke, but has faith the school’s first-year AD is making the right choice.
“Dave Brandon was sold and we are, too,” Stonum said.