Welcome, Coach Hoke

The Michigan Wolverines have hired Brady Hoke as the new head football coach.  Hoke, who looks somewhat like New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, is a former Michigan assistant who was the head coach of San Diego State and formerly the head coach at Ball State.

Hoke’s hiring brings Michigan’s coaching search to an end.  I imagine that end cannot come soon enough for Michigan fans.  Former coach Rich Rodriguez was fired after a humiliating New Year’s Day loss without a designated successor ready to step in and take over.  The firing left Michigan without a head coach during some of the crucial days of the recruiting period.  It also kicked off a search process in which Michigan at times seemed like the awkward kid at the sock hop whose invitations to dance are embarrassingly, publicly spurned by everyone in attendance.  Jim Harbaugh went to the NFL and Les Miles decided to stay at LSU before Hoke accepted Michigan’s offer.

None of that means anything now, of course.  Hoke will have a chance to put his stamp on the program, and the best way for him to do that would be to guide his Wolverines to victories over Michigan’s big rivals, Ohio State and Michigan State.  And any Ohio State fan who believes that that result is wildly improbable would do well to remember an infamous article that appeared in The Michigan Daily on January 22, 2001.  The Daily sports columnist chuckled in wonderment at the very notion that a newly hired, “Division I rookie” coach could possibly expect to prevail against the mighty Wolverines and their star-studded roster in a game at the Big House the next season.  In the annals of the Ohio State-Michigan rivalry, that article is like the 1948 Chicago Tribune “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline — because the “Division I rookie” coach was Jim Tressel, the Buckeyes did in fact beat the heavily favored Wolverines in the game at Ann Arbor in November 2001, and Coach Tressel has gone on to lead Ohio State to victory in 9 of the 10 years he has coached the Buckeyes in The Game.

So, I welcome Coach Hoke back to the greatest rivalry in sports — and I hope that, despite his best efforts, he tastes bitter defeat when the 2011 version of The Game kicks off in 10 months.