In the past few weeks that the Michigan football program has been seeking its next head coach, talk of the university hiring a “Michigan Man” has dominated any conversation about the subject. Michigan fans, donors, and boosters wanted only a “Michigan Man,” and were unwilling to accept anything different. The interpretation of the phrase “Michigan Man” has come to mean a person who graduated from the University of Michigan. This was one of the main reasons why Rich Rodriguez was disliked from the beginning of his tenure by many Michigan fans.
Yesterday, Michigan hired Brady Hoke, the former San Diego State head coach and Michigan alumnus, satisfying many fans who wanted an alumnus to take over. However, should these fans really be so happy that Hoke was hired? I think not. Hoke was hired just hours after Les Miles, who was heavily pursued by Michigan, turned down the job. No formal interviews or due process from the Michigan Athletic Department, he was just hired. He was hired as soon as the better option turned them down.
How could Michigan hire Brady Hoke so quickly? Because he was the only option left under the self-imposed restriction of hiring a Michigan alumnus. Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles were the two best college football coaches who had attended Michigan, but when they both turned down the opportunity, Brady Hoke was the only Michigan alumnus having success of any kind as a college football coach. Therefore, he was offered the job without any due diligence and without any formal interviews. Of course Hoke accepted immediately; Michigan is undoubtedly a dream job for him, and is certainly better than a mediocre San Diego State program in a conference that is losing its top 3 teams to other conferences.
However, being a graduate of Michigan is not and should not be a requisite to be considered a “Michigan Man,” contrary to the belief that is rampant throughout the world of college football right now. And quite simply, the fact that Michigan is restricting itself to hiring Michigan graduates is completely unnecessary and detrimental to the program. Bo Schembechler would be turning over in his grave.
The term “Michigan Man” came from legendary Michigan head coach and athletic director Bo Schembechler. After UM basketball coach and alumnus Bill Frieder informed then Athletic Director Bo Schembechler that he was considering the Arizona State job in 1989, he was fired on the spot. Bo then decreed famously, “A Michigan Man will coach Michigan.” He then hired assistant Steve Fisher to coach the rest of the season. Only one problem: Steve Fisher didn’t go to Michigan. Neither did Schembechler. In fact, Bo earned a graduate degree from a school of which some Michigan fans might have heard: The Ohio State University. Ouch. The most famous coach in Michigan history went to Ohio State. If that isn’t tough enough for some Michigan fans to take, Schembechler created the phrase “Michigan Man” with no intention of restricting that title to anyone not from the University of Michigan. As mentioned, the first coach he hired after making the famous statement did not go to Michigan.
So what does the phrase mean? Schembechler simply wanted a coach who wanted to be there. He wanted a coach who understood the Michigan tradition, was proud of it, and wanted to be part of it. He wanted a coach that loved the university, the players, and its fans. Earning a degree from the university isn’t a requirement for any of the above qualities. The thought that a coach needs to have graduated from Michigan arose from fans, donors, and boosters long after Schembechler made the statement, and it has become a punch line for Michigan athletics.
So, Michigan fans, how does the Hoke hiring sound now? No disrespect to Brady Hoke, he might be a great coach, but no one knows that, including the Michigan Athletic Department. Michigan didn’t seem to care about Hoke’s coaching strategies, tendencies, and history. They didn’t take the time to let him outline his plan for Michigan football moving forward. He was hired just a few hours after Miles turned them down after being pursued heavily. Michigan didn’t care what kind of coach Hoke was, or if he was the best candidate, but simply cared that he went to Michigan. Now the program is blindly moving forward with a coach that was hired not based on his intelligence, his recruiting ability, or the type of offense and defense that he runs. But hey, he went to Michigan, and that is apparently more than enough for Michigan officials and fans. Sounds like a ridiculous way of thinking, and I am sure Bo Schembechler would agree with me.