Full disclosure: I love Brady Hoke, the Michigan coaching candidate, San Diego State’s head coach.
No. I’m serious. I love Brady Hoke like family, like a brother from another mother.
Hoke and his brother, Jon, played football at Ball State about a decade before I did. They starred on one of Ball State’s all-time best teams.
I met Jon in the early 1990s when he was an assistant coach at the University of Missouri and I was a young sports columnist at the Kansas City Star. We hit it off instantly. When I visited Columbia, I’d write my columns from his office while he watched film.
I met Brady years later when Ball State’s then-athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, invited me to assist him in identifying and recruiting my alma mater’s next football coach. Bubba asked me to call Jon. Jon told me to call Brady, who was working as the defensive line coach at Michigan.
Eight years ago, Bubba Cunningham chose Brady Hoke to be Ball State’s football coach over Kansas State assistant Bret Bielema.
Eight years ago, Brady and I became family.
I love the dude. I love his wife, his daughter, his parents, his brother, his nephew, his niece and the way he looks and sounds like Fred Flintstone.
So I’m biased when it comes to this Michigan football search. Hoke is my guy.
But if you read my column regularly, you know I’m bone honest and raw when it comes to everything sports related except Jeff George.
Brady Hoke isn’t the perfect coach for Michigan because I love him like a brother. He’s the perfect coach for Michigan because he’s the perfect coach for Michigan.
He’s a better fit than Jim Harbaugh, who has spent the week auctioning himself off to NFL franchises and holding Stanford hostage.
Harbaugh, if you believe the hype and the blank checks being thrown at his feet, is the hottest coaching prospect in the history of sports. Harbaugh and quarterback Andrew Luck carried the Cardinal to an incredible 12-1 season, a BCS-bowl victory and likely top-3 ranking.
Because of Stanford’s academic standards — not because of the Pac-10’s down year — the Cardinal’s spectacular season is proof Harbaugh is one-fourth Vince Lombardi, one-fourth Bear Bryant, one-fourth Bill Belichick and one-fourth Geno Auriemma (a tireless self-promoter).
I’m not going to denigrate Harbaugh’s accomplishment.
But I’ll argue it doesn’t compare to what I witnessed with my very own eyes from Brady Hoke.
Hoke is no one’s “compromise” or “second-tier” coaching candidate. Not if you understand football. Not if you comprehend how he got to the point that he’s even a candidate to be Michigan’s next football coach.
Brady Hoke loves hard. He loves his family, his players, his assistant coaches, Ball State football and Michigan football.
You think winning 12 games and getting into the BCS conversation is difficult at Stanford? Try doing it at Ball State. Try doing it without a coaching office, after the school president has paid the emotionally unstable women’s basketball coach more than you. Try doing it at the place you love that doesn’t love you back.
Yeah, I had an all-access pass as Hoke took Ball State football from nothing to something during a six-year period. I watched Hoke grow from an immature and reckless head coach to a savvy and sound one.
I saw him pour his heart into Ball State football, and I witnessed my school’s administrators publicly bask in the glory Hoke’s 12-1, 2008 team created and privately discredit the work he did to make it possible.
Jim Harbaugh’s 12-1 can’t touch Brady Hoke’s 12-1.
Hoke went 12-1 with a broken heart, working at a school that had every reason to shower him with love, affection and support but instead showered him with indifference.
It was a labor of unrequited love for the coach who met his wife at Ball State, sent his daughter to Ball State, recruited his nephew to play at Ball State and starred as a player alongside his brother at Ball State.
Two years into Hoke’s six-year tenure at his alma mater, the president (Blaine Brownell) and athletic director (Cunningham) who hired Hoke had both left. They were replaced by Jo Ann Gora and Tom Collins, the dumb and dumber of college athletics.
You don’t have to take my word that my school has the most incompetently run athletic department in the nation. A quick Google search of these names (Ronny Thompson, Tracy Roller and Stan Parrish) and their exits from Ball State should give you sufficient background.
Instead of passionately embracing and supporting Hoke, Gora and her puppet AD (Collins) plotted to replace Hoke with his hey-look-at-me offensive coordinator Stan Parrish, leaving Hoke no choice but to depart his alma mater for San Diego State.
Ball State football fell off a cliff. Parrish went 6-19 and was given $700,000 to get out of Muncie after this past season.
In his second season at San Diego State, Hoke guided the Aztecs to their first wining season since 1998 and first bowl victory since 1969. The administration at SDSU adores Hoke and his family and has been very aggressive in its efforts to retain him.
Hoke has been honest with his bosses. Michigan is his destination job. He has no interest in auctioning himself off to the highest bidder. He loves Ann Arbor. He’d crawl on hot, broken glass to work inside Schembechler Hall as the head coach.
Hoke would win at Michigan.
I’m not speculating. He has an uncanny ability to get kids to believe in him and believe in themselves. He doesn’t do it with smooth words. He’s not smooth. He does it by being the same genuine person day after day. I’ve watched his practices, sat in his meetings, listened to him address his team before a big game, after a tough loss and on a mundane Thursday.
He connects. The kids hang on his words, respond to his tough love and accept his discipline.
Hoke doesn’t rebuild programs by himself. He has the best strength coach in college football, Aaron Wellman.
Over the course of five years, Wellman took two fat offensive tackles (Robert Brewster and Andre Ramsey), an undersized center (Dan Gerberry) and a razor-thin tight end (Darius Hill) and sculpted them into all-conference players and NFL prospects.
Brewster, Ramsey, Gerberry and Hill formed the foundation of Ball State’s 2008 team and then landed on NFL rosters in 2009.
That’s incredible for a Mid-American Conference team.
Hoke and his coaching staff know how to develop players. I’ve seen it.
They know how to recruit and identify talent that works in their system. At Ball State and San Diego State, Hoke assembled coaching staffs more qualified and skilled than the schools’ budgets allow.
Good coaches love working for Hoke.
Jim Harbaugh is the sizzle hire in all of football. He’s not a better college football coach than Brady Hoke.
If Michigan would love Hoke with half the passion Hoke loves Michigan, beating Ohio State and returning to the top of the Big Ten wouldn’t take more than three seasons.