Michigan fires Brady Hoke: 8 guys who could turn Wolverines around
When Rich Rodriguez, who won big at West Virginia (and has since turned Arizona into a winner), was fired by Michigan after the 2010 season, the demand from the Wolverine faithful was for a "Michigan Man."
Former athletic director Dave Brandon, who was replaced by Jim Hackett earlier this season, found one in Brady Hoke, who had won Coach of the Year honors in two different leagues at his two previous stops, Ball State and San Diego State. Hoke had also been a former Wolverines assistant under Lloyd Carr. He had an excellent debut season in Ann Arbor, taking Rodriguez’s players and leading them to a Sugar Bowl win and earning Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, too.
But it’d all gone sour since that first season. UM went from 11 wins in Year 1 to seven, and then six wins before this season’s debacle.
On Tuesday, Michigan made the decision to fire Hoke final.
Now where will Michigan brass turn?
I think its first call has to be to former Wolverine standout Jim Harbaugh, whose track record as a head coach for re-energizing programs is as great as anyone’s at any level of football. What Harbaugh did with Stanford is as impressive a turnaround job as anything that has been done in the football coaching world in this generation. He also has worked wonders in a hurry with the San Francisco 49ers. Yeah, he’s brash and odd and his people skills are sometimes downright bewildering, if you listen to some of the stories those close to him will share privately. But the guy gets great results. It’s well documented that Harbaugh has a shaky relationship with his bosses in San Francisco and is likely out after this season.
If you’re Hackett or someone with some power at Michigan, I’d make Jim Harbaugh tell you, no matter what, he has no interest in coaching the Wolverines in 2015. Sources I’ve spoken to think some NFL organization ultimately will give Harbaugh the power and autonomy he’s looking for. And the money.
Harbaugh’s brother John is another name we’ve heard connected to Michigan. I think John would be a terrific college coach, too. He does have at least three more years left on a huge contract after signing an extension with the Ravens through 2017 this past March, but perhaps Baltimore would let him out if he really wanted to be the Wolverines head coach. Granted, who really knows if that’s the case at this point.
If the Harbaughs were off the board, then Michigan’s search needs to widen significantly. It’s a tricky season for a plum job like this to come open since there are fewer hot candidates at mid-majors out there now than normal. Expect LSU’s Les Miles, another Bo Schembechler protege, to be considered. Miles’ teams always play very hard for him and he has long been linked to this job, too. Is the timing ideal for the 61-year-old to make this move? Maybe.
Beyond those two old Michigan Men is where things get really sketchy. Mike Gundy has had a good run at Oklahoma State. His team won 41 games the previous four seasons before this year’s 5-6 struggles. He’s still only 47 and has had a rough relationship with OSU brass. I think he’d more likely be a better fit for Florida if that job came open than in Ann Arbor though.
A strong option could be Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen, who has done very well turning the Bulldogs around and is primed for what seems to be his best year ever. If he was ever to bolt from MSU, this might be the optimum season to try and make that move. Mullen’s team already owns an impressive win this season in dominating Miles’ LSU team on both lines of scrimmage, pulling off the rare win over the Tigers at night in Tiger Stadium. Also, as tough as the Big Ten East could be, it’s still nowhere near the meat grinder that the SEC West is.
A wild card in the mix with Michigan is former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, who was offered — and turned down — the Wolverines job days before Rodriguez accepted it. Schiano is sitting out after being let go in Tampa Bay. Schiano’s hard-nosed, detail-oriented ways can rub some the wrong way, but he deserves tons of credit for turning Rutgers football from a punchline into a consistent bowl team. His program also shined academically at Rutgers, placing in the top three in the nation in APR during each of Schiano’s last four years at the school.
As far as the mid-major guys, 52-year-old Jim McElwain, Nick Saban’s former offensive coordinator, has done a nice job at Colorado State. Michigan could triple his salary ($1.5 million), although it looks like Florida may have beaten the Wolverines to McElwain and this one may be off the board already.
On the coordinator side, one interesting candidate would be the defensive coordinator at archrival Michigan State, Pat Narduzzi. Would the Wolverine power brokers think it’s beneath them to hire a Spartan? Probably. Then again, it might not look like such a bad thing to hire one of the biggest reasons behind why MSU has beaten Michigan in five of the past six seasons and limited UM to an average of 12 points per game in the last four meetings.
Bruce Feldman is a senior college football reporter and columnist for FOXSports.com and FOX Sports 1. He is also a New York Times Bestselling author. His new book, The QB: The Making of Modern Quarterbacks, came out in October, 2014. Follow him on Twitter @BruceFeldmanCFB.