Hoke hopes to direct upset of Saban’s Crimson Tide
Near the steps of Schembechler Hall, Alabama coach Nick Saban is
holding the BCS’ national championship trophy with an ear-to-ear
grin seldom seen on or off the field.
The home of Michigan football is adorned with pieces of paper
with pictures, such as the one with Saban, and Crimson Tide logos
along with messages such as ”Beat Bama” and ”Roll The Tide,”
that welcome the Wolverines during game week of this year’s highly
It’s the kind of hokey thing Brady Hoke started last season. And
like just about every other thing he has done, it has worked.
Hoke said he brought the tradition that he started at Ball State
and carried to San Diego State to Ann Arbor and just because,
”This is Michigan,” as he often says, the rah-rah tactic has
”It’s pretty simple,” he said with a shrug. ”It’s game week
and making sure that we focus in on what’s at hand for us.”
No. 8 Michigan figures to have its hands full against defending
champion and second-ranked Alabama on Saturday night at Cowboys.
The Crimson Tide is nearly a two-touchdown favorite.
If Hoke can help the Wolverines pull off an upset of Saban’s
Alabama machine, it might just be the biggest victory of his
Michigan associate athletic director for football, Mike Vollmar,
said the two coaches have a lot in common. And, he would know.
Vollmar is working closely with Hoke for a second season after
having a similar job alongside Saban for three seasons at Alabama
and when he was at Michigan State.
”They’re both great coaches, who care about the kids,” Vollmar
said Thursday. ”They’re very good at Xs and Os and with dotting Is
and crossing Ts off the field with academics, recruiting and
helping young me grow up. As a head coach, you have to be an
administrator too and they’re both very savvy about making
decisions that are best for their programs.”
Saban has won two national titles since 2009 and three in less
than a decade, counting the championship he won at LSU. He is
141-54-1 as a head coach that turned around Toledo and Michigan
State before doing the same with two teams that had lost their
luster in the SEC.
Two days before kicking off another highly anticipated season
with a marquee matchup, Saban sounded anything but satisfied with
what he has done so far as a coach.
”If I get to where I feel like I can focus on what I did, I
should quit,” Saban said Thursday in a telephone interview with
The Associated Press.
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron wouldn’t be surprised to hear
his coach say that.
”That man doesn’t care how many national championships he wins,
he just wants to keep winning,” McCarron said. ”I think that’s
the mindset that I’ve taken from him.”
Saban has taken opportunities to leave his job in the past, but
insisted he’s done moving just as said while leading the Spartans,
Tigers and Miami Dolphins.
But after a two-year stint with the Dolphins, the 60-year-old
Saban really sounds as if his sixth season at Alabama is far from
his last and he has lost the allure of coaching in professional
”We’ve had opportunities to go back to the NFL and have not
done it and I don’t see going in the future,” Saban said. ”You
can make the greatest impact on people in college and we need to be
smart enough to know where we belong. I really feel like it is
right here at Alabama.
”I see myself doing this forever. And when they stick you in
the ground, the only thing you have is your legacy. Hopefully, mine
is about helping a lot of people personally, academically and
Any team, pro or college, would have a hard time pulling Hoke
away from his dream job of leading college football’s winningest
Hoke grew up in Ohio, rooting for the maize and blue, and worked
on Michigan’s staff when Saban returned to Michigan State as a head
coach in the late 1990s. Now, Hoke is in his second season in
charge after a much-heralded debut season in which the Wolverines
won a BCS bowl game for the first time since 2000 – when they beat
Alabama in the Orange Bowl – and 11 games for the first time since
He has embraced the program’s rich tradition and added some
wrinkles of his own. He refuses to even say the name Ohio State,
blares the fight song and other Michigan-related tunes at 1:30 p.m.
each day during game week at Schembechler Hall and has pieces of
paper put on windows in the building that feature that week’s
”It keeps our mind on the prize,” Wolverines linebacker Kenny
Demens said. ”We understand what’s at stake here. With him and
everybody preaching, `Beat Bama,’ that’s keeping us focused.”
Down at Alabama, Saban said he doesn’t use any such signs of
”We don’t do a lot of that kind of stuff,” he said.
Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Ala., contributed to