I have to admit, seeing your athletic arch enemy brought to their knees by a tandem blow of mediocrity and hubris has been more than mildly entertaining. And then to be shot down by two coaches, both with deep ties to the school, was like getting a Lionel train set AND a Hot Wheel racing track, with rechargeable cars, on Christmas morning.
And then to see the fanbase explode with rage? Ice cream with the cake, baby.
But then...THEN...they hire an unproven coach with little to no track record at a major college football program, although he does have ties to the school.
So this is what it was like to be a Michigan fan in the winter of 2000-2001.
Without knowing the end result of the Hoke tenure, the parallels to the UM coaching search and the OSU coaching search that produced Jim Tressel are uncanny. Other than MIke Belotti having deep ties to OSU, it's practically identical. There was an unceremonious dumping of the previous coach who had failed to win enough for a fan base that had become almost delusional in their opinion of how powerful their program was.
A two week search ensues (give or take) and said fanbase has THEIR guy, and if that guy isn't hired, DOOM. Well, unless guy #2 wants it, and then, okay, it won't be as good as OUR guy, but we can live with it, and we will grow to accept it.
But if they hire hire guy #3, WE WILL HOLD OUR BREATH AND BE REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLY PISSED!!!!!! AND WE'RE SUPER CEREAL!! What, you DID hire that guy?
//Insert Howard Dean reaaaaarrrrhhhh after Iowa caucus here
WE HAVE THE DUMBEST ATHLETIC DIRECTOR EVAHHHHHH!!!! JOEL MATURI LOOKS LIKE A GOD COMPARED TO BRANDON!
/insert another Howard Drean roar
Really, about the only major upgrade in this whole thing was the advent of FlightAware, a program that apparently tracks every rich guys airplane, and two Michigan airplanes, complete with fuzzy, out of focus pictures from a mile away. It was like a 21st century Bigfoot hunt. And those things helped fueled the conspiracy fires to a heat that was so intense I could curl up next to my computer at night and sleep comfortably. Outside. In my birthday suit.
It's 4 degrees outside right now, by the way.
But here's the deal, because I want to let you guys in on a secret:
Dave Brandon really isn't a dope, and Dave Brandon didn't publicly say he was going to hire anyone, until he announced Hoke as the new coach. You, the Michigan fan, assumed a couple of things:
1) Michigan is still a player on the national stage and can attract whoever they want with a finger snap
2) Hot coaches who have deep ties to the school would fall over themselves to coach there.
Harbaugh wanted to go to the NFL, and Miles wanted to stay at a better program, bottom line. The only fault I give Brandon here, and yeah, it's crippling, is that he didn't do this before the bowl game. Recruiting has taken a major hit, and the 2011 class might not be salvageable. Had Brandon pulled the trigger in December, it might have been.
Michigan is in as down a cycle as it has ever been, and the bloom is off the rose, guys. Just like Ohio State fans thought OSU was the cat's ass in 2000 when it wasn't, so you find yourself in that position today, and unlike the OSU situation, there's not a lot of talent left. Hoke will have to do some serious rahhh-croootin' to salvage the incoming class, which has had more defections than the Cuban baseball team on a US swing.
Harbaugh and Miles saw that, and didn't want to have to deal with the carnage that Rich Rodriguez left behind. I can't say that I blame them.
The fact that a growing number of the fanbase is saying "Hoke's the good choice because he's a guy that can turn around a program", and then uses Ball State and San Diego state as an example, shows what peril you find your program in. I can honestly say I never thought I'd see the day where Ball State and San Diego State were being compared to Michigan...Michigan...with a straight face.
The comparison between OSU and UM in terms of the coaching hire pretty much ends there. Yes, John Cooper was undone by his bowl record and his UM record, but when he left, there was still a lot of talent on the roster, and Tressel still inherited a decent recruiting class.
Okay, that's the bad news.
The good news is that Hoke 'gets it', much like Tressel 'got it'. He's really behind the power curve recruiting wise, but really, there is still talent on the roster to compete. Hoke's record isn't impressive, but when you look at how terrible Ball State and San Diego State were when he took over, it shines in a new light. And Michigan, while down, isn't as bad as Ball State and San Diego State was when Hoke took over those moribund programs.
Brady Hoke is a football coach who understands Big Ten tradition, the Michigan tradition, and what is required of him to win there. And I think he will. I was initially relieved when I heard that first Jim Harbaugh and then Les Miles had rebuffed Michigan (or vice versa, depending on what story you wish to believe), but Brady Hoke seems just as capable of doing great things as either Harbaugh or the Grass Eater. And now the dynamic has completely changed for Michigan. No one really expects anything out of Hoke, where Harbaugh or Miles would be expected to produce almost immediately.
The pressure is off, and Hoke doesn't have anything to lose for a season or two. Okay talent, when combined with a good coach and the old 'no one respects us' or 'it's us against the world' cliches can produce dramatic results.
I don't think it will be in 2011, but Bo would have a tough time turning this battleship right now. Come 2012 or 2013, I fully expect Michigan to be Michigan again, or well on their way.
So really, calm down. It's going to be okay.