ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan has fired football coach Brady Hoke after four seasons.
Interim athletic director Jim Hackett made the announcement Tuesday after weeks of speculation about Hoke’s future.
“I wanted to make sure that Brady received adequate time to exhibit the results that would come from his effort and I believe that Brady and our coaching staff had enough time to produce those results and unfortunately they are not there,” said Hackett, who took over as AD last month.
“In the end, I feel that moving in a different direction is the right decision.”
Hoke did not return a message left seeking comment. In a statement provided by the school, he thanked his players and said he would miss them.
“I feel very fortunate to have been an assistant and head coach at the University of Michigan,” Brady Hoke said. “I will always support the university and this football program.”
Hired after the tumultuous tenure of Rich Rodriguez, Hoke was supposed to help Michigan regain its place among college football’s elite, and his familiarity with the program’s culture and tradition made the initial transition a successful one.
But after going to the Sugar Bowl in Hoke’s first season, the Wolverines slowly slipped back into mediocrity and are not even among the top teams in the Big Ten. Hoke was 31-20 as the Wolverines’ coach after the team floundered to a 5-7 record this season and missed out on bowl eligibility along with Big Ten also-rans Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern. He was just 18-14 against conference foes.
The past two seasons were characterized by poor play on the offensive line that caused the entire offense to bog down — ironic since Hoke’s arrival was supposed to mean a return to smash-mouth football after three years of Rodriguez’s spread system.
Hoke also stumbled in September 2014 when quarterback Shane Morris kept playing despite receiving what was later determined to be a concussion, appearing somewhat disconnected with how to handle injured players. The school later apologized for the “confusion” and “lack of communication” as it changed its protocol to better monitor potential injuries.
The fallout from the underperforming Wolverines hit on Oct. 31 as Dave Brandon resigned after four years as athletic director. University President Mark Schlissel said at the time that the athletic department was in great financial condition, but the results at the Big House have not measured up. Brandon, a former CEO of Domino’s Pizza Inc. and a player under Michigan coach Bo Schembechler, was less than a year on the job when he made the decision to fire Rodriguez after three seasons.
— Brady Hoke
Less than two weeks after Brandon was fired, Schlissel expressed concerns about the relationship between athletics and academics at the university, pointing specifically at the football program.
“We admit students who aren’t as qualified, and it’s probably the kids that we admit that can’t honestly, even with lots of help, do the amount of work and the quality of work it takes to make progression from year to year,” he said then. “These past two years have gotten better, but before that, the graduation rates were terrible, with football somewhere in the 50s and 60s when our total six-year rate at the university is somewhere near 90 percent, so that’s a challenge.”
Schlissel later issued an apology to Hoke and the football program via the university’s website for not clearly stating that the situation has gotten significantly better since Hoke replaced Rodriguez.
Hoke was an assistant at Michigan before turning around San Diego State and Ball State, his alma mater, as a head coach. When he left San Diego State to take over the Wolverines, he made little secret of his excitement about the job. His habit of referring to rival Ohio State as simply “Ohio” quickly caught on, and Hoke was a hit when Michigan beat the Buckeyes in his first season — the only time that’s happened in the past decade.
The Wolverines won the Sugar Bowl and finished the 2011 season 11-2, but that was with some talented holdovers from Rodriguez’s teams. Hoke’s recruits were well regarded, but the results on the field didn’t measure up. Michigan went 8-5 in 2012 and 7-6 in 2013.
The Wolverines made a major change this past offseason, firing offensive coordinator Al Borges and hiring Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama. But even with a senior quarterback in Devin Gardner, the Michigan offense was anemic at times. The first sign of trouble this season came when Michigan lost 31-0 to Notre Dame in the second game, and back-to-back home losses to Utah and Minnesota left the Wolverines looking like a team in crisis before September was even over.
Fan reaction ranged from apathy to open hostility. A win against Miami (Ohio) was played before the smallest crowd at Michigan Stadium since 1995.
Whoever takes over at Michigan now faces the same challenge Hoke encountered and never fully conquered: Make the Wolverines matter nationally again.
Michigan has not won the Big Ten since 2004, and the Wolverines are now 1-10 in their past 11 games against Ohio State.
Even in-state rival Michigan State — which for so many years played second fiddle to the Wolverines — has been superior to Michigan recently, winning six of the past seven meetings.
The school said Mike DeBord will oversee the football program as sport administrator until a new head coach is hired.