I heard a soundbite of Hoke saying his reaction to the Urban Meyer hiring as "not good" It turned out to be a really great inerview. If you haven't heard, its definatly worth the listen. Its the podcast at the very bottom.
Somewhere around 11:45, in just over 2 hours, the Michigan locker room will be filled with a group of young men who bled, sweat and vommitted for each other, enduring one of the most tumultuous stretches in the history of this storied program. Their stories are known by most here, but they aren't looking for sympathy. At every obstacle they've faced, every time someone tried to tear down the thing they were here to build, they fought through. Those who have remained have a dedication that cannot be questioned. They have a bond that will last until the last one of them is buried. They will sit, some in silence, at least one reading bible verses, some with their knees bouncing in adrenalined-filled anticipation. They will write the names of lost loved ones, of prayers and inspirational messages on the tape on their wrists, towels and belts. Some will shout occassionally at each other or to no one in particular, slapping their helmets.
A hush will fall over them as a short-sleeved, chubby man from deep in enemy territory enters the room. They will bend on one knee in reverent anticipation, packed shoulder to shoulder, hands resting on their winged helmets. They will need no special reminder of today's importance, as their leader has made it abundantly clear to them from the day he stepped foot in Ann Arbor.
"Men," Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke will say.
And team 132 will flood the hallowed entrance to the Big House, prepared to break the very will of the scarlet and gray. Today, for the 58th time in this rivalry's storied history, they will succeed.
It will be Michigan again, MICHIGAN.
Yesterday the hoops team outclassed a very athletic Memphis squad -- a win due in no small part to John Beilein's superior coaching and preparation. Meanwhile, the football team has put together two solid November wins for the first time in forever, including a thrashing of Nebraska. Going into The Game, this is the best we've felt about our chances to beat the damn Buckeyes in five years.
Which leads me to ask: When was the last time we felt this good about the current and future state of both revenue sports programs at U-M?
I was a Rich Rodriguez fan; I believed he was the breath of fresh air U-M football needed after The Horror and the general decline of the late-Carr era. It didn't work out -- no reason to rehash all that here. But after seeing:
- the way the football team has grown this year;
- the great incoming recruiting class;
- the unbelievable job Hoke and Mattison have done w/the defense; and
- the overall performance against Nebraska
I think few would deny U-M football is on the right path again.
Meanwhile, Beilein has just landed arguably the biggest U-M basketball recruit since Webber in Mitch McGary (plus GRobIII and Nick Stauskas -- not a bad way to round out a recruiting class!). He's answered the one question people had about him coming from W. Virginia -- whether he could recruit on an elite level. And if the current team performs up to expectations, Beilein will have gotten Michigan to the Big Dance in 3 of the past 4 seasons.
Best of all, neither Hoke nor Beilein is a flight risk the way, say, Harbaugh would've been.
I honestly can't remember the last time I felt so good about both the present and future of both programs at the same time. My only thought is fall of 2006, when Carr was having his last great season and the hoops team seemed to be heading at least vaguely in the right direction. (But by that point it was clear Amaker could not put together a coherent offense; meanwhile, Carr was certain to retire soon and the identity of his successor was unclear.)
But as of November 22, 2011, it's great to be a Michigan Wolverine -- and looks to be so well into the future!
p.s. - a sad aside -- I just read the news about Leon Hall tearing his Achilles last week. Damn. He might never be the same player again. But as Ross Tucker at ESPN writes, Hall's decision to sign his big contract extension before the season (rather than risk waiting to cash in after becoming a free agent) was a hell of a smart move in hindsight.
On the week of Thanksgiving, it is important to look back and consider what we are thankful for, both as human beings and Michigan football fans.
I am thankful for Brady Hoke, our tremendous head coach. I am thankful for Mattison, our NFL DC who turned things around so much more quickly than anyone could have ever imagined. I am grateful for Borges, who despite some disagreements we have had this season, seems to have quite a pair on him when calling plays.
I am thankful for Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen, Troy Woolfolk, and the rest of the seniors for sticking with it through the most tumultuous career any players have ever had at Michigan. I am thankful for Jordan Kovacs and his inspiring story. I am grateful for Denard, Fitz, and the rest of the team, for representing the program in a way that would make Bo proud, and for sacrificing as much of their time as they do so that we may enjoy our Saturday afternoons.
I am thankful for 9-2 and a shot at a ten-win season. I am grateful for a possible chance to play in a BCS bowl for the first time since '06. I am thankful for the direction this program is heading, and the quality young men it will continue to shape. But most of all, I am thankful for a chance to smack Ohio State in the mouth, stand over them, and let them know that “WE’RE BACK!”