When he took over in Ann Arbor in 2011, to a swell of fanfare as the program finally bagged itself "a Michigan Man," he knew he had to win. As he told The New York Times in the fall of that year, "There are consequences for losing."
He must have known then, even as those consequences draw nearer now, that the bar was higher for college football’s all-time winningest program. He knew Top 25 rankings, BCS bowl games and beating "that school in Ohio" weren’t just bonuses — they were expected results.
But it’s not that Hoke doesn’t merit some sympathy, he just doesn’t need it.
Coach Kyle Whittingham said the memories of preparing for Hoke’s San Diego State teams in 2009 and 2010 aren’t useful, because too much has changed. But he observes something in Michigan’s game film that he noted back then, when the Aztecs gave the eventual 10-3 Utes a 38-34 dogfight.
"The style of football he likes is tough, hard-nosed, blue-collar football," Whittingham said. "That’s what he preaches. That’s what he’s all about. You can see that in the play of Michigan."
The problem, then, might be that Hoke is blue-collar, but the Wolverines are blue bloods.
I was surprised by this closing sentence:
Hoke’s 4-6 record against Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan State isn’t wholly satisfying, and he hasn’t beaten any of them on the road. Already, the speculation is rampant about potential replacements; some figure there’s no way Michigan keeps him barring a miraculous turnaround.