The first day of the offseason for 12 Big Ten programs flew by on Sunday, with Nebraska bringing an end to the Bo Pelini era and Illinois confirming Tim Beckman‘s job is secure. Meanwhile, the eyes of the college football world awaiting any peep out of Ann arbor, a day after the Wolverines were sent home from Ohio following a 42-28 setback at the hands of the Big Ten Championship Game-bound Ohio State Buckeyes. With the pressure mounting, when will Michigan address the status of head coach Brady Hoke?
For the third consecutive year, Hoke coached the Wolverines to a lower win total than the previous season, continuing a downward trend for Michigan that has now been almost entirely with his own recruits. For the third time since 1974, Michigan is not playing in a bowl game this season, and the scrutiny of Hoke’s performance has never been in more focus from start to finish during the fall. Three straight losses to Ohio State is not even the biggest problem anymore, and that should tell you just how bad the situation in Ann arbor may be. The calls for change have been loud around Michigan, from alums to students and just about anywhere else you look. For now, Hoke intends to return to coach Michigan in 2015, as any coach with a contract would say.
So, why hasn’t Michigan turned the page yet and when should it be expected to make a decision? If a school is going to make a change, doing so promptly makes sense for the stability of the program with recruiting and staff development. If a team is not going to a bowl game, now is the time to act on a coaching change if there is a feeling the next coach is there for the taking.
There are a few reasons why Michigan may not have made a change yet, and there is one reason why Michigan may indeed be coached by Hoke in 2015.
For starters, there is still plenty of time for Michigan to address the situation. Hoke had said he expected to know more about his job on Monday, which may be customary at the end of the season. There is no media availability scheduled at Michigan today, although that may be standard operating procedure. A decision on Hoke’s status could come at any time this week or next, but if Michigan is set on turning the page and finding someone new to lead the program, why wait? There should be little standing in the way of Michigan attracting a high-quality coach. Maybe Michigan does not get the next Bo Schembechler, but at this point they could probably settle on getting the next Bo Pelini (no, they will not be hiring Bo Pelini).
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has been the one name constantly connected to the Michigan dream job conversations for a long time. It is no guarantee he will be available, although Pro Football Talk has commented on the possibility the 49ers might be open to trading their head coach to another NFL franchise.
The biggest hold-up for Michigan might be the lack of athletics director. Under ideal conditions, it makes sense to have a permanent AD hand-pick the football coach. Dave Brandon stepped down as AD in late October, at which time Jim Hackett was named the interim AD. It is not unheard of for an interim AD to conduct a coaching search for the football program, so it is still possible that could happen at Michigan without a permanent AD in place. If Penn State can hire Bill O’Brien under an interim AD during a horrific time, then Michigan should have no excuse for hiring a good quality coach with an interim AD. But would the school wait to name a long-term AD and allow him or her to conduct the search?
If so, Hoke could linger around long enough to lead the team in 2015.