Before everyone in Ann Arbor gets all hell bent on firing Brady Hoke, try to remember that he’s 27-14 as U of M’s head coach and has a Sugar Bowl victory that capped off a great 11-2 season in 2011.
Yes, I agree, getting blown out 38-0 by Notre Dame last Saturday night during primetime on NBC is not the best feeling. It was definitely an embarrassing game as a Michigan fan and it makes me want to crawl under a large rock to hide from the hoards of Michigan State and Ohio State fans who’s sole purpose in life is to find any reason to disprove Michigan Football’s profound superiority. At the same time though, I don’t believe Saturday night’s final score and Coach Hoke’s track record are enough of a reason to fire him.
Over the last 10 years or so, it seemed to me that every time Michigan lost a game to a rival, lost a game by a significant margin, or lost a game to a team that had no business winning (App State ’07), the majority of Michigan Football supporters, higher-ups at the University, and local sports talk show hosts wanted our head coach to get canned. Rich-Rod, Hoke, it didn’t matter. A significant amount of Michigan fans even wanted Lloyd Carr fired long before he retired.
So here’s my question, my argument, my point… How does firing the head coach every 3-4 years help Michigan Football, or any college football program?
In my opinion, unless the head coach has been with a program for six or more years and doesn’t have a great win percentage (below .600), firing him does not help the football program. I actually believe it does more harm than good. Let me explain why:
1) Leadership & Stability
When your football program has a new head coach every few years, the entire team (including the coaching staff) loses stability. Can you imagine if you worked at a place where your boss or the CEO changed that often? No one would take upper management or leadership seriously.
Leadership styles would change, personnel would change, and employees would become disheartened by the fact they wouldn’t have anyone to rely on or a steady workplace atmosphere, not to mention that they’ll likely have to change how they work too. All of that puts a big damper on morale, which is the one thing leaders need to keep a positive mindset and keep people motivated in changing environments. The same goes for sports teams.
When your head coach changes, the recruiting process usually starts from scratch and the current players may have to learn a new system (plays, signals, etc.). Most of the time, players are recruited by coaches for specific reasons based on the coaches’ style of play, so if a head coach gets fired, then those players would lose the time they had spent learning the former coach’s system in order to adapt to the new coach’s.
For example, if the coach has a more traditional approach and likes a balanced offense with an emphasis on a good running game, the players recruited for that style of play will have different physical attributes and a different football I.Q. than players being recruited for coaches who use a run-and-gun, pass-heavy offense.
So, if you have a head coach for two or three years and the players he recruited are finally developing and executing the offense successfully, as well as building positive learning relationships with coaches and chemistry with teammates, then it would be like hitting the reset button on a significant amount of the players’ progress if the head coach gets axed.
Frequent changes in the head coach position also scare recruits because they typically want to play for the coach whom recruited them. If a player sees that a team hasn’t had a steady coach for more than four years, it may not give them confidence to play for that team. As a result, the probability that a given team will get a higher number of top rated recruits decreases, bringing us back to my first point, needing positive organizational stability.
3) Accountability & Values
Similar to my two previous points, changing the head coach is more than just a new person calling the shots and has a profound impact on every part of the organization, including the University as a whole (fans, students, teachers, alumni, and staff).
Realistically, seeing the Maize and Blue football uniforms on TV is probably how most of the people in our country see and hear about the University of Michigan (even though our hospitals and schools in Ann Arbor kick ass), so what does it say about the football team, the atheltic program, the University, and the entire surrounding Ann Arbor community if we fire our head coach every few years?
If you ask me, it says that our fans are fair-weather and the University’s afraid to take responsibility; it says that they’d rather take the easy way out by placing the blame on one person and then firing that person in order to solve the problem and please the masses. As opposed to standing behind their head coach and sticking to the values they preach to their students "to learn and challenge themselves" and remain "a place with deep traditions focused on creating brighter futures".
The argument could be made that fans, boosters, and university supporters don’t care about the future, rather they only care about winning now, so firing the head coach seems like the most obvious way to try and achieve that goal. Unfortunately, the coach isn’t the one that wins games, it’s a team effort. All of us fans need to remember that and we need to stick behind our team, no matter what, because if they know we’ve got their backs and we still love them, then they’ll remain confident, not doubt themselves, and give us their best every Saturday in The Big House and on the road.
So here’s what I want from all of you Big Blue supporters: self-control, poise, and patience. I know it’s hard to keep your cool sometimes when players make mistakes or coaches make stupid decisions, but they’re all under a very large microscope and seriously intense pressure. Sometimes playing or coaching college football isn’t as easy or as black and white as you may think.
Cheer them on as loud as you can, even if they’re losing or it looks like the game is already over. Loyal fans to do not boo at-, yell obscenities at-, or threaten to harm any member of their beloved team under any circumstances. No exceptions. It does not matter how much you pay for season tickets.
In closing, if you find yourself frustrated with the team or a specific player, try to be calm and stay positive because this will help you maintain clearer vision in order to see and appreciate the fact that these kids and their coaches are working extremely hard to achieve greatness in order to bring pride and prestige to the University of Michigan and the surrounding Ann Arbor community.