by Christopher Mohr
January 12, 2011 (San Diego) - In spite of Aztecs fans' wishes to the contrary, San Diego State head football coach Brady Hoke will take over the head coaching position at the University of Michigan. Hoke's move to Ann Arbor ends days of speculation that followed the firing of previous Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez on January 4th.
Other coaches rumored to be candidates for the Wolverines' head coaching position never interviewed with athletic director David Brandon. Michigan alum Jim Harbaugh seemed to be on a career path that led from USD to Stanford to his alma mater, but took over the head coaching duties for the San Francisco 49ers on January 7th. Another Michigan alum, Les Miles, announced just hours before Hoke's hiring that he would remain head coach at LSU, a position he has held since 2005.
Although the Wolverines showed gradual improvements during Rodriguez' three seasons, it was not enough for him to keep his job. Rodriguez never enjoyed much in the way of confidence from the team's fan base or any sense of comfort in his position as head coach. With no previous ties to the school as either a coach or player, Rodriguez was treated as an outsider from the start.
When you coach football's winningest program, expectations are high and a gradual increase in wins is not enough to please the fans or the athletic director. It also did not help Rodriguez that he was 0-3 against arch rival Ohio State or that he suffered a humilating 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on January 1st.
Hoke, 52, served as an assistant coach at Michigan from 1995-2002. His first head coaching job came when he accepted that position at his alma mater, Ball State (Muncie, IN) after the 2002 season. There he took a program that went 4-7 in 2003 to a 12-1 record in 2008. He then moved on to coach at San Diego State for the 2009 season and led the Aztecs to their first bowl game win since 1969 with a 35-14 victory over Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl. SDSU had a record of 13-12 in Hoke's two seasons there.
Al Borges, who served as the offensive coordinator at SDSU the last two seasons, will join Hoke at Michigan. Hoke will be replaced by Rocky Long who has been the team's defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Long, 60, has an extensive career that dates back to the 1970s and is a familiar face to many of SDSU's Mountain West Conference rivals. After playing several seasons in the Canadian Football League, he served as an assistant coach at the New Mexico, Wyoming, UCLA, Texas Christian and Oregon State. He became the head coach at New Mexico in 1998 and coached there for 11 seasons before becoming the defensive coordinator at SDSU in 2009.
The move to promote Long to head coach is an attempt to preserve some continuity in the offensive and defensive systems the Aztecs used under Hoke. It also helps the program avoid a scramble to find a head coach only days before National Letter of Intent signings for football begin on February 2nd. A head coaching vacancy would have put the Aztecs program at a huge disadvantage for recruiting high school prospects.