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April 26, 2013

The Week That Was: Is Hoke a Top 20 Coach?

Is Brady Hoke one of the nation's top 20 coaches? One of its top 10? The Sporting News stirred message boards this week with its ranking of the NCAA's bosses, placing Hoke 23rd. We take a look at this story and more in The Week That Was.

Brady Hoke ranked No. 23 among active coaches

Alabama's Nick Saban, who has led the Crimson Tide to national titles in 2009, 2011 and 2012, finished first, followed by Ohio State's Urban Meyer. Hoke ranked 23rd and fourth in the Big Ten behind Meyer, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald (No. 8) and Penn State's Bill O'Brien (No. 13). In two seasons with the Maize and Blue, Hoke is 19-7, leading Michigan to back-to-back bowl games, and restoring respect in the Block M.

What They're Saying

In ranking Hoke, The Sporting News wrote: "Hard to argue with 19 wins in two seasons, but Hoke's managing of the quarterback spot last season was bizarre at best. From not letting Denard Robinson run vs. Alabama in the season opener, to not replacing him soon enough with Devin Gardner when it became obvious Michigan needed to throw the ball to win big games."

My Take: It's hard to argue with the site's top 10, which also included Boise State's Chris Peterson, Notre Dame's Brian Kelly, LSU's Les Miles and TCU's Gary Patterson among others. There is plenty to debate after that, though, including O'Brien at No. 13 after just one season at Penn State, Mike Riley from Oregon State at No. 14, Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin at No. 18, and Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino at No. 20.

Still, one could make the case for just about every coach listed ahead of Hoke and then for the guys directly after him too.

Hoke has certainly been a great fit at Michigan and seems capable of leading the Wolverines to championships thanks to his recruiting prowess, the assembly of coaches he's staffed around him, and his competitive nature. However, there have been a few decisions that have already generated some lively discussion, and his time management at the end of halves has been questionable.

The beautiful thing about Hoke is he would be the first to tell you he doesn't belong in the conversation of the 10 best. Why? Because he's humble, sure, but more importantly, because Michigan - the team - hasn't warranted such distinction.

U-M has not claimed a Big Ten title or even played in the conference championship in Hoke's two seasons, nor has Michigan finished among the top five teams nationally. When the Wolverines win league crowns and go to BCS bowls with regularity, he'll earn a higher ranking. Until then, he's probably fairly slotted.

Michigan on brink of poor NFL Draft showing

The first day of the NFL Draft was Thursday and, not surprisingly, no Wolverine was selected. That in itself is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's very likely that only one player, Denard Robinson, will be taken at all, ending an 18-year run with at least two selections.

What They're Saying

Had Taylor Lewan gone pro, the narrative this week would be entirely different, as Lewan could have been the No. 1 overall pick or at least a top-five choice, MLive.com's Kyle Meinke writes: "Lewan was widely projected as one of the best two or three offensive tackles in the NFL draft before he elected to return to Michigan for a fifth season.

"Then he watched Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher go No. 1 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday night, Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel go No. 2 to the Jacksonville Jaguars and Oklahoma left tackle Lane Johnson go No. 4 to the Philadelphia Eagles.

"It's the first time in draft history that three offensive tackles were selected in the first four picks, and Lewan almost certainly would have been among them had he declared."

Meanwhile, how do you explain the lack of potential draft picks for the Wolverines? The Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder says it isn't fair to blame Michigan's current staff: "While U-M coach Brady Hoke and his staff have ownership of nearly everything in the program after 21/2 years on the job, this weekend still hangs on the previous staff.

"The thin draft class reflects primarily on a program's recruiting and coach Rich Rodriguez's staff recruited the current senior and fifth-year class eligible for this draft. Yet they also recruited Lewan, so next year's class - and its potential successes - also can be attributed to Rodriguez."

My Take: Michigan hemorrhaged players during the Rodriguez era, creating a smaller pool of candidates to one day emerge as a legitimate NFL prospect. Combine that with poor recruiting to begin with and a lack of development, and the few players that did have promise didn't reach it.

Someone such as Will Campbell has a first-round physique but ran out of time before he could maximize his skill under this new staff. While others like Brandin Hawthorne or Vincent Smith were never going to be on the NFL radar because of their underwhelming physical attributes.

Next year, Lewan will be a first-round pick while Michael Schofield, Fitz Toussaint, Jeremy Gallon, Thomas Gordon and Quinton Washington could be taken in rounds 2-7. And there's more burgeoning talent in the younger classes.

It won't happen overnight but on draft night in 2015 and 2016, Michigan should once again figure prominently.

Michigan adopts new student-ticket policy

Frustrated by the nearly half-empty student section for Michigan home games in 2012, the athletic department announced a drastic change for next season, introducing general admission to the almost 20,000 students that purchase tickets. That means the best seats in the house will go to the earliest arrivers and the sections located in the northwest corner of the end zone will fill up from there.

What They're Saying

Kyle Meinke notes that the fans have no one to blame but themselves, citing the high no-show rate at games last season, and apparently his readers agree with him, as 74.0 percent of 1,933 ballots are in favor of the new policy: "Michigan isn't ditching reserved seating for students just for its health. The student turnout has been unhealthy. And it's searching for a cure.

"Michigan announced this week it will transition to general admission seating next season for students. That means first come, first serve -- and it has some of them in fits. There's even a petition, which already has attracted thousands of signatories. But the thing is, the status quo clearly isn't working.

"Michigan averaged 5,434 student no-shows per game last season, according to Jordan Maleh, the athletic department's director of digital marketing. That's out of 21,770 season tickets sold. Do the math, and you get a 25.0-percent no-show rate for students last year.

"There was a 50-percent no-show rate for kickoffs, according to chief marketing officer Hunter Lochmann.

"That won't fly at a school such as Michigan, which prides itself on having the largest crowds in the country."

TheWolverine.com's John Borton has an easy solution for those belly-aching about the change - show up: "Michigan officials tried playing nice. They developed a program of incentives to get students into their seats in a reasonable amount of time before kickoff. They got Mike Hart and others to participate in a "Be Early, Be Loud" campaign to try and avoid the cavernous dearth of humanity in the student section leading up to home games.

"They asked, cajoled, and nearly begged. Now, they're simply doing what works. You want a good seat for the game? Get your keister in it early.

"Some will howl about this, in the manner of all aggrieved persons of privilege. Consider it one more life lesson in the growing-up process.

"You snooze, you lose."

My Take: We were all college students once, and for many of us, we called The Big House home on fall Saturdays. I have never showed up for a game late, let alone embarrassingly late, whether the contest started at 3:30, noon, or whatever else time Michigan set. The fact is, going to U-M games is a privilege and if the 18- to 22-year old crowd can't respect that, then they shouldn't be given first priority in seating or even in purchasing tickets.

Last time I checked, Michigan had a long waiting list for those wanting season tickets, and I'm sure 5,000 adults would have no problem showing up on time (or at all).

And really, this all comes down to responsibility. Life isn't just an endless parade of parties and tailgating and doing whatever one feels like on any given day. A student wouldn't show up for class late (if he/she wanted to do well), wouldn't show up to a movie late, a comedy show, a lecture, a date, so why is it so impossible to show up for a football game?

Sure, you're a kid. A college kid, and part of college is learning when you can goof off and when you have to be serious and, you know, be an adult. At Michigan Stadium, 80,000+ fans are setting the example. In fact, the best advice a boss once gave me is to follow the lead of those in your company, whether that's in the manner in which you dress, conduct yourself, perform your assignments or set the work day.

Those other fans have set it. Game starts at noon. Be there at noon. Figure that out now, and you'll make a far easier transition to post-college life.






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