ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - Brady Hoke was born and raised in Ohio and climbed the coaching ladder in the Midwest except for a stint as an Oregon State assistant.
Hoke left Lloyd Carr’s staff at Michigan to take a shot at leading his first team, Ball State, in 2003. After turning around his alma mater over six seasons, he went to coach San Diego State.
“It was the right opportunity at the right time,” he said.
Kind of like him bolting the beach to coach at the Big House.
Hoke was hired to lead the Wolverines and replace Rich Rodriguez in January and eight months later, he has to face one of the programs he fixed: No. 22 Michigan hosts San Diego State on Saturday in a matchup of 3-0 teams.
The Aztecs, off to their best start in 30 years, might be good enough to make Hoke regret all that hard work. San Diego State players insist they didn’t feel jilted when they found out Hoke was leaving via text messages.
“We were on Christmas break so we were all gone anyway,” linebacker Miles Burris said. “It would have been a hard thing for him to have to individually call every single one of us and tell us about the move.”
Still, Hoke lamented not being able to do jus that, as he did at Ball State. He has tried to downplay the attention that comes with facing his former team.
“I think people may make a big deal about it,” he said.
Relatively speaking, Hoke made San Diego State a big deal.
The Aztecs won just two games the year before he arrived. Two years later, they won nine games _ the program’s best season since 1977 _ and beat Navy 35-14 in the Poinsettia Bowl for their first bowl win since 1969.
“I don’t think there’s any vendetta, any bad feelings,” Long said. “I think our team is excited about playing, but I don’t think it has anything to do with coach Hoke. I think they’re excited about playing because they’re playing a Top 25 team in a great big stadium and there’s a whole bunch of interest in it.”
The Aztecs have a shot to pull off an upset that might vault them into the rankings.
The Wolverines have been shaky on defense, but have made up for it by forcing eight turnovers, and will be tested against the Aztecs.