Three Years: Rich Rod vs. Brady Hoke

Posted on Posted in Michigan Football

I’m a believer in the three year rule. Three full seasons as head coach of a major college football team should give enough of an indication as to where a program is heading. For those of you who didn’t have the fortune of deleting your memory from 2008 to 2011, you’ll remember Rich Rodriguez was given exactly three years. During that time, the score-now-defend-later head coach won only 40.5 percent of his games and also coached the 2008 team that ended a streak of 32 consecutive years playing in a bowl game.

Rodriguez’s ability to get some of the quickest of shiftiest guys in the country was almost unmatched, but he learned none of that really matters when your defense cannot stop an infant from plowing through the defense like a wrecking ball.

Then came Brady Hoke in 2011. His press conference–splendid, inspiring. His demeanor–captivating. There wasn’t a logical reason to go against Brady Hoke that whole season, other than a loss to rival Michigan State. All he did in his first year as head coach at Michigan was lead the Wolverines to a Sugar Bowl victory. And let’s not forget one of the most compelling facts about that team; he did it with Rich Rodriguez’s players.
Season One: Brady Hoke 11-2, Rich Rodriguez 3-9

Brady Hoke’s second season saw a step back, though. The Wolverines began the season with crushing loss to Alabama in Arlington, Texas, 14-41. Losses to Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State sent them packing for the Outback Bowl just one year after winning a BCS bowl. A 28-33 loss to South Carolina meant Michigan went from 11-2 to 8-5 from year one to two.

On the flip side, Rich Rodriguez actually saw improvement from his first year, though it wasn’t enough to get the Wolverines to a bowl game for the second straight season. After Michigan started the season 5-2, they dropped their remaining five games, which included Illinois and Purdue.

Season Two: Brady Hoke 8-5 (19-7), Rich Rodriguez 5-7 (8-16)

Speaking of Brady Hoke, that brings us to this season. It was one of the most frustrating seasons I’ve ever witnessed. Quite frankly, the Wolverines are very lucky to have ended the regular season with a 7-5 record. The offense has been atrocious, and the coaching consistently made questionable decisions throughout the season. The worst part: Michigan lost to Michigan State and Ohio State, squandering their national reputation.

Rich Rodriguez’s third and final season with the Wolverines ended in a bowl game appearance, but many probably wish there wasn’t even the opportunity to show up to the Gator Bowl because Mississippi State stomped all over Denard Robinson and the Wolverines, 52-14. That season also included losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, who beat the Wolverines by a combined 47 points.

Season Three: Brady Hoke 7-5 (26-12)*, Rich Rodriguez 7-6 (15-22)
*Bowl game pending

Outside of the numbers, a coach’s character and discipline is also weighted heavily at this level of college football. In 2010, the NCAA came down on the University with three years probation and a reduction in the number of practice hours for having players practice too long and too often, as well as having too many coaches in on off-season practices.


Brady Hoke is yet to bring the university into any such fog, and we should be a little more thankful for that. At this level of collegiate football, it is very common to dig up dirt on programs, coaches and players for the things they are doing and/or have done in the past. The fact that Brady Hoke is a clean man right now plays testimony to the brand of individual he is.

And finally, the last thing I look at when assessing a coach’s failure or success is how his team does against its rivals. The three rivals I’m looking at: Notre Dame, Michigan State and Ohio State.

We’ll start with Rich Rodriguez.

Record Against…

Notre Dame: 2-1 (Average Score: 27.7 – 31)


Michigan State: 0-3 (Average Score: 19.3 – 31.7)


Ohio State: 0-3 (Average Score: 8 – 33.3)


Now for Brady Hoke.


Record Against…

Notre Dame: 2-1 (Average Score: 27.3 – 24.7)


Michigan State: 1-2 (Average Score: 10.7 – 22.3)


Ohio State: 1-2 (Average Score: 34 – 34)


Rich Rodriguez combing to go 2-7 against the three biggest rivals was the number one reason I personally wanted him out of Ann Arbor. In that sense, we’re difficult fans to please because rivalries are so gosh darn huge. But on the other hand, the fact that Brady Hoke is 5-6 against the same three schools is not bad at all. In that time, Ohio State hit a 24-game winning streak (no matter how unimpressive), Notre Dame competed for a national title, and Michigan State continually displayed one of the best defensive units in the country, which is clearly displayed by a minuscule 10.7 points per game.


Go see Lane Kiffin when he was at USC. He struggled mightily to beat Notre Dame and Stanford and UCLA. That was one of the resounding chimes in fans’ pitches to ship him away for good. I like what Brady Hoke has been able to do against these rivals. And he’s a 2-point conversion away from being 6-5 in those games.

The only thing I don’t like about Brady Hoke’s time in Ann Arbor is the downward trend. Think of his three years as three parts to one season. You want your team to be peaking at the end of the season. Instead, Hoke’s teams are degressing. When you take Hoke’s first season out of the equation, you have two years of a 13-10 record (3-5 against rivals)–not terribly impressive.

I refuse to compare this to Rich Rod’s three years, though, because of the fact that Michigan was not even bowl eligible in his first two seasons. When you start 3-9, there’s only one direction available to you.

Michigan has an opportunity to beat Kansas State (7-5) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on December 28 and improve its record to 8-5, which would look a hell of a lot better than 7-6.


Tyler Fenwick
Managing Editor at The Big House Report
I am an aspiring journalist studying at IUPUI. I am the third (and youngest) manager of The Big House Report, and it's my responsibility to make sure it runs more smoothly today than it did yesterday.