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Golden Gopher Coaching Candidate Profile - Brady Hoke

Let's take a closer look at San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke.

Playing and Coaching Career

  • 1978-80 - Linebacker at Ball State
  • 1981-82 - Yorktown HS (DC)
  • 1983 - Grand Valley State (DL)
  • 1984-86 - Western Michigan (DL)
  • 1987-89 - Toledo (LB)
  • 1989-94 - Oregon State (DL)
  • 1995-2002 - Michigan (DL)
  • 2003-08 - Ball State (HC)
  • 2009-present - San Diego State (HC)

Defensive coach who has spent several years at the BCS level. Five years at Oregon State and eight years at Michigan before earning that head coaching promotion. As a head coach he put himself on the map in his fifth year at Ball State with a 12-1 season in 2008. He is currently in his second season at San Diego State as he is trying to move that program up from the bottom of the Mountain West.

Why He Fits

There is no doubt he is a Midwest and a Big Ten guy. He didn't play in the Big Ten but as an Indiana native who spent several seasons under Lloyd Carr at Michigan he certainly would jump at the chance to coach a Big Ten school.

He has been fairly successful in his 7ish years on the job as a head coach. While at Ball State he took the MAC program to an undefeated regular season in 2008, before losing in the MAC Championship. 12-1 is hard to do in any league with any team, that is impressive just by itself. Hoke then parlayed that job into a position in the Mountain West Conference, taking over the downtrodden San Diego State Aztecs. SDSU had compiled an 18-41 record over it's previous five seasons and was perennially at the bottom of the MWC. Jeremy from Mountain West Connection is helping me out with a little Hoke recon...

The Aztecs are the only Mountain West team to not have made a bowl game in the leagues existence, UNLV has even beent to a bowl game in that time. The team has not been nationally relevant since Marshall Faulk left the program in 1994. Hoke's impact has been real and not a smoke screen.

Hoke turned a 2-win team from 2008 into four wins in 2009. And this year he has his SDSU team fighting with a 5-2 record including a win over a ranked Air Force team. The Aztecs also went into Columbia, MO this year and played Missouri to within 3 points. In fact they led late in the fourth before Missouri escaped by scoring a touchdown with just 52 seconds left to pull out the victory.

Offensively Hoke has been running a spread offense (which I'm not particularly a huge fan of), but it has been a balanced offense, especially when his teams are having success. Over the last five seasons a Hoke led offense has run the ball 49.5% of the time and obviously passing it 50.5%. When Ball State had their great season in 2008 they were led by QB Nate Davis who ended up being drafted. But even in that season when the Cardinals outscored their opponent by over 14 ppg they actually ran the ball 56% of the the time.

His offenses have been potent but what I like most is that they are not what carries their teams. Hoke's teams, especially the successful ones have been a balance of very good offense AND very good defense. Again, the 2008 Ball State team that won 12 games finished with the #1 offense in the MAC and the #4 defense. Hoke's 2010 SDSU squad is currently the #3 offense and the #3 defense in the MWC. It should be noted that they have yet to play Utah and TCU this year so that may affect his team stats and where they rank in the MWC.

So he is winning in the Mountain West and he fits the mold of a midwestern guy who is a defensive minded and might be the right fit for the Golden Gophers. And Lloyd Carr likes him...

"He has a great way with people and he is fun to be around. He is a very demanding coach and has the ability to be tough, while at the same time be respected as a leader. I know he will do a great job at San Diego State. He loves the game and is a hard-working guy. The kids are going to want to play for him."

Hoke has been successful at turning around Ball State, taking them to back-to-back bowl games in 2007 and 2008. And in just his second season he is on track to take San Diego State to their first bowl game in years. He has plenty of experience as a head coach and he's getting better as he goes.

Why He May Not Fit

Well, Hoke's overall record as a head coach is actually a losing record. Even with a 12-0 regular season at Ball State and this year's 5-3 start his overall record sits at just 43-48. At Ball State in six seasons he actually had a winning record just twice. This from MGOBlog when Hoke was getting an interview for the open job eventually offered to Rich Rodriguez.

Hoke's winning percentage? 38%. And he did not take over a program in disarray. Ball State had disastrous years in 1998 and 1999, going a combined 1-21, but recovered from the tailspin to go 16-18 the three years before Hoke arrived.

Hoke promptly put up records of 4-8, 2-9, 4-7, and 5-7 before his "breakthrough" 2007, when he finally got the program back to the level it was at when he arrived. Historically, Ball State has been one of the better programs in the MAC, their overall record above distorted by those two bombs; other than that the last time they won fewer than five games was 1987. The evidence suggests Hoke is outclassed in the MAC.

The above was written before Hoke's 2008 season but I don't think a career is made in one season. 2008 was impressive but overall? A losing record.

This is the biggest and most obvious reason that he wouldn't be the right fit here. Maturi has stated that a proven winner is a requirement, so does a losing record in 7+ seasons as a head coach qualify him to lead a Big Ten program? Many would say not while others would point out that given time to build his system at Ball State he turned them into a winner.

TDG Approval

Experience - B
Proven Winner - B-
Minn/B10 Ties - B+
Recruiting - C

The one area I have not yet commented on is recruiting, and that is largely because I don't know what to say. Hoke has been recruiting at Ball State and it is impossible to land a nationally recognized class there. His time at SDSU is far too short to make any real judgment. Would he be able to recruit to Minnesota? I have no idea. It took some time but he eventually got some of his guys into Ball State and it paid off in 2008. Minnesota has some recruiting limitations but nothing like Ball State. Ultimately I'm not going to hold recruiting against him and I'm not giving him any extra credit for spending six years at Ball State.

I like that Hoke knows it is about Offense and Defense. I like that he is a tough guy focused on producing teams that are mentally tough. I don't like that his 7 year career has been ho-hum outside of one season.

Kind of like a few others I've profiled I wouldn't be terribly upset of Hoke was hired but he isn't at the top of my list. He has a Big Ten attitude but there just isn't enough on the resume to get me on the Hoke bandwagon. The next Gopher coach doesn't have to be a super sexy pick, he needs to be the perfect fit. Hoke might be that guy, he might not be. Anyone feel confident that the person making this hire is going to be capable of determining if Hoke is the right fit or not? I don't, but I'm getting off on a tangent.

Hoke is a solid candidate and the more successful he is at SDSU the more I like him. If he goes out and knocks off TCU or Utah this year then he may catapult up my list. Right now he's somewhere in the middle.