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The Countdown

A bottom-to-top assessment of the F.B.S. landscape heading into the 2012 season.

Coaching Moves

Three Years Later, Another Plan B

Stop asking. Les Miles isn’t coming. He wasn’t coming in 2007, though he certainly ruminated on the idea of taking over at his alma mater before opting to return to Baton Rouge. He’s not coming now, not even when the program’s standards are at the lowest point since the mid-1960s. He’s just not going to come: Miles seems happy at L.S.U., a place that has grown to appreciate him immensely due to his own success and the interest he has drawn from others. So the Wolverines will once again go for a backup plan, just as the program did in 2007; the last time this occurred, things didn’t go as planned.

It will be Brady Hoke. The first choice was Jim Harbaugh, though that conversation didn’t go far; the next choice might have been Miles, it might have a coach like Gary Patterson — who knows. All that matters is that after a week of searching, Michigan seems to have reluctantly fallen towards the latest Plan B.

What’s the difference between Hoke and Rich Rodriguez? The latter had led West Virginia to three consecutive double-digit win seasons, a pair of Big East titles and a pair of B.C.S. berths. That’s is — or was, rather — a Plan B we could get behind.

Hoke doesn’t have that resume. What he does have: he’s a Michigan man, that frightful, antiquated label that somehow makes any such coach a leading candidate at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country. If Hoke had gone to Syracuse, for instance, would he even be on Michigan’s radar?

Maybe he still would be. Hoke rebuilt Ball State into a winner, though that progress quickly disintegrated once Hoke departed for San Diego State; that reflects well on Hoke, I suppose, though it does make a point about the fragility of the foundation he constructed in the first place.

He performed a similar turnaround at S.D.S.U., leading the Aztecs to nine wins and a bowl trip in only his second season. Now, eight years into his coaching career — and with a record still three games under .500 — Hoke has earned a well-deserved reputation as a coach adept at reversing a losing culture.

Well, things don’t get much more sour than what we’ve seen in Ann Arbor over the last three seasons. And Michigan could use a coach familiar with making steady improvement, even if the team doesn’t need to rebuild — like a Ball State, for instance — as much as reload, taking what’s already there and cleaning up a mentality that has pervaded a once-proud program.

So Hoke is Michigan’s choice. He knows Michigan. He knows Ann Arbor. Look for former players and coaches who might have felt slighted by his predecessor’s regime to come out of the woodwork to proclaim how welcome they now feel, how nice it is to have a Michigan man back in charge, how nice it will be to see Michigan playing Michigan football again — not that effeminate spread offense.

Hail to the victors: this Plan B is 47-50 on his career, has yet to coach on the B.C.S. conference level and has yet to win a conference title. But he’s a Michigan man, remember. On the other hand, he can’t possibly be any worse than Rodriguez. Right?

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