He knew all about the Wolverines’ rivalry with Ohio State — one of the most storied rivalries in all of sports. He’s gained national attention to referring to the Buckeyes as simply Ohio, and for his refusal to wear the color red, despite coaching at a pair of schools (Miami, Ohio and San Diego State) at which red figures prominently into those schools’ colors.
But he also knows that Michigan is unique in that Ohio State isn’t the only rivalry on the schedule.
“We’ve got three great rivalries,” Hoke said on Wednesday at Weber’s Inn in Ann Arbor, where he was the guest speaker at the Michigan Associated Press Sports Editors’ summer meeting. “We have Notre Dame on a national scale; our in-state rivalry (with Michigan State), which is something that’s very important to us, and we have not done our job the last four years, if you’re on the Michigan side of things. That’s the coaching. It has to be better.”
The Wolverines have lost four straight to the Spartans. Hoke has only been a part of one of those losses, but he realizes that the rivalry with the resurgent Spartans means as much to players and fans as the Ohio State game.
“Then the Ohio game is the Ohio game, but that doesn’t lessen anything on the Michigan State game,” he said. “We realize that in this state, you draw a line in the sand.”
Hoke gave a lot of credit to coach Mark Dantonio for MSU’s recent success. Both are Ohio natives.
“I have a good relationship with Mark. I’ve known him for a long time,” Hoke said. “When you’ve coached in the state of Ohio, recruited Ohio enough, you get to know everybody.”
Other topics Hoke addressed during the hour-long question-and-answer session included:
• Hoke acklnowleged that concussions are a real concern in football today, and said that he suffered several concussions during his playing days. How many did he suffer? “I have no idea.” He said that in high school, concussions wouldn’t keep him from playing in games.
• He reitereated that Michigan had a good season in his first year at the helm of the program, going 11-2 and winning the Sugar Bowl, but “We didn’t have a great season. If we have a great season, we win the Big Ten Conference championship. That’s the goal every year. As a team, we embrace the expectaitons, and that’s to win a championship. We’ve got a great, passionate group of fans who bleed blue and love their Wolverines. I don’t know if you’d want it any other way.”
• On his players using social media, including Twitter: “You can ban it, but then are you teaching guys responsibility because you ban it? What’s the lesson? We want them to grow, to understand, and there’s a maturity that goes along with it. ... We try to educate our guys all the time, and once those guys sign with us, we do some things, help them understand that those things are out there forever. With guys who aren’t signed yet, it’s obviously a little harder. We tell them they’re representing and honoring your name, and your name carries a lot of weight. Obviously, guys who signed, they’re representing Michigan.”
• On the SEC’s dominance: “I don’t have an answer. I don’t get to watch a lot of football. It’s one of those things, I’m watching Michigan football. I’m watching our opponents. I don’t watch a lot of other football. You could ask my wife, my daughter could tell you. I can’t tell you.” A follow-up question asked how Hoke votes in the coaches’ poll if he doesn’t watch other games. “I vote in it. I get input from the staff. I don’t know if that poll is any more valid or not valid the different computers they use.”