Hoke ‘Geared Up’ for Ohio
By Brandon Castel
CHICAGO — If Brady Hoke knows the official name for Ohio State, he isn’t letting on.
Photo by Dan Harker
Since being hired as the head football coach at Michigan back in January, Hoke has not deviated from referring to the Buckeyes as simply ‘Ohio.’ That continued Thursday as he spoke about his school’s biggest rivalry.
“You know, we're really fortunate at Michigan,” Hoke said at the 2011 Big Ten Media Days in Chicago.
“We have a national rivalry. We play Notre Dame. We have an in-state rivalry with Michigan State, obviously. Then the rivalry with Ohio is as big a rivalry as there is in sport.”
The fact he refers to them simply as Ohio is akin to Woody Hayes calling Michigan “that school up north.” It is something that has not gone over well with fans who would rather refer their school as “The” Ohio State University. If anything, it only adds to fuel to a historically combustible rivalry.
Photo by Dan Harker
“Nobody will overlook that,” OSU Head Coach Luke Fickell said of the Michigan game.
“I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously (we) look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.”
Known to some simply as “The Game,” Ohio State and Michigan first met on the gridiron in 1897. The rivalry took shape during the 1920’s and hit its peak during the “Ten-Year War” between Woody Hayes and his former assistant, Bo Schembechler, in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Throughout the years, the game has maintained its place as one of the great rivalries in all of sports.
“It's fun,” said Hoke, who last participated in the rivalry as an assistant at Michigan in 2002.
“I mean, if you can't get geared up for that and get goosebumps and all those things for that game, then you may not be human.”
Though he grew up in Dayton, Ohio, Hoke remembers rooting for Michigan even at an early age despite the fact his father John Hoke played under Woody (and Bo) at Miami, Ohio.
One of Hoke’s first real coaching jobs was at Western Michigan University. It was there, working with head coach Jack Harbaugh and former Michigan quarterback John Harbaugh, that Hoke got his first real taste of hatred for Ohio State.
He would later serve as the defensive line coach at Michigan under former OSU linebacker Gary Moeller and eventually Lloyd Carr, both of whom had served as assistant coaches under Schembechler.
Hoke enjoyed one of the most lopsided decades in the rivalry’s history during the 1990’s, but the Wolverines have experienced the other side of that coin over the last 10 years. Since Jim Tressel took over in 2001, the Buckeyes have gone 9-1 against their rivals from the north, but neither Tressel nor Rich Rodriguez, who, like John Cooper, never seemed to get the rivalry, will be on the sidelines this fall.
“It never has been who the coach is,” Hoke said Thursday.
“It's always about those two great institutions.”
Both Michigan and Ohio State were called out by Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany Thursday, who called their violations “embarrassing.” The two schools are hoping to start a new era in the wake of Tressel’s resignation and the firing of Rodriguez.
“As you know, that's an exciting time, no matter what,” said Fickell, who has experienced the rivalry as a player and assistant coach with the Buckeyes.
“If that starts hopefully a long rivalry as some of the ones in the past have had, that's what it's all about.”
That rivalry could include the two schools meeting on back-to-back weekends to close out the season. If they each win their respective divisions, they would re-match in the Big Ten championship game one week after the regular-season finale.
“Playing at the end of November is tradition and some traditions you don't mess with,” Hoke added.
“If we play them two weeks in a row, we play them two weeks in a row.”
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