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Hopefully Hoke is a Machiavellian

April 3, 2011
by

The other day I got an email from the Michigan athletic office reminding me to reserve my seats for the 2011 Spring Game, and about a  week before that I placed my ticket order for football season tickets. But, I am still a bit leery about Michigan football right now, even with Brady Hoke as our new head coach. I am hoping that he has the Machiavellian mentality that it takes to be successful at a program like Michigan.

Rich Rodriguez.

In the past few years, with Rich Rodriguez at the helm, Michigan failed to accomplish anything worth noting on the field. Off of the field, Michigan was most talked about for breaking NCAA violations for practicing too much during the season. As a result, the NCAA handed down a few relatively light restrictions on the program that will last for the next few years. Eventually, the University’s alumni and Athletic Director, David Brandon, became disgusted enough with the on field disaster, that was Michigan football, and the NCAA rules violations, to fire Rich-Rod. Rich-Rod’s problem was not that he violated NCAA rules, it was that he was a terrible football coach who could not win games at a school that has a history of annually competing for a National Championship.

Being a head coach at a major Division I college football program requires you to be a Machiavellian. Sometimes, a coach has to make questionable calls, especially in recruiting. In the summer of 2009, Alabama was put on probation for recruiting violations that occurred under current head coach, Nick Saban. That year, the Crimson Tide rolled to a National Championship, and nobody cared that Alabama had been broken any rules. In college sports, people are able to look past occasional mistakes if the job (winning games and a championship) gets done.

The same situation is happening at the school down south right now. Jim Tressel was recently suspended for two games, which he insisted be extended to five games, for failing to report that some of his players had committed acts that might violate their amateur status. Tressel was suspended for failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance, a serious charge when it comes to dealing with NCAA. Some people in the media believed that Tressel’s contract at the preschool might be terminated. But alumni don’t really care about the coach trying to hide a possible serious violation from NCAA investigators. Alumni and fans remember the BCS National Title from 2003 and the six years in a row with at least a share of the Big Ten title and appearances in BCS bowl games.

John Calipari is another good example of Machiavellianism  in college sports. Calipari has now led three different schools to the Final Four (UMass, Memphis, and Kentucky). The Final Fours at both UMass and Memphis have been vacated due to player infractions. And although Calipari was acquitted by the NCAA of any wrongdoing in either case, his name has become synonymous in college basketball with cheating. But still, Kentucky wanted him to run their program, and to this point, the fit has been nearly perfect. Kentucky fans will find a way to overlook Calipari’s questionable integrity if he continues to win.

Brady Hoke from his days as an assistant at Michigan under Lloyd Carr.

As a student at Michigan with only a few years of my college career left, I hope that Brady Hoke has the demeanor that it takes to succeed in the Big Ten. So, if he has to hire a few “hostesses” to show around highly touted recruits, or if he gets the admissions department and the rest of the faculty to become a bit more lenient when it comes to student athlete standards, I do not care in the slightest, as long as he wins games, and eventually a Big Ten and National Championship. I can only hope that the Michigan alumni can turn a blind eye to a set of dirty hands.

7 Comments
  1. lexifader permalink
    April 3, 2011 6:30 PM

    This blog brings up some interesting points about the way a head coach should operate. I agree on the level that a head coach needs to be a strong and confident leader and at times make decisions for the good of the team without consulting others. However, I do not agree that a head college coach should emulate a Machiavellian ruler. Machiavelli demanded tyrants to act in the best interest of the people even if it meant acting immoral and ruthless. Machiavelli almost encouraged leaders to lie cheat and steal to get to the top and even though these things give you an edge and in some cases result in victory, a head coach should not operate with these principles. For most athletes, their coach is their role model, and the University’s job is to educate the athlete and hopefully send them into the real world as hard-working, moral, and law abiding citizens. If a head coach is constantly breaking NCAA rules yet still keeping his job and winning, what kind of a message is that sending to our student athletes and our students? Football players are students before athletes, and a coach should not only coach them on the field but also provide them with lessons that will help them succeed in the real world.

  2. Brian Fisher permalink
    April 3, 2011 6:46 PM

    I wholeheartedly disagree with your argument and find solace in the comment above. While Michigan does in fact need to change their structure to become the storied program we once were, a head coach must follow the rules and abide by any restrictions placed upon him. Like the previous comment stated above said, a coach should be viewed as a role model. If Hoke begins to violate the rules, the players would not find it difficult to follow his lead. I would rather have losing, yet honest, team than a national champion slated with violation. While the Fab 5 offered Michigan fans an exciting two years, it is extremely difficult to look past all of the violations that they committed. A team should be maintain a lawful state of mind and this attitude is reflected by the coach.

  3. oakheart347 permalink
    April 3, 2011 9:06 PM

    Well, this blog certainly raises a few interesting points – but one should start at the Machiavellian argument.

    Machiavelli states that “one ought to be both loved and feared; but since, it is difficult to accomplish both at the same time, I maintain it is much safer to be feared than loved, if you have to do without one of the two. For of men, one can, in general, say this: They are ungrateful, fickle, deceptive, deceiving, avoiders of danger, eager to gain. As long as you serve their interests, they are devoted to you.”

    This quote basically sums up Rich Rod’s departure – Michigan’s fans and alumni are fickle and eager to gain. We got so impatient with waiting for victories to come that we decided to fire Rodriguez. Rodriguez split alumni from the moment he set foot on campus – some never wanted him hired, others hailed him as the man who return the program to glory.
    Rodriguez, however, failed to serve the university’s interests – both on and off the field. He was guilty of the first major violations in program history – that in and of itself should be grounds for removal – especially at a program which does put such a high standard on academics – relatively, and at least for football, compared to most other programs (see Florida State and Ohio State for the easiest examples). The on field results were just as disappointing – 0-6 against MSU and OSU / no bowl game victories / one bowl game in 3 seasons / a 15-22 overall record / the list goes on…

    For the original post: the author stated “In college sports, people are able to look past occasional mistakes if the job (winning games and a championship) gets done.” However, Michigan is NOT – one can argue that Rodriguez was fired simply for those rules violations. All of Michigan’s programs deal with rules violations quickly and efficiently – see this year’s hockey team for the best examples. Whether those violations are NCAA or school policy does not matter. As also stated by the original author: “alumni don’t really care about the coach trying to hide a possible serious violation from NCAA investigators.” This, however, is also false at Michigan. The sheer outcry for Rodriguez’s head from the alumni after the rules violations came out, let alone when he was hired, and after the dismal results on field his first two years speak staggeringly against that comment.

    Futhermore, Machiavelli states that:

    “The vast majority of men, so long as their goods and their honor are not taken from them, will live contentedly, so you will only have to contend with the small minority who are ambitious, and there are lots of straightforward ways of keeping them under control. You become contemptible, if you are thought to be erratic, capricious, effeminate, pusillanimous, irresoulte. […] Make every effort to ensure your actions suggest greatness and endurance, strength of character and of purpose. […] A ruler who is thought of in these terms has the sort of reputation he needs […] because people realize he is on top of his job and has the loyalty of his employees. For rulers ought to be afraid of two things: within the state, they should fear their subjects; abroad, they should fear other rulers.”

    Rodriguez was fired because he did take away the players’ goods (Big Ten trophies, championships, rings, and victories) and their honor (Michigan as a laughing stock of college football). He took away the alumni’s honor through losing game after game of arguably the most storied program in college football history. Rodriguez did not have the reputation he needed here – he was ridiculed for the start – he didn’t even know or LEARN the words to the fight song of this university before his initial press conference. He never stated that he would beat OSU – whether he believed it or not that does not matter – the fans, alumni, and university wanted to hear it – whether it came true or not – all of us wanted that hope. He never was on top of his job nor had the loyalty of his employees – and it cost him.

    Calipari is another case – money, prestiege, easier recruiting, and more storied programs are all reasons for his departures. He may be on the top of his game, but has never had loyalty where he has been. If his track record remains consistent – he will leave Kentucky too at some point – for another school, for more money, for another opportunity – all while saying the same things. And for that matter, Saban is rather similar – MSU to LSU (winning a national championship) to bolting for the NFL to not cutting it there to Alabama (again winning a national championship) – he’ll leave too – the only difference is when.

    Want another similar story – see Pete Carroll…wins multiple titles at USC and leaves for the NFL amidst improper benefits violations under his tenure… The list goes on and on… Realize college football is a cash cow and treat it as such – very few coaches care about their programs – even look at Hoke – leaves a great team that he has helped built in SDSU – just for the chance to come back here and coach – same story, different tune… Coaches are Machiavellian – although how they express that, comes in various ways …

  4. micahfr permalink
    April 3, 2011 11:22 PM

    To be clear, I do not condone cheating. I would simply accept an embarrassing moment or two if Brady Hoke would win football games and National Championships. I would be fine with the means, if they justify the end. If college football coaches were evaluated on how well their students did in school, then universities would hire academic advisers to run the football program. Colleges make hundreds of millions of dollars each year off of these football players, who all have their eye on one thing, the NFL. It would be great if Division I student athletes actually cared about an education, but honestly, 90% of them do not. Rodriguez was fired because he was terrible. He embarrassed the university by losing almost every Saturday. But if he had won more, the university, its alumni, and its boosters would have been able to look past practice-gate and let him keep his jobs. I have no problem with what John Calipari has done. He has had players on his teams that have made mistakes that eventually caused their schools to vacate Final Four appearances. The same is true with Pete Carroll. He, personally did nothing wrong, except not report everything to the NCAA and leave at a time when the program was about to be hit with sanctions. Going further, find a coach in college football or basketball that has won a National Championship in the last ten years that has not committed one NCAA violation or recruited kids that really did not fit the academic profile of his university. It is impossible to do so. College sports is about winning games, and if a coach has to push the limits, then so be it. If Brady Hoke were to win a BCS title, but have a recruiting violation or two, I would still support him and the program that he wins.

  5. Mi71592 permalink
    April 4, 2011 2:01 AM

    I agree with Brian Fisher for the most part. Although it sounds great that he would do anything for winning, cheating is not the way to go. First of all, the fact that Tressel decided to hide that his players were committing any wrong doing has nothing to do with their championship and that they have been beating us. Also, how would it help if Michigan had to forfeit our championship? It would be a lost cause, and Hoke would be fired. Michigan should certainly not sink as low as some schools do, as we are supposed to be a prestigious university. If Hoke was caught cheating, it would certainly hurt our prestige, therefore hurting our recruiting. A Machiavellian approach to coaching is certainly not the right way to go because there are strict rules at the collegiate level, and Machiavelli promotes cheating and lying to get to the end.

  6. Justin Kucera permalink
    April 4, 2011 4:50 PM

    You bring up a good point. Nobody really notices that people like Caliparri and Saban violated NCAA rules. At programs like these, winning is all that matters. With that being said, I do not think Hoke should take a Macheavellian approach to coaching. It is still possible to win without cheating (hard to grasp in todays sports, I know). So, if you can have the best of both worlds then why not?

  7. mstranseth permalink
    April 12, 2011 2:20 AM

    I could not disagree with this blog post more. Hoke has a fine opportunity to bring Michigan back from hell, and he should do it how we have always done it; honorably. That will gain him more respect now than he already has, from his players, students, and the alumni. If he has a choice to rule by fear or love, he should do so by love, which in this case is more respect than love.

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