Benner/Sports and Ball State University and Education & Workforce Development and College Sports and Sports Business

Ball State coach disingenuous about commitment to team, school

December 22, 2008
"This school is my alma mater, and to be able to continue to see this program grow is very special," said Brady Hoke, once upon a time.

Very special.

"This is my school, and I am very excited to be the head football coach at Ball State University,"  once upon another time.

Very excited.

"I take a great amount of pride in being a Ball State Cardinal," said Brady Hoke once upon yet another time.

Oh, the pride. Since returning to his beloved alma mater in 2002, Hoke has all but sung the Beach Boys' song when it came to BSU.

You know, be true to your school ... rah, rah ... rah, rah ... sis-boom-bah.

Or sis-boom-blah-blahblah, as it turned out.

When it came down to it, Brady Hoke's loyalty was only to a situation that could lead to a larger paycheck and what he sees as a bigger stage — if San Diego State University and the Mountain West Conference are really all that.

The former Ball State team captain turned his back on the players who bought the bilge that he was a BSU guy there for the long haul. He allowed a sportswriter inside his personal circle and used the scribe — Ball State alum and Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock — to become his mouthpiece in blasting the administration and setting up President Jo Ann Gora and Athletics Director Tom Collins as scapegoats when the inevitable departure came.

So welcome to the world of big-time college football, BSU alums. You got what you wished for — one magical season (albeit a not-so-magical conclusion) — and a coach who began packing his bags about a month ago. The only question was where to eventually ship the furniture.

Castigate Gora all you want. In my humble opinion (and as a parent who paid for and believes our daughter received an outstanding education at BSU that prepared her well for her profession), Gora has been an exceptional leader in terms of campus capital improvements, fund raising, innovative programming and elevating Ball State's overall stature in its mission to provide meaningful education and research.

But then, those accomplishments really pale in comparison to failing to keep a football coach with a career record of 34-38.

Despite his claims of undying loyalty to BSU, Hoke-like virtually every other major college coach — was an opportunist looking for the next opportunity. Last year, he entertained overtures from Washington State University and the University of Michigan. Just a couple of weeks ago, he denied he was talking to Auburn University even as he was talking to Auburn University.

Here's a thought. If he ever appears again (doubt it) on "The Late Show with David Letterman," it ought to be to read, "The Top 10 Most Disingenuous Things Coaches Say."

Don't believe the media — and blog-inspired smoke screens, especially those coming from cheerleading blowhards. This wasn't about inadequate office space for the coaching staff or Hoke's playing martyr in a failed attempt to extract more money for his assistant coaches. This was about Brady Hoke doing what he thought was best for Brady Hoke. And if it wasn't last year, if it wasn't this year, it would have been next year.

And seriously, I wish Hoke all the best. I'm guessing that even as he is professing his newfound loyalty to San Diego State, he's hoping he can parlay success there into the next step up the ladder. After all, Urban Meyer left a MAC school (University of Toledo) to go to a Mountain West school (Utah State University) and is now coaching in the national championship game at Florida.

So damn that Toledo administration for not doing all it could to keep Urban Meyer.

At the same time, perhaps this was about Ball State's doing what was best for Ball State. Perhaps Gora and the board of trustees are comfortable with the role of making higher education the higher calling of the university. Perhaps they are willing to engage in the athletics arms race only to the point where it no longer makes sense, fiscal or otherwise. After all, they offered Hoke a 62.5-percent raise that would have earned him $400,000 a year with other incentives built in, and that wasn't close to being enough.

Or perhaps they believe they already have a capable replacement on board. Stan Parrish has been a terrific offensive coordinator, knows the state (he was a hugely successful head coach at Wabash College) and the Midwest, and has major-college head coaching experience (Kansas State University).

In the meantime, Hoke was introduced in San Diego Dec. 16. I didn't see the transcript, but I'm betting he is very excited to be an Aztec.

___

Benner is director of communications for the Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association and a former sports columnist for The Indianapolis Star. His column appears weekly. Listen to his column via podcast at www.ibj.com. He can be reached at bbenner@ibj.com. Benner also has a blog, www.indyinsights.com.
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