Who'll replace Brady Hoke at Michigan, once the Wolverines finally acknowledge they'll need to dump a coach who's failed on the field and lost the entire fanbase? There are three obvious names, each of whom would be a major challenge even for a top-10 power program like Michigan to pull, and then there's a big cluster of potential Plans B.
Someone like Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin could be an excellent hire for Michigan, were he not already minted at a school in a talent-soaked state, with a newly renovated stadium to show off. He's been successful everywhere he's been, though, and has more Midwestern ties than you'd think, having played at Purdue and spent eight years as a Big Ten assistant. And for fans who've endured two straight years of unwatchable offense, the idea of a Sumlin air raid upgrade would be too exciting to bear. Alas.
The worst part of it is that Michigan apparently chose Hoke over Sumlin when replacing Rich Rodriguez in 2011, according to Bruce Feldman on his weekly podcast. We knew Michigan AD Dave Brandon failed to land a Harbaugh brother or Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald to replace Rodriguez, as John U. Bacon detailed, but Sumlin's name is a new one here.
In response to colleague Stewart Mandel's point that too many Big Ten teams seem to default to hiring up-and-coming MAC coaches instead of going big, as Arkansas did by grabbing three-time Rose Bowl coach Bret Bielema from Wisconsin, Feldman dropped the following:
I don't know how many people know this, but when Dave Brandon was interviewing to replace Rich Rod, one of the guys he actually interviewed was Kevin Sumlin. And he turned down Kevin Sumlin and ended up taking Brady Hoke, the Michigan guy. And I can't imagine too many Michigan fans are thrilled now that they know that that was the decision that was made ... [Sumlin] was one of the guys they considered, and they didn't want ... Not a Michigan guy, though, and they wanted the Michigan man.
You can listen here, beginning at the 39:01 mark:
Sumlin, the Houston coach at the time, had won 10 games in 2009, but was coming off a 5-7 2010 due in part to major injury issues when Michigan approached. Perhaps Hoke's 9-4 record at San Diego State (and obvious ties to Michigan) were simply more enticing.
So at the time, Sumlin did more closely fit the mid-major-on-the-rise coaching archetype, rather than the sure thing. And hindsight's 20/20. But still. Ouch.