Brady Hoke is out as coach of the Michigan Wolverines after four seasons, the university announced Tuesday even as his superiors celebrated the much-maligned coach as “a hero” to the football program.

Athletic Director Jim Hackett told reporters on Tuesday the decision wasn’t easy and stressed Hoke was well-regarded by his staff, players and the university community. Still, in justifying his decision, Hackett reasoned the program is entering a “pivot” year for which he felt the team needed a new voice and a different direction.

Hoke, who is owed a $3 million buyout, spoke with his players after learning of his fate, but did not return reporters calls seeking comment.

A former Michigan assistant, Hoke was hired by the Wolverines following the rocky three-year tenure of Rich Rodriguez. At the time, he was saluted as the program’s answer to regaining its status as one of college football’s most prominent programs. Michigan advanced to the Sugar Bowl in his first season, but steadily slipped in each of his following years.

Overall, Hoke was 31-20 as the Wolverines’ coach, even as the team fell to 5-7 this season with losses to such also-rans as Indiana, Purdue and Northwestern. Michigan has not won a Big 10 title since 2004 and is now 1-10 against chief rival Ohio State over their last 11 games.

After his arrival was heralded as a return to smash-mouth football, ironically enough Michigan’s offense was characterized by poor offensive line play during Hoke’s entire tenure. Hoke, a former standout linebacker at Ball State, previously was head coach at Ball State (2003-08) and San Diego State (2009-10) before accepting the Wolverines’ post.

Les Miles and Jim Harbaugh are considered the Wolverines’ most desired targets, with the likes of Greg Schiano, Bob Stoops, Kevin Sumlin, Dan Mullen, Pat Fitzgerald and John Harbaugh also being prominently mentioned as potential candidates.

[Photo Credit: MGoBlog]