In the days following Notre Dame's announcement that it would opt out of its annual series against Michigan after the 2014 season, Wolverines coach Brady Hoke took the diplomatic route when asked about the move.
"My reaction is Notre Dame made a decision, it's not our decision," Hoke said on the Big Ten coaches' teleconference last September. "It's unfortunate, it's a great rivalry, but they've got to do what they think is best."
Coaches' sentiments often change when they're speaking to their devoted fans, not media members, and Hoke had a slightly different take on Notre Dame when discussing the end of the series Monday at the Michigan Sports Commission's annual luncheon in Grand Rapids, Mich.
The Michigan coach said Notre Dame is "chickening out of" a great rivalry. Zing!
"The Notre Dame game, that rivalry, which they're chickening out of," Hoke said Monday during the West Michigan Sports Commission Annual Luncheon at the J.W. Marriott in Grand Rapids.
The remark drew thunderous applause from the crowd.
"They're still gonna play Michigan State, they're gonna play Purdue, but they don't want to play Michigan," Hoke continued. "I don't know how they made that decision ... I really do ... But anyway, that's a great national rivalry game. It's a great game."
Notre Dame nixed the Michigan series after reaching an agreement with the ACC that will include five games per season against ACC opponents. The Irish are trying to diversify their schedule as much as possible, while maintaining traditional rivalries with teams like USC and Navy. Although Notre Dame and Michigan are two big names in college football with storied traditions, the Notre Dame-Michigan rivalry doesn't stretch back nearly as far as Notre Dame's series against USC, Navy, Michigan State or Purdue.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon made it clear in September that the decision to stop the series was Notre Dame's, not Michigan's, but neither he nor Hoke had anything inflammatory to say about the Irish.
My take: I understand why Notre Dame did what it did and the need to have a more national schedule in addition to the ACC games each season. Still, it's unfortunate to see the Michigan series go away after 2014.
Hoke on Monday also talked about Michigan's desire to bring in a graduate transfer quarterback for the 2013 season. The Wolverines have no proven depth behind Devin Gardner, and projected backup Russell Bellomy likely will miss the season following ACL surgery. Hoke said it's more likely Michigan adds a graduate transfer from another FBS program than a junior-college transfer.
Colleague Joe Schad reported last week that Arkansas quarterback Brandon Mitchell added Michigan to his list of potential transfer destinations.