The University of Michigan is college football’s most-winning program. Known for its iconic winged helmets, spirited fan-base, and booming fight song, there is simply no place like The Big House. During the past few seasons however, the team’s record has dropped, and with a 2-4 start to the 2014 season, the fan base is fired up. All fingers are pointing to athletic director, David Brandon, and head football coach Brady Hoke. These two leaders need some advising, and Machiavelli’s The Prince can provide them with just that.
Chapter IX of The Prince discusses becoming a prince by civil actions. Now I’ll give Brady Hoke one thing. He’s created a nice relationship with his players. He’s respected by his players and colleagues. The players seem to love him and defend him even under the recent heat. So maybe he’s mastered Machiavelli’s civil approach to being a prince. He’s gotten his “citizens” to believe in him. But now that he’s in his position, things have to change. There’s clearly more to coaching than just winning over your players. Hoke has to learn how to win games; pleasing the players, fans, and school should be the top priority.
When injury, upsets, or slumps occur, the coaches must know how to react. Machiavelli speaks of the effects of fortune in Chapter XXV. He believes that “the prince who relies entirely on fortune is lost when it changes. I believe also that he will be successful who directs his actions according to the spirit of the times, and that he whose actions do not accord with the times will not be successful.” Machiavelli stresses the importance of being able to deal with fate when it strikes. These slumps are inevitable in sports. Star players get injured, one school’s schedule may be tougher than another, and upsets occur. But this is all in the job description. Adapting to these tough times is what separates the good coaches from the great ones. The ability to rebuild your team and reinstill confidence in the players is valuable. Hoke and Brandon have failed to do this.
While it is true that an unlucky bit of fortune struck Michigan’s football team, the school would not be dominating headlines if the situation was handled in a reasonable time frame. Its not realistic to expect the program to be rebuilt in the midst of the reason. So one rough season. The fans can get over that. But after Hoke and Brandon have failed to deal with the misfortune through four seasons, that’s where their leadership has failed.
So what’s next. I feel sorry for the players who committed to playing for a typically dominant University years ago. I feel sorry for the fans and alumni who are loyal to the program but have to watch them in embarrassment. I feel sorry for both Brady Hoke and David Brandon because while it’s their job to deal with this fortune, it’s not always easy.
After all, the fortune will have to switch sooner or later. I have confidence in our team to return to being championship contenders. But if our princes are unable to deal with fortune, than it’s time the University gets a new prince to reign the team.