Ann Arbor — He sounds more determined than defiant.
Cynics would suggest Brady Hoke also is a bit delusional if he believes there's still work to be done that can save his job.
But that's not what he's talking about here. And to hear Michigan's coach talk Monday, barely 72 hours after his most influential supporter resigned his post under fire, that's not something Hoke ever has considered doing.
"I've never been concerned about a job — ever — and I never will be," Hoke insisted, speaking publicly for the first time about athletic director Dave Brandon's departure last week. "Because if I get concerned about a job, then you get distracted from it. …
"For this, if I get distracted, then I'm not being fair to those kids, who haven't been distracted. So I've never, ever worried about employment."
That's easier to say, of course, when you've pocketed more than $11 million in three-plus years as a coach at Michigan. And when you stand to make $2 million more from the buyout clause in your contract, should university officials, as many now expect, relieve you of your duties at season's end.
But, Hoke added, "I threw brake drums on the assembly line for Dayton-Walther (Corporation in Dayton, Ohio) during summer. And I was never concerned because I knew I was going to out-work everybody."
So he'll keep working, and keep asking his players to do the same, while the rest of us go about our business being a distraction — critiquing and speculating and, at times, exasperating.
'All we can do is play'
There were at least a couple sidelong glances from Michigan's Devin Gardner during Monday's session with the media, and there'll undoubtedly be a few more before his senior season is done. That's what happens when a talented team fails to live up to expectations, and then hears about it, week after week.
Likewise, with at least one current player (Shane Morris) taking an ill-advised jab at students for last weekend's early exit during a 34-10 victory over Indiana, and former players — Desmond Howard, Drew Dileo, Taylor Lewan and Elliot Mealer among them — taking shots at the frustrated fan base last week, it's clear there's some work to be done mending fences in Ann Arbor.
That adversarial relationship with the paying customers — students, alums and the rest — is symptomatic of a larger problem with Brandon's tenure, many would argue. (I certainly have.) It's also why the mere mention of social media starts the teeth grinding for so many college coaches.
Still, the Wolverines — and their coach — deserve some credit for sticking with it, despite the losing record (4-5) and the eroding support and the resulting turmoil.
"As has been going on the whole season, there's been distractions outside of football," center Jack Miller said Monday. "But I think the team is able to come together and say, 'Hey, all we can do is play.'"
They'll play for another month, at least, with a shot at playing in a bowl if they can win two of their final three games — at Northwestern, Maryland, at Ohio State.
Focus is on Northwestern
After that, it's anyone's guess, though Hoke's job security seems tenuous, at best, now that Brandon is gone, replaced by former Steelcase CEO Jim Hackett, who also played for Bo Schembchler in the 1970s, on an interim basis.
Hoke, who celebrated his 56th birthday Monday, said he has "a lot of respect" for the AD who hired him nearly four years ago. He praised Brandon for doing "a lot of good things for the university," not that anyone expected Hoke to violate the terms of the former AD's separation agreement, anyway.
And while Hoke says he met only briefly with Hackett — the man now tasked with evaluating him and his program — the homecoming victory over Indiana, the coach plans to sit down with his interim AD for a more extensive talk "sooner rather than later."
First, though, Hoke planned to sit down and watch more cut-ups of Northwestern, this week's opponent. This is exactly what you'd expect from Hoke, who has always been more Rod Marinelli than Rich Rodriguez. And while the 11-11 record the last two seasons is not what anyone expects from this program, there's not much that can be done about that now.
The "front porch" of the university is in a state of disrepair at the moment. And as Mark Bernstein, one of the university regents who pushed for Brandon's ouster, said last month, "Failure is not an option, with respect to the performance of our football team. I'm certain that (Michigan president Mark Schlissel) appreciates that."
Quitting's not an option, either, though. And Hoke certainly appreciates that, even if many others won't.
UM coach says departed AD Dave Brandon did a lot of good things for the university, he looks forward to working with new AD Jim Hackett, and wants to avoid distractions and focus on the game.