Mike Hart, Ex-Wolverine

Mike Hart, Ex-Wolverine

March 14, 2024
Mike Hart (image via Yahoo! Sports)

This seems like old-ish news considering it happened a few days ago and Michigan has already found a replacement, but former star running back Mike Hart will not return as Michigan’s running backs coach in 2024. He had been with the program since 2021. Michigan has since replaced him with Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford (more on that in another post).

Hart is Michigan’s all-time leading rusher after playing for the Wolverines from 2004-2007. After a brief NFL career, he then went on to coach for Eastern Michigan, Syracuse, and Indiana before returning to Ann Arbor from 2021-2023. While at Michigan, he won three Big Ten championships and a national championship. He also seemed to have a very positive effect on Michigan’s running backs, fostering the development of Hassan Haskins, Blake Corum, and Donovan Edwards, among others. Haskins (2021) and Corum (2022, 2023) each had 1,000-yard rushing seasons under his tutelage, and he nearly had a second 1,000-yard rusher in 2021 (Corum had 952 yards) and 2022 (Edwards had 991).

Hart had recently been on a “leave of absence” attending to a personal matter, but the writing seemed to be on the wall that he would not return to Michigan’s staff under new head coach Sherrone Moore. It appears Hart has – or at least had – hopes of being Michigan’s head coach someday, but he was passed up for offensive coordinator (by Moore), interim head coach in 2023 (Moore again), and eventually head coach (Moore once more). I’m not saying that had anything to do with Hart’s departure, but from Hart’s perspective, that probably caused some hurt feelings; and from Moore’s perspective, he may feel some concern about whether Hart can buy into the new regime.

On a personal level, I have never been a huge fan of Hart. While yes, I do recognize him as a Michigan great – and he was a lot of fun to watch as a pinball running back – his personality rubbed me the wrong way. I didn’t appreciate his “Little Brother” comments toward Michigan State near the end of his playing career. I didn’t appreciate when he said Jim Harbaugh wasn’t a Michigan Man back in the day when Harbaugh was challenging Michigan to raise its standards, even before Harbaugh was head coach. And I also participated in a coaching clinic where I was not impressed by Hart’s attitude and participation.

Overall, I think Hart is a very good developer of talent. I think he understands ball security, pass protection, mental and physical toughness, reading defenses, etc. But my belief is – and this is, let’s say, educated speculation – that Hart is not exactly the easiest guy to get along with behind closed doors. So when it comes to putting together a staff, I’m not too awfully surprised that Hart and the new coaching regime are going in separate directions.

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