The house in Morgantown finally sold. Rich Rod is at Michigan to stay.
As hard as I try to stay away, I just can’t. That is the thing that is so endearing about Rich Rodriguez. Lloyd Carr and Jim Tressel, as the bloggers write, meh. Jim Harbaugh and Les Miles are too rah, rah and, in their old age, seem likely to revert to the arrogant Michigan ways. Most other coaches, although I can’t claim to know much about a lot, seem to have lie-to-your-face, bags under their eyes workaholic, too clean to be true, or other qualities. Mike Leach is another character, although one player’s father and a big head brought him temporarily down. RR is a character, and if you give him enough time, he will grow on you.
He too, got too big for West Virginia: Michigan needed someone, and wanted him, and he wanted change. No one really stopped to think that it could be different and difficult. We’re all fools. The money is big, as is the market and the expectations, and we think the parts are interchangeable; do a huge search and pay the right bucks and everything will be status quo. Thank God for exceptions.
The human story started with the downward slide—hard to really follow if you consider it just as a top manager running a perennially successful machine, but it was time for a change. Good change, and maybe difficult change, was needed. There had to be modernization. But it was a couple of years in the making, the switch to RR, and the device wasn’t well-oiled, it wasn’t in top form…
The “old ball coach” is a moniker that is now floating around and a reference to it was used the other day by RR. He is a very good coach with an outstanding record of success. He relates well to today’s players, is plugged into coaching and recruiting circles, and is attuned to the modern college game. Damn, people can be shortsighted. Some, many, at Michigan give him a hard time because he isn’t a “Michigan man” and he says “ain’t never.”
How’s this for a lesson, if not a way of life: Let’s learn from each other, get along, work at improving, and mature. RR didn’t inherit an intact pro-style offense or an upper-tier defense. His immaturity rubbed some existing players the wrong way and that made it worse. Perhaps people figured that with the big contract he would have a magic wand and it would all improve instantly. No, it doesn’t work that way and he had to rebuild block by block. He has, and he is, doing that, and he has never complained and he has never blamed. The recruiting, even under these circumstances, has been amazing. The fan base is unquestionably engaged; while the national pundits call for RR’s head most, those who follow (e.g., on the blogs), see the potential and recognize the situation (i.e., the reasons behind the decline and the signs of improvement). Under Dave Brandon’s leadership and an immediate challenge almost beyond description, RR is maturing for all to see. He has to and he will. Will it show up as wins at the University of Michigan? He will mature and improve.
And so, the subject of sanctions… Ann Arbor is a tough place—the academics, the sports, the size, and even the weather; mostly though, it is the people and the expectations. In this case, the people—coaches, former players, overseers, enforcers, etc.—and the expectations clashed, and it happened publicly and with penalties. It is better that it happened the way it did than if it had been repressed, covered-up, stonewalled, paid-off, or whatever else could have happened. One of the best things to come out of it all is the “transparency” employed by Mr. Brandon and others. Another is that RR, Barwis, et. al., will not do it again.
As Rich Rodriguez said recently, “Everything’s going to be OK.”