Then there is the question of why did Rodriguez himself leave West Virginia? He claimed, if I remember correctly, that it had welshed on some promises to build new facilities, and he said that, even though Michigan was losing lots of people to the NFL, you can’t overlook the fact that Michigan is Michigan, which, I take it, is a way of saying he thought Michigan will “reload.” But he had to know, and I gather did know, that the inception at Michigan would be rough because of the difficulty of installing his system. Maybe this wasn’t enough to deter him, and maybe he wanted to play on a bigger stage and believed he would succeed there. Or, as indicated by the bitterness of West Virginians who considered him an already decently or well paid but now self-aggrandizing sellout who left the people of his home state in the lurch, maybe his character isn’t what it should be. He professes to be surprised, by the way, at the depth of West Virginians’ anger at his leaving suddenly and unexpectedly after bringing football glory where it had not existed before. Is he stupid? Did he not understand what college football glory means in America, especially in states like Nebraska and West Virginia which do not have all the same outlets as, say, New York or California?
As well, maybe he didn’t consider that, although the Big Ten is no longer the top of the heap as it was by far in the 1950s when I was growing up, and has now been vastly surpassed for decades by the SEC and the Big 12, nonetheless succeeding in the Big 10 against the likes of Paterno, Tressel, and now a bunch of others too like Dantonio, Ferenz, Fitzgerald, Bielema and others might be a lot harder than achieving success in the weakstick Big East. (I once knew a coach who, though he later became a huge success in the pros, found out how hard it can be to be successful when one goes from an “inferior” college football league to a far better one with lots of smart coaches.)
Nor I must say, do the interviews he gives seem to show much intellectual firepower, since all he seems able to say is we have to go back to work, we have to keep on working and trying to improve, we have to hope the better results we are getting in practice will show up on Saturday too. This was about all he said after the loss to Purdue and his sadness and depression were so visible that one had to feel sorry for him.
It is true, of course, that despite the current disaster, all is not lost yet for the long run. Rodriguez was 3 and 8 in his first year at West Virginia (just as Joe Gibbs lost his first five games when he took over the Redskins with whom he later won three Superbowls, and Jimmie Johnson was, I think, 1 and 15 in his first year in Dallas before later winning some Superbowls). As well, Michigan seems to be playing an inordinate number of freshmen this year, and will likely do so again in 2009, when Rodriguez will have recruited his type of player and the 2008 freshmen are sophomores. If Rodriguez is a good coach, there ought to be major improvement in 2009, and even more in 2010. If he is a good coach, he should be challenging for the Big Ten Title in 2010, if not in 2009, and by 2011, in his fourth year, his team should not only be challenging for the Big Ten Title, but, as in the “old” days, should be in contention for the national championship. If his record is still lousy in 2010, and only the more so if it is still lousy in 2011, Michigan had better cast him out, and do so in plenty of time to come up with a good coach instead of having to conduct a hurried search as it had to do this time. It better cast him out lest its vaunted tradition go down the drain, as it did before under Bump Elliott after almost sixty years of football excellence under Yost, Crisler and others, and lest those expensive luxury suites it is building be relatively unpopulated and a big financial loss.*
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