Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Rich Rodriguez lights some fires

As if Michigan didn’t have enough problems with its football program. UM football has always been sort of a target of hatred. That’s what happens when you’re a big, good, long established, well respected football program. People hate you. This is highlighted by one of the greatest (and most bitter) rivalries in all of sports. And they heaped a bunch more ill will on themselves before the ’07 Bowl season when Rich Rodriguez suddenly and shockingly left West Virginia to replace Lloyd Carr.

Now I think most of those Michigan haters are laughing. Coming off a 3-9 disaster of a season, their first in over three decades that they missed a Bowl game, and losing several key players, probably highlighted by the transfer of Ryan Mallett and decommitment of Kevin Newsome (and his subsequent commitment to the Big Ten Nittany Lions), this program really didn’t need more bad news.

But on (or around) Aug 29th, the Detroit Free Press broke a story where several former and current UM players claimed UM was violating NCAA rules governing the amount of time players spend on football activities (read more about this here). While players jumped to his back to defend him and there seem to be a few grass roots movements against the Free Press, RichRod has undeniably become a fairly controversial coach.

The interesting question is, how long can and will fans – and more importantly, the school and its boosters – continue to support him? Has he brought positives to the program? They’re certainly there, such as compiling a Rivals rated top 10 recruiting class in the ’09 off-season. But at this point they’re getting tougher to see in comparison with the negatives that keep piling up.

I think it’s fair to ask the question, “At what point does the school and/or its boosters turn on RichRod?” It’s not that this violation itself will turn the tide – the irony in all this is that UM is probably one of 25+ schools that do the same thing. And it’s not like his defection from WVA will ever cause Michigan fans to loathe him the way WVA fans do…he’s more of a hero for that.

No, the bigger concern has to be the fact that these allegations are made by not just one or two ex-team members, but by several people that include a plurality of current team members. If RichRod has several players not buying into his concept of “team,” and running to tattle on him, there comes a point where the decision makers need to at least look closely at what’s going on. Think Baltimore Ravens at the end of Brian Billick’s tenure. And not that you particularly want the inmates running the prison so to speak, but it becomes tough to win football games if players simply aren’t buying what the coach is selling.

Alright, that’s enough metaphors for now I suppose.

As a more relevant analogy, look at Charlie Weiss and the goodwill he’s burned through in his relatively short tenure at Notre Dame. Coming into the program he was supposed to be a savior. A multi-decade guy. And four years in he can’t build a big winner and is at risk of being shuttled out soon.

Not saying this is imminent for RichRod. I can’t even say for certain he’s losing out on any of the goodwill he’s built with the program. If he’s cleared of these allegations, puts together a winning season, and is back into Bowls on a regular basis, this all washes away quickly.

But what if that doesn’t happen? What if UM gets slapped with probation after finding there were rule violations, and RichRod suffers another losing season or two? Can/will he recover? How long will it take to burn through that goodwill?

Actually these are probably questions best suited for Patrick since he has his pulse on the team FAR more than I ever will. But I do think they’re interesting questions to ponder…

1 comment:

  1. http://michigan.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=982287

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