I certainly don’t feel sorry for Rich Rodriguez. Considering his exit from West Virginia, I imagine there are many people that are getting a chuckle out of Rich-Rod’s 3 years and done in Ann Arbor. He certainly didn’t have the Wolverines on the fast track back to the top and the New Year’s Day thrashing probably didn’t help his cause, but I wonder when these athletic directors or university presidents are going to realize that you can’t just put on a Michigan jersey, snap your fingers, and have a top-10 program again. I was about to make a joke about Michigan turning into the Washington Redskins of the NCAA, but then I realized that has already happened at Notre Dame. You’d think the maize and blue would learn from their rivals. When you only give a guy 2 or 3 years, what do you expect?
Now, I suppose you could point to John Harbaugh’s immediate impact at Stanford. Saban in Alabama, but as far as I am concerned there are only two ways to turn a program around quickly. One is to get lucky with recruiting. No Andrew Luck pun intended there, but that’s essentially what happened at Stanford. Sure Harbaugh can recruit and has done a nice job, but don’t tell me the program isn’t going to take a step back when Luck leaves. If you stumble upon a guy who can make a difference by himself (Cam Newton), then you’ve got a chance. Perhaps Rich-Rod was on the doorstep with Denard Robinson, but not even the record breaking freshman QB could do it all in one year.
The other way to turn things around I think is probably to test the limits of what is legal and ethical according to the NCAA. Schools get busted every year, so we know it’s happening, it is just a matter of making the trade off and testing how far you can take it before it blows up in your face. Look at USC. There’s a program that returned to prominence under Pete Carroll. Carroll certainly brought some things to the table as the Trojans’ savior, but how much wasn’t above board? The Reggie Bush fiasco is what we know about. Carroll split for the NFL right before everything came down so he gets to keep his nose clean, ‘SC got their 6-8 year run, but where are they now? Does Michigan want to go that route?
I can’t help but think that Rodriguez was a bad hire in the first place considering the way things played out. He was a hot commodity when he arrived, but he brought with him a brand of football totally foreign to the Big Ten and Michigan fans. The QB they had in place, 1st round prospect Ryan Mallett, has Arkansas in a BCS bowl. The kind of athletes and skill players Rodriguez needs didn’t have Michigan on their radar. He had to set about changing everything from the playbook to the perception of the university in the recruiting world. So, Robinson was his first real success, and he only gets one year with the kid. I know there are other factors. Michigan can’t beat Ohio State to save their life, but I thought this year they had at least settled into the new identity and new direction.
My question is, who is going to come in? Someone that runs a similar offense to Rodriguez? Are you going to scrap that and watch Robinson transfer? How long will the new guy get? How long before Michigan isn’t even a job that can attract the top names? If the plan is to go after Harbaugh, there are already grumblings that he won’t come. I think Michigan has really gotten themselves into a mess, and I don’t see a quick way out of it right now.