Wednesday, November 18, 2009

MICHIGAN WEEK: RODRIGUEZ HAS A WHOLE LOT ON HIS PLATE

Photo of Rich Rodriguez by the Associated Press

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It hasn't been the magical ride Rich Rodriguez had envisioned when he accepted the head coaching job of the Michigan football team prior to the 2008 season.

Boy, oh boy, not at all!

Not only has Rodriguez had problems winning football games on the field — at the winningest program in history, we might add — but off the field, he and his program have been investigated more times than Halliburton.

Whether it's an alleged recruiting violation, conducting illegal practices (allegedly), not turning in time logs or even destroying important documents (allegedly) at West Virginia — his former gig — controversy seems to follow Rodriguez around like that dust cloud hovering over the head of the character Pig Pen, in the famous comic strip, Peanuts.

"I don't know how anybody could envision this much stuff," Rodriguez told the Detroit Free Press on Monday. "A lot of it did catch me off-guard. That's not something you see in a manual."

What we do see in the manual — or better yet, the media guide — is Rodriguez's eight wins in two seasons as head coach of Michigan, with just three victories coming against Big Ten foes.

Oh, did we mention that Michigan is the winningest program in history?

It seems that Rodriguez is out of place in Ann Arbor. We're talking about a football program that's been historically more prim and proper than The Brady Bunch. Heck, their most famous player is actually named Brady, for crying out loud!

Rodriguez, on the other hand, isn't as clean and wholesome. Shoot, the mayor of Grant Town, West Virginia — Rodriguez's hometown — ordered that the two signs that read "Home of Rich Rodriguez" be taken down permanently. Ouch!

Of course, Rodriguez still feels his way is the right way.

"We can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes it's hard when you're losing to see that, but we can see it."

That light at the end of the tunnel could be an on-coming train, though.

There's no secret that many Michigan alumni and fans didn't want Rodriguez in the first place. Many wanted a "Michigan Man" to replace former head coach Lloyd Carr.

Sooooo ... it doesn't help matters much for Rodriguez that the top coaching prospect in the country is ... well ... a "Michigan Man."

Stanford head coach, Jim Harbaugh — a former Michigan quarterback — is the hottest name in the college coaching circle at the moment, and naturally, Ann Arbor is being labeled as the perfect landing spot for the former Wolverines standout come season's end.

Harbaugh, in just three seasons in Palo Alto, has successfully transformed Stanford from PAC 10 cellar dwellers to Rose Bowl contenders.

Oh, did we mention Stanford is NOT the winningest football program in history?

With all of these allegations, losing seasons, Harbaugh's name being thrown around, not to mention having to face arch-rival and Big Ten champion Ohio State this Saturday at Michigan Stadium — how in the world is Rodriguez dealing with all of this mess?

"You just have to deal with it when it comes," Rodriguez told the Free Press. "You just have to trust your judgment and hope that eventually everybody will see that the right path is going on."

The truth is, if Rodriguez doesn't beat the Buckeyes this weekend and get his Wolverines bowl eligible, that "right path" the coach is referring to will surely be heading "right" out of Ann Arbor.