Rodriguez committed despite hardship at MichiganWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
To say that things have not gone according to plan, in Rich Rodriguez’s first two years as the head coach at The University of Michigan, might be an understatement.
“It has been a very challenging time, that’s for sure,” Rodriguez said. “But I am confident that we are headed in the right direction.”
Rodriguez did not exactly get off to the start that most fans hoped he would. Before he even set foot on the football field, he was engaged in a public feud with his former employer, West Virginia University.
To make matters worse, Rodriguez had a player leave the team during spring practice, when Justin Boren transferred to The Ohio State University, citing a lack of family and core values from Rodriguez and his new staff.
“There have been many challenges that were unforeseen before we came here to say the least,” Rodriguez said.
Things did not get much better that fall when Rodriguez’s Wolverines posted a 3-9 record for the 2008 season, the school’s worst in the history of Michigan football. Throw in an offseason NCAA rules violation and another losing season and Rodriguez has quickly become one of the most vilified men in college football.
For all of the programs problems, Rodriguez said the losing has been the toughest thing for everyone to swallow at Michigan.
“Nobody likes to lose,” he said. “I am not accustomed to it, and neither are our players and fans. It has really been tough, and we carry that with us every day.”
Rodriguez has been tasked with reshaping a program, and he and his staff have had to accomplish that feat with a lot of young talent. Rodriguez has begun to assemble a very talented core for the program that will be counted on to right the ship in 2010.
“We had many of the young guys who were forced to take the field for us the first two years here. That experience, coupled with the guys we will bring in this season, is going to be crucial to our success this fall,” he said.
The Wolverines have struggled mightily on defense in Rodriguez’s first two seasons at Michigan, and the coach said that has been one of the main focuses of Michigan’s offseason.
The Wolverines allowed opposing teams to score an average of 27.5 points per contest last season in 2009.
Opposing teams racked up almost 5,000 yards of offense against Michigan. Rodriguez said he is confident defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will turn the unit around.
“We have been paying a lot of our attention to defense this year,” Rodriguez said. “Coach Robinson and his staff have a good plan in place, and we are going to focus on putting our players in a position to succeed.”
However, the defense’s improvement might be the least of Rodriguez’s problems. On Feb. 22, the NCAA infractions committee accused Michigan of five major rules violations, including failure to foster an atmosphere of compliance within the program.
Per NCAA rules, Rodriguez was not allowed to discuss the specifics of the ongoing investigation into practice violations during this interview, and he declined to comment about any of the parameters surrounding the situation.
For all of the issues on and off the field, many have lambasted the coach for the fall that the Michigan program has experienced since Rodriguez took over as head coach.
Many fans and pundits of college football believe Rodriguez’s job is on the line this upcoming season, and nothing short of a winning campaign and a bowl game appearance can save the West Virginia native’s job.
“I don’t read and listen to everyone else’s expectation for us,” Rodriguez said. “The benchmarks and numbers don’t mean much to me and the team, but we are going to measure our success in the progress we make in 2010. We need to take steps to make progress on and off the field, and we are confident people would see it this fall.”
Despite all of the struggles Michigan football is embroiled in, Rodriguez remains committed to making the program a success that all fans of the maize and blue can be proud of. He and his staff are confident success is just around the corner.
“Hang in there with us,” Rodriguez said. “We are so appreciative of the support of our fans through some tough times, and we are working hard to get better every day to make our fans proud. I am very confident that people will see all that hard work pay off for us on the field this season.”
Rodriguez to honor scholar athletes
Rich Rodriguez will speak at the National Football Foundation Scholar Athlete dinner at The Pinnacle in Maumee on March 8. The head coach, who is entering his third season at Michigan, said he is excited for the opportunity to speak at this year’s dinner.
“These young athletes deserve to be honored for their work on the football field, but also for all of their success in the classroom,” Rodriguez said. “Plus, any time I can help out an organization such as the National Football Foundation is great. We, as coaches, owe them for the outstanding job they do for promoting excellence in football and in the classroom.”
The dinner also gives Michigan’s coach an opportunity to come to the Glass City, a place that has a special place in Rodriguez’s heart.
“I love Toledo,” he said. “There are so many great U of M fans down there, and I have so many friends and supporters that live in Toledo. I am looking forward to coming and visiting one of my favorite places.”
Tickets for the dinner are $45, and for an additional $30, fans can attend a special reception with coach Rodriguez before the dinner. Tickets can be purchased by calling Team Sports at (419) 865-TEAM (8326).