Michigan, Brandon need to get the right man this timeWritten by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon held a press conference to announce the firing of head football coach, he had a rather poignant remark when it came to his former employee’s sleeping habits.
“I don’t think Rich Rodriguez has had a peaceful night sleep since he arrived in Ann Arbor,” Brandon said during Wednesday afternoon’s session.
While Rodriguez maybe sleeping a little more soundly these days, many of the Wolverine faithful are not.
Some had called the marriage between Rodriguez and Michigan an awkward one right from the start.
There was the very public spat between Rodriguez and his then former school, West Virginia University, over a hefty buyout clause in his contract. The Mountaineer athletic department accused their former coach of everything from being a traitor to stealing files from the football office after his departure.
Things didn’t get much better from there. Rodriguez garnered a 15-22 record in his three seasons with Michigan, including a 1-11 record against opponents ranked in the Top 25 and a combined 0-6 record against rivals Michigan State and Ohio State.
The defense under Rodriguez was equally appalling this season, ranking near the bottom of many NCAA statistical categories.
Brandon said during Rodriguez’s tenure that Michigan suffered its worst three year stretch for the historic program.
Throw in major NCAA violations for abusing practice time limits, and Brandon and the athletic department had seen enough.
When Rodriguez was hired as head coach in December of 2007, the thought was that he would change the culture at Michigan and maybe even the Big Ten.
The first coach to be hired outside of legendary Wolverine coach Bo Schembechler’s coaching tree, Rodriguez never seemed to quite fit the mold of a so called “Michigan man.”
Rodriguez’s tenure is starting to have a rippling effect into recruiting as well, where the program lost top recruit Dee Hart to Alabama. With the announcement of the firing on Wednesday, the recruiting class could lose more athletes as they ponder where they will fit in under a new coach at Michigan.
It has been reported that current Stanford coach and former Michigan football player Jim Harbaugh, who is a candidate for the job, is unlikely to take the job at Michigan according to several media outlets.
Other candidates who have been mentioned are current Louisiana State coach Les Miles and current San Diego State coach Brady Hoke, both former assistant coaches at Michigan.
Regardless of who is being considered for the position, one thing has become certain. The next head coach at Michigan needs to be the perfect hire.
The Michigan program has undoubtedly fallen on hard times. The numbers under Rodriguez speak for themselves.
Whoever takes over is going to inherit a roster full of players that fit the spread offense of Rich Rodriguez, something that few coaches run.
The new coach is also going to inherit a group of bruised egos. This is a team of young men who have been a part of many poor performances in several big games.
Dave Brandon knows this too, which is why getting the right man for the job is so crucial this time.
The right hire will have to be able to blend this group of talent with a system that can work on and off the field.
Sadly, for the maize and blue, even with the right hire, it will take time to restore this program to prominence.
What can’t happen is for Brandon and company to bring in another Rich Rodriguez.
The program is already teetering on the brink, and a poor hire could set this program back even further.
Further exacerbating the need for a successful coach is the athletic department’s dependence on the football program.
“The University of Michigan Athletic Department cannot be successful unless Michigan football leads our success. It is the primary revenue generator. It is the primary brand builder. It’s the program that leads the way,” Brandon said.
With all of these concerns looming for the next coach, Michigan has to get it right this time.
Otherwise college football’s most successful program still has plenty more dark days to weather.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. He is also the co-host of the “Odd Couple Sports Show” on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA and can be heard every weekday from at 10 a.m. to noon. He can also be seen weekly on the “Friday Night Frenzy Tailgate Show” on NBC 24’s America One.