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It was the morning Chris Scelfo was officially named the head football coach at Tulane University.
Green Wave offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez was in his office, one floor and about 50 feet from where the press conference was taking place. Rodriguez was crying right in front of a reporter.
My opinion of Rodriguez was always high. That day, it was even higher. Rodriguez badly wanted to coach his players. And, when he knew he wasn’t going to get that chance, he didn’t stick to a canned script. With Rich, what you see is what you get.
On the afternoon that Tulane beat BYU to finish off a perfect season, Rodriguez did an on field interview with Harry McCulla for ABC 26. When he and McCulla finished, Rodriguez was carried off the field by several players.
My points are these. One, many at Michigan will chuckle at Rodriguez’s display of emotion, but that is genuinely who he is.
Two, one of Rodriguez’s strengths as a coach is his ability to be very hard on players in practice, yet easily connect with many of them.
At many a Tulane practice, Rich Rodriguez would give quarterback Shaun King a tongue lashing. But King understood that if he did what his coach said, he would become a better player. It is because of Rodriguez that King went on to play in the National Football League.
So this week, when the Detroit News reported that Rodriguez and his staff were being investigated by Michigan for working players past NCAA mandated time limits, I wasn’t surprised.
Rodriguez is a very demanding person. He will get in your face and require more from you than maybe you thought possible.
And he has one other “issue” that some at Michigan might find to be a problem.
Even though he hails from West Virginia, he sounds like he’s from the South. That’s right. At Michigan, a place that prides itself on diversity and respect for difference of opinion, there is a built in prejudice. Not only is Rodriguez not a “Michigan man,” but he speaks with an accent that clearly says ‘country.’
That’s why, when he was offered the Alabama job before Nick Saban, he should have accepted. He is a far better fit in Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge than he will ever be in Ann Arbor. But if given time, he will win big at Michigan.
The haughties in Ann Arbor will never admit this, but Michigan football in the last years of Lloyd Carr was a mess. The loss to Appalachian State to kickoff the 2007 season ripped off a scab that had been growing for awhile.
Ohio State currently enjoys a five game win streak in the series, longest for the archrivals of the Wolverines in the series. And, anyone who has seen the Buckeyes against SEC teams in recent BCS championship games knows this: Ohio State is very good but not elite.
But they own Michigan because they have done a much better job recruiting and coaching. Rich will change that. He is recruiting speed for his spread offense and more speed and athleticism for his defense. Both items are often in short supply throughout the Big Ten.
If given time with his system and his players, he will turn the table on THE Ohio State University.
That’s if the politically correct police in Ann Arbor and/or the NCAA don’t get him first.