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November 19, 2008 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-11-19

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8A - Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

0

Rich Rod's biggest regret

Berenson lassos
his first Texan

"I think we took more of a busi-
nesslike approach to it at the start, as
opposed toa more personal approach.
And that's something, in retrospect,
I'd probably have done differently.
"They had no idea what our coach-
es were really like. They didn't know
us.
"Sometimes you get caught up
[in the business aspect] at this level
because, let's face it, it's big dollars,
big importance to a lot of folks. And
I see coaches, myself included, who
don't take the time and effort to be
around the players more in a non-
football atmosphere."
- Rich Rodriguez
"The only thingl wishI would have
had in the last seven, eight months, is
I wish I had more time to spend with
the players.
"My upperclassmen, I haven't
been to their homes. I haven't had a
chance to see where they grew up or
lived or meet some of their coaches. I
met a lot of their parents, but some of
themIhaven't met.
"That's the only regret, is that I
wish I had been able to spend some
time with the players - my assistant
coaches and the staff members, too.
You spend time with them, you know
exactly what makes them tick."
- Rich Rodriguez
Those two quotations look
pretty similar, right? It's the
same person saying essen-
tially the same thing.
But Rodri-
guez said them
seven years
apart.
Rodriguez
made the first
statement to
the Charles-
ton (W. Va.) DAN
Gazette after FELDMAN
his first year at
West Virginia
in 2001. The
second came at his weekly press
conference two days after the Wol-
verines lost to Toledo.
Seven years later, Rodriguez is
repeating the same mistakes that
made the Mountaineers 3-8 in his
first year in Morgantown, W. Va.
Michigan wasn't going to be great
this year - not with just two offen-
sive starters returning and the four
leading tacklers of a year ago depart-
ing. But the Wolverines should have
been better.
And much of the blame falls on
Rodriguez.
Not because he didn't adapt his
spread offense enough. Not because
he didn't name captains before the
season. Not because he took too long
to identify which players should be
starters.
Because Rodriguez forgot the
little things a coach needs to do to

JEREMY CHO/Daly
Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez failed to establish personal relationships with his players until recently.

build a winner.
Going 32-5 and playing in two
BCS bowls in his last three years at
West Virginia will do that to you.
But that's not a legitimate excuse for
leading Michigan to its most losses
in 129 seasons.
Rodriguez admitted he should
have made the effort to know his
players better on a personal level.
He should have known better in the
first place.
"He needs to know what's goingto
'motivate you, and he needs to know
how he can do that best," redshirt
junior right guard David Moosman
said. "And being a player, you need
to know that it's not personal. It's
not an attack against you."
A few weeks ago, Moosman said
there had been some separate issues
between players and coaches, but
they were being worked out.
But Rodriguez announced Tues-
day that sophomore wide receiver
Zion Babb is no longer with the
team and, according to persistent
rumors, sophomore safety Artis
Chambers and freshman running
back Sam McGuffie are also weigh-
ing a transfer.
It's clear Rodriguez hasn't ironed
out all the problems. Distractions
like these are unheard of during
Ohio State week, when all focus is
usually on beating the Buckeyes.
Getting to know the players
should have been a larger empha-
sis in spring practice and fall camp.
Rodriguez could have taken some
time away from going over schemes
and techniques to learn about the
guys who would be executingthem.
It's hard to argue using all that

time to prepare actually paid off.
Just look at the product on the field.
Think the personal connection
between a player and a coach doesn't
matter?
Just look at Michigan's upset of
double-digit favorite Florida in the
Capital One Bowl on New Year's
Day, Lloyd Carr's final game. As
much as Carr tried to downplay that
the bowl was his final game, then-
defensive coordinator Ron English
interrupted Carr's halftime speech.
"Let's play for this man!" English
said, according to the Associated
Press.
The Wolverines went wild and
finished their throttling of the
Gators.
That was a Michigan team that
didn't beat Appalachian State and
lost its final two regular-season
games. But those Wolverines loved
Carr and weren't goingto let him go
out with a loss.
Senior nose tackle Terrance Tay-
lor talked fondly Monday about
Carr's habit of punching him every
time the two crossed paths. Taylor
said he doesn't have a custom like
that with Rodriguez.
Rodriguez will develop a similar
rapport with his players over the
next few years, but he should have
known to force it sooner. He was
just too stubborn, too set in his ways
that had been so successful at West
Virginia duringthe last few years.
This doesn't mean Rodriguez
won't win in Ann Arbor. In fact, his
headstrong nature suggests he will.
Rodriguez is 9-31-1 in his first years
at a job, but he's 99-39-1 in his other
12 years as a head coach.

His track record suggested strug-
gles this year, and it says he will be
successful from here on out. If he
sticks to his plan, there's no reason
his future at Michigan won't follow
a similar script.
But this is his fourth head-coach-
ing gig. He should have learned how
to handle this transition year better.
Shortly before last Saturday's pre-
game Senior Day festivities, senior
defensive back Brandon Harrison
couldn't find his parents, who he
thought would drive up from Ohio
for the game. Rodriguez saw Har-
rison's concern, grabbed him and
said, 'C'mon, let's go.' Rodriguez
walked by Harrison's side under the
banner and then hugged him.
It turns out an accident on the
highway slowed Harrison's par-
ents, and they had just made it to
the tunnel when he walked across
the field. But he won't forget the
kindness of Rodriguez, who Har-
rison said could have told him to
stay back or walk alone.
"I just see him a whole different
way," Harrison said. "I used to look
at him as just my head coach, but
now I look at him, it's just a different
type of bond."
But it's too late. The Wolverines
will go into Columbus on Saturday
with virtually no chance of upset-
ting Ohio State, and much of the rea-
son is because their coach let them
down.
Rodriguez was at Harrison's side
Saturday. But he should have been
there all season.
- Feldman can be reach
at danfeld@umich.edu.

By NICOLE AUERBACH
Daily Sports Writer
When you think of Texas,
one sport stands above the rest,
almost as a state religion - foot-
ball.
But ever since the NHL's Min-
nesota North Stars relocated
to Dallas in 1993, hockey has
emerged as a growing sport in the
land of the Alamo.
And now, the Michigan hockey
team is reaping the benefits of
the sport's increased popular-
ity amidst the baking sun of the
Texan plains.
Yesterday, Michigan coach Red
Berenson announced he received
three National Letters of Intent
for the 2009-2010 season, includ-
ing one from the program's first
Texan, Chris Brown.
"(College hockey) follows pro
hockey," Berenson said. "That's
why you're seeing kids come out
of Texas. I guarantee if there
was no pro hockey in Texas, you
wouldn't see Chris Brown playing
up here.
"If there was no pro hockey in
California, (sophomore defense-
man) Scooter Vaughan wouldn't
be here playing on our team. Pro
hockey in particular, but even
the minors, has triggered a lot of
interest in this sport."
Brown, a Dallas-area native,
stands tall at 6-foot-2,195 pounds,
which will make him one of the
biggest forwards on Michigan's
roster.
The NHL Central Scouting
Service ranked Brown as an 'A'
prospect, meaning he will likely
be drafted in the first or second
round of the 2009 NHL Entry
Draft in June.
Michigan assistant coach Mel
Pearson said Brown could be a
first-line winger for the Wolver-
ines down the road. He said he
was impressed by Brown's good
hands and big, heavy shot.
The Texan's arrival could be
the beginning of a new trend
- talented hockey players hail-
ing from all across the country.
Berenson said he thinks college
teams could sprout up in the

South, though he admits there are
several obstacles to that expan-
sion. He didn't elaborate, but
some of those challenges could
include the lack of facilities and
organized teams.
Along with Brown, forwards
Kevin Lynch and A.J. Treais -
both Detroit-area natives - also
signed National Letters of Intent
yesterday in the early signing
period.
The three recruits currently
play for the Ann-Arbor based U.S.
National Team Development Pro-
gram, where Brown has acclimat-
ed himself to the cold. Since 1999,
19 other Wolverines have played
for the program before transi-
tioningto the college game.
"Michigan kids look at Michi-
gan, and they know our program,"
Pearson said. "They're excited
to come here, and obviously, we
have a better feel for those play-
ers having watched them over a
couple of years."
Pearson said he expects Lynch
to be a hard-nosed, two-way play-
er when he arrives next fall.
Berenson compared Treais to
5-foot-10 former Wolverine T.J.
Hensick (2004-07), saying Treais,
two inches shorter than Hensick,
has the potential to be a prolific
small centerman. Hensick led the
nation in points his senior season
(69).
The trio will provide Michi-
gan with a combination of size,
skill and speed next year, Pearson
said.
Six players will graduate next
spring, including four forwards
and a goaltender, which means
the coaches have many holes to
fill. Yesterday's signings were just
the start.
"We've got eyes on other play-
ers,"saidPearson,who mentioned
needing a forward, a defense-
man, and perhaps an extra goalie.
"We're happy to get it started
with these three kids, and we'll
go from there to address different
needs."
But the Michigan coaching
staff knows one thing - it no lon-
ger needs to confine that search to
just the country's coldest regions.

M EN'S BASK E TBA LL
On storied stage, M
has chance to shine

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U N I V E R S I T Y.

I

Game against UCLA
is Blue's first real test
At yesterday's press con-
ference, Michigan coach
John Beilein said that, win
or lose, tomorrow's game is not
a statement
game for the
Wolverines.
Well, let's
take a look at
the basics: K
Opponent:
No. 4 UCLA,
one of the ANDY
most storied REID
programs in
college bas-
ketball and a
legitimate national title contender.
Arena: World-famous Madison
Square Garden.
Stage: A nationally televised
primetime matchup in the semifi-
nal round of the 2K Sports Classic.
Stakes: An ever-important early
season RPI-booster that could sky-
rocket Michiganto NCAA Tourna-
ment consideration.
Tell me, Beilein. How exactly
would that not be a statement
win?
Talking about the game, Bei-
lein was a little timid, calling it
a measuring stick for his team's
improvement since last year. If the
Wolverines lose, they'll know what
needs to be worked on.
But what if they win?
"(It's) awful early to say it's a
statement game," Beilein said.
It may be early, but with the
nation watching tomorrow, it's
time for the Wolverines to step
into the spotlight.
The coach has a point - it's just
a few games into the year, but that
should make tomorrow even more
important. UCLA looked sluggish
at home in the second round of the
2K Sports Classic, squeaking outa
64-59 win against Miami (Ohio). If
the Bruins have similar problems
tomorrow, and Michigan pounces
early, hangs on and wins - well,

more power to the Wolverines.
They still would have beaten
a top-five team. They still would
have performed in a tournament
setting. Yes, that definitely sounds
like a statement.
It's not the team the Bruins are
now.It'stheteamtheywillbecome
tournament time. If UCLA hasn't
perfected its offense yet, so what?
No one's going to remember that
if Michigan's "Key Win" column
includes the Bruins during Bubble
Watch. A win against UCLA is still
a win against UCLA - and I can
guarantee you that, come March,
the Bruins will contend for a No.
1 seed.
And chances are, Beilein's not
downplaying this game in the lock-
er room like he did at the presser.
Junior DeShawn Sims and sopho-
more Manny Harris talked about
the statement awinagainst the Bru-
ins would make, and that's exactly
how they should be thinking.
Sims's and Harris's faces lit
up when asked about this game.
They're excited to play. Their prac-
tice took on a new level of inten-
sity. And they're clearly using the
opportunity to play one of the best
teams in the nation as motivation.
Excitement, motivation, inten-
sity - no one used these words to
describe last year's lackluster cam-
paign. The players want to use the
term "statement game" to get up
for the Bruins.
And why not? Let's be honest -
this is one. It's not only important
for this season, but also Beilein's
efforts to rebuild the program.
The Wolverines don't need to
win tomorrow to get there, but
a nationally televised win over
UCLA would certainly be a push in
the right direction.
This game - whether it's played
on Nov.20, March 20 or anywhere
in between - is more than just a
measuringstick.
It's a chance to prove the Wol-
verines are back.
- Reid can be reached at
andyreid@umich.edu.
4

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