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January 06, 2011 - Image 4

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The Michigan Daily, 2011-01-06

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4A - Thursday, January 6, 2011

4 Th d Jnr ,0The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

J11E 1Jidiigan &a11j
Edited and managed by students at
the University of Michigan since 1890.
420 Maynard St.
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
tothedaily@michigandaily.com

STEPHANIE STEINBERG
EDITOR IN CHIEF

MICHELLE DEWITT
and EMILY ORLEY
EDITORIAL PAGE EDITORS

KYLE SWANSON
MANAGING EDITOR

I don't think Rich Rodriguez has had a peaceful night(s)
sleep since he arrived in Ann Arbor.'
- Michigan Athletic Director David Brandon when asked about his thoughts on Rich Rodriguez's career on
Wednesday, as reported by The Michigan Daily.

Unsigned editorials reflect the official position of the Daily's editorial board. All other signed articles
and illustrations represent solelythe views of their authors.
(Re)raising the bar
The new coach must meet 'U' football standards
The Michigan football program is undoubtedly one of
the most important institutions at the University. Many
displays of school spirit involve sporting a football jer-
sey around.campus or cheering on the football team at the Big
House. But lately, being a Michigan fan hasn't maintained its
appeal. The team has been shrouded in issues of NCAA viola-
tions, lack of public support for the coach and serious concerns
about the future of the program. And with coach Rich Rodriguez
heading out of Ann Arbor, it's crucial that decisions about the
team's future are centered on restoring public perception of the
program to a level consistent with the winngingest program in
college football.

Fit not flair

Rodriguez was fired yesterday afternoon
- a decision that was announced at a press
conference by University Athletic Direc-
tor David Brandon. Rodriguez's overall
record, Big Ten record and bowl game per-
formance were all concerns that have been
subject to much recent discussion. At the
press conference, Brandon talked about the
variety of factors that went into his deci-
sion and the need for a change within the
program. No decision has been made yet
about who the next coach will be - though
many names have been tossed around -
but Brandon has criteria in mind. He also
wants to return the team to its former
status of Big Ten champions and national
championship contenders.
Football at the University is a culture in
and of itself. With one of the largest alumni
bases of any school, Michigan football fans
can be found around the world. And while
fans want the team to win games and be
associated with success, it's equally impor-
tant that the team is associated with a
positive image. Lately, this hasn't been the
case. It's unfair to blame this entirely on
Rodriguez, but when a new coach'comes
in he is going to need to change more than
just the defense. Brandon spoke at the
press conference about fan expectations
and the importance of the team meeting

these expectations. The new coach needs
to restore the program to the level that fans
expect of Michigan football and regain the
support of the University community.
While football is important for the spirit
of the school, the reality is that it's a busi-
ness. The team generates millions of dol-
lars in revenue each year, and Rodriguez
was one of the highest-paid coaches in
the sport, making more than $2.5 million
in 2009, according to a USA Today report.
Additionally, a large portion of the team's
funding comes from alumni donations and
many alumni have expressed their dissat-
isfaction with the program's downturn.
Michigan football can't continue to gen-
erate money for itself, and the city of Ann
Arbor if an unsuccessful team turns off
fans. An underperforming team is bad for
the business of Michigan football, which
makes finding a successful coach that
much more important.
Big Ten schools are about sports, and the
University is no exception. While athletics
is by no means the most important focus
on campus, it's indisputably part of the
campus culture. Whether the new"coach is
a "Michigan Man" or someone less famil-
iar, he needs to understand what football
means to the school, and he must meet
expectations.

,602. 22. And 38. Those were
the numbers it took to finally
sink now former Michigan foot-
ball coach Rich
Rodriguez. It's -
been 2,602 days
since Michigan
has won a game
against Ohio State;
22 losses in his ten- -
ure (18 in the Big
Ten); and perhaps"
most damning, the
38-point loss in the RYAN
Gator Bowl, which
marked the larg- KNAPP
est defeat in a bowl
game for Michigan
in the football pro-
gram's history. Simply put, Rodriguez
wasn't a good fit for Michigan.
Let's not sugar coat what happened
in the three years that Rodriguez has
been here at the University. Though
his Michigan career was pockmarked
by back-to-back losing seasons and
NCAA violations, Rodriguez was
doomed from the start. Inheriting a
team that lost its starting quarterback,
its all-time leading rusher and a pair of
receivers - coupled with a completely
revamped style of offense - Rodriguez
had his work cut out for him.
Along with drawingthe ireofalum-
ni and former players for not being a
"Michigan Man," Rodriguez strug-
gled at first to morph the team from
the three yards and a cloud of dust into
a high-octane, quick-pace, run-first
spread offense. For fans and alumni
that were clamoring to win immedi-
ately, he was rebuilding the Michigan
program at aless than acceptable pace.
While a lot went wrong in his three
years here, Rodriguez, as he detailed
in a November press conference,
didn't suddenly become "stupid over-
night." He has a great offensive mind
and was loyal to his players and staff

- almost to a fault. Players remained
loyal to Rodriguez even when they
knew the end was coming. He never
once blamed the failures of the team
on any individual player or staff mem-
ber, even when it may have been clear
that the defensive side of the ball
wasn'tgetting the job done.
But instead of rectifying the prob-
lem or making changes, Rodriguez
simply sat back and kept things at sta-
tus quo. I refuse to believe after sev-
eral weeks of watching the sieve of a
defense be shred by opponents, that
the 3-3-5 defense was the best scheme
for the team to run. Instead of adapt-
ing his scheme to the players and per-
sonnel, Rodriguez and his staff were
stubborn - trying to fit a square peg
into a round hole. Rodriguez went
with what was successful for him
in the past, and in the end it burned
him. If you believe that a Michigan
defensive unit starting a former stu-
dent walk-on, two true freshmen and
a nomadic senior - who was flipping
between offensive and defense during
his first three years in the secondary
- could be successful, then you are
either nuts or defensive coordinator
Greg Robinson.
Something needs to be done before
Michigan becomes like Notre Dame -
scrambling after every three or four
years of mediocrity to look for the
next hot name coach out there. I hope
David Brandon will make the decision
that is best for the program and not
placate the masses that are hollering
for the names being bandied by the
press. However, I do hope that whoev-
er takes over will have full support of
the fans, alumni and administration -
something I'm not too sure Rodriguez
had during his three years here at the
University.
Let's get one thing straight, the
myth that the coach needs to be a
Michigan Man should be put to rest.

Bo Schembechler came to the Univer-
sity after serving as the head coach of
MiamiOhioandevenspenttimeon the
staff of Woody Hayes and that team
down to the south. Michigan needs
to hire the best-fitting coach possible.
We need a coach that can embrace the
tradition of Michigan, but also fix the
decline of a program that may be one
more coaching mistake from becom-
ing a has-been program.
Rodriguez was a
square peg in a
round hole.
Michigan needs a coach who will
command the respect of players, stu-
dents, alumni and former Wolverine
players. We've tried the hot name
coach tactic, and it ultimately didn't
work out. Fans clamoring for Jim Har-
baugh or even Les Miles may be disap-
pointed if either of the two Michigan
Men fail to leave their already stable
jobs to come to Michigan. But that
doesn't mean there aren't competent
candidates that can return the pro-
gram to the top.
Goodbye, Rich Rodriguez, it cer-
tainly has been a roller coaster ride.
You've definitely had good moments
with the last-minute wins against
Notre Dame last season and thethrill-
ing overtime win against Illinois this
season. While you may not be forever
known as a Michigan Man, you gave
it your best shot, and I have no doubt
that you and your offense will catch on
somewhere else.
- Ryan Knapp can be reached
at rknapp@umich.edu.

The Daily is looking for a diverse group of strong, informed, passionate
writers to be columnists for the winter semester. Columnists write a
700-800 word column every other week on a topic of their choosing.
If you are an opinionated and talented writer, consider applying.
E-MAIL MICHELLE DEWITT AT DEWITTM@MICHIGANDAILY.COM FOR MORE INFORMATION.

EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBERS:
Aida Ali, Will Butler, Eaghan Davis, Michelle DeWitt, Ashley Griesshammer,
Erika Mayer, Harsha Nahata, Emily Orley, Harsha Panduranga,
Teddy Papes, Roger Sauerhaft, Andrew Weiner
MICHAEL BERTENTHAL
The "Michigan Man" curse

ATHREY KRISHNAKUMAR|

Support is essential for success

0

I hear a lot of talking heads say that the Rich
Rodriguez experiment has failed at Michigan
because he and his audience failed to see eye to
eye "culturally."
Whether or not the common fans or the true
stakeholders (big boosters) have led this upris-
ing, we'll never know. After all, which came
first: the chicken or the egg?
You and I both know Rodriguez was never
given a fair shake since he landed in Ann
Arbor more than three years ago. The skep-
tics grumbled initially, then probably helped
expose his faults just one disappointing season
into the rebuilding process. This all boiled over
into "self-imposed sanctions." Whatever that
means, many claim it was the first big, black-
and-blue eye for the program.
He's not a "Michigan Man." He's more of a bro
- anativeson from aplace where "wild and won-
derful" once constituted a state slogan. I'm pretty
sure I heard the student section start chanting
"read a book!" as he walked the periphery of
Michigan Stadium during the Big Chill, his prize
quarterback at the flank, his head lowered.
The point is that, apparently, there are great
expectations on this campus.
I must say, however, that there is no short,
results-based list of why Rich Rod's Blue never
crossed our particular hype threshold. Holisti-
cally, however, the football team under Rodri-
guez just never satisfied our personal taste for
the top self
Here are a few reasons: He made few con-
cessions. He consistently neglected two sides
of the ball - special teams and defense. He
didn't recruit defensive players well enough.
He perhaps insisted on a 3-3-5, when that won't
cut it in the Big Ten without the accompany-
ing talent - or ever. His offensive play calling
in the red zone was ineffective. Perhaps he also
lacks in the equivocation department.
Some have argued that the consummate
Michigan Man is one of unusual integrity. But
maybe this criterion is either too tall an order

or a dying breed these days.
Today's NCAA and its member athletic
departments, all hankering for a piece of the
TV revenue pie, make honesty a rare corporate
commodity.
A local barber of all people initially told me
that Rodriguez is scantly visible within the
Ann Arbor community. This came in stark
contrast to sightings of former football coach
Lloyd Carr making keynote speeches at worthy
student organization events, such as a fund-
raising banquet for Camp Kesem - a student-
run summer camp for children with parents
who have or had cancer.
I swear, even Michigan basketball coach
John Beilein, a fellow West Virginian, has been
seen roaming the Michigan Union, helping
student-athletes pick out the perfect computer
from the computer Showcase and leading tours
for recruits at the second-floor Billiards and
Games Room. These persons, and some of their
predecessors, most likely approach Michigan
Man status.
Coaches are traditionally supposed to
emblazon the University. Despite our sky boxes
and future night games, Ann Arbor may still be
a place where these values matter. Attention to
corporate social responsibility, therefore, can
be checked and affected by the consumer - in
this case the ardent fans - as well as less con-
spicuous financial boosters.
Surely, the time is now for the University's
Athletic Director David Brandon to find a new
head football coach, justified alone by that
abysmal win-loss record in importantgames. A
fitting conclusion to a historic, if suddenly infa-
mous, stint for Michigan's student body.
Interestingly, we will never know if Rich
Rod could have silenced the critics by just spit-
ting out a winning product.
Which comes first, egg or chicken?
Michael Berthenthal is a Ford
School of Public Policy senior.

No less than three years ago, as the head coach of West
Virginia University, Rich Rodriguez spearheaded argu-
ably the nation's best team to a Fiesta Bowl victory over
the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners. Though the Mountaineers
were led on the field by then-interim coach Bill Stewart,
there was no denying that the team and its performance
on the field, an absolute white-wash of the perennial
power Sooners, was a product solely that of Rodriguez's
handiwork.
My, what a difference three short - and for many very,
very long - years can make.
Once one of the most highly sought-after and respect-
ed coaches in the nation, Rodriguez is now unemployed,
relieved from his head coaching duties after three turbu-
lent years at the University of Michigan. Based on pure
results, it's hard to argue with Athletic Director David
Brandon's decision to fire Rodriguez. Three seasons that
fell well below the expectations held in Ann Arbor, no
noticeable development on the defensive side of the ball
and of course the embarrassing NCAA investigation that
has left a blemish on the once - pristine program, all
occurred with Rodriguez at the helm.
Many feel, however, that the entire mess could have
been avoided by not hiring Rodriguez in the first place.
From sport pundits to alumni, many criticized Rodri-
guez's move to Ann Arbor, stating that it was a clash of
game philosophies and, at an underlying level, a mismatch
of cultures. Simply put, he was not a "Michigan Man." As
a result of this not-so-discrete elitism, Rodriguez never
got the 100 percent support that a coach with a 10th of his
accolades would elsewhere.
From day one on the job, Rodriguez faced an uphill bat-
tle not only on the field but off it as well. The roster he was
left with was in absolute shambles after former Michigan
football coach Lloyd Carr's retirement. This was painfully
evident during the Wolverines' abysmal 2008 campaign
in which the Maize and Blue only notched three victories
while setting a slew of school records that no athlete wants
to be a part of. Meanwhile, as soon as he set foot on cam-
pus, Rodriguez had to contend with an underground faction
within the University communitythat resented the fact that
he was allowed into the hallowed fraternity of Michigan
coaches. The faction resented this interloper with his spread
schemes and smaller, speedy players who buzzed around
like flies. This was not "Michigan football," they cried.

Rodriguez, by all means, did not share many qualities
with his predecessors. He never had any prior connec-
tion with the University; he played college ball at West
Virginia and held a variety of coaching positions at other
small schools before making it big with the Mountain-
eers. He lacked the stoic demeanor that characterized
those before him. He was visibly emotional during press
conferences and perhaps was not as articulate as Lloyd or
Bo. He brought a new, fast-paced offensive mindset that
challenged all that those before him stood for. These rea-
sons, which many may deem trivial, prevented Rodriguez
from gaining full support from the community and, one
may argue, led to his downfall at the University.
At the end of the day, Brandon had no choice but to let
Rodriguez go. The Wolverines have not been competitive
with their Big Ten counterparts, and a coach's job status
is directly linked to results on the field. After three con-
secutive years of losing to the Buckeyes and Spartans, it
was time for a change.
However, it's hard to argue that Rodriguez got a fair
chance to turn things around here in Ann Arbor. He
never received the support that most coaches are guar-
anteed simply because he didn't fit, which is strangely
hypocritical at a school that prides diversity. Who knows
what might have been had he received genuine support?
Perhaps we would be in the same situation we are now. Or
maybe, without the constant pressure, Rodriguez would
have been able to lead the Wolverines to become national
championship contenders. There's no denying the fact
that he is a quality coach or that he put every ounce of his
soul into this job. It's unfortunate the way things trans-
pired, both for Rodriguez and the University, but it is a
situation that could have been, and should be, avoided in
the future.
As the football program searches for its next head
coach, it's important that no matter who is selected, we as
fans give the coach as much support as he needs in order
to succeed. It would be great if we land a certain former
Wolverine and recent Orange Bowl victor. But if things
don't pan out quite as well as we'd like them to, then we
should move on and still truly be"'all in" for the Maize
and Blue. As we can see, if we don't do so, the results can
be disastrous.
Athrey Krishnakumar is an Engineering junior.

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