I'VE HAD JUST ABOUT ENOUGH OF YOU SONNY
I came across an interesting article written by John U. Bacon and thought I'd share it for those of you who haven't yet read it. (Note: I tried to post this earlier but thought it didn't go through, so forgive me if this is a duplicate.)
After reading this article, I realized RR has done a lot with the little he's been afforded, both in his personal life, and his career in athletics. Very admirable trait! In the same light, I can only imagine what he'll be able to accomplish with what he'll get here at Michigan.
Article can be found here: http://michigantoday.umich.edu/2008/11/rodriguez.php
John U. Bacon
"As of this writing, Michigan's football season is not over—but Rich Rodriguez has already endured enough travails to fill a decade of Saturdays.
Just one year ago Rodriguez had a golden opportunity to get his second-ranked West Virginia team into the national title game. But in their last regular season game, the Mountaineers were stunned by lowly Pittsburgh, knocking them out of title contention.
A few days after that crushing defeat, Rodriguez got some good news: Michigan was on the line, prepared to propose. It was a whirlwind courtship between the most successful program in college football and the sport's fastest rising star—and consummated within a week.
You'd think the story might have ended there—but that was only the beginning. Still ahead: a seemingly endless lawsuit over a buy-out clause in Rodriguez's West Virginia contract, and the loss of ten of eleven starters from his new Michigan offense—five to graduation (four of whom were good enough to play in the NFL), two more who jumped early to the NFL and three who transferred to other schools.
"The last seven months have been the hardest of my career—hands down," he told me. "We should have been able to enjoy the honeymoon, instead of dealing with all this."
Next up: the most trying season in recent Michigan football history—one that has seen the Wolverines' blow a seven-game winning streak against Michigan State, a nine-game winning streak against Penn State, and a 24-game winning streak against the entire Mid-American Conference. Add it all up, and you have the first losing season since 1967, which will break a 33-year streak of bowl games—the longest in the sport—and Michigan's first eight-loss campaign ever.
But when you consider the long, winding road that has led Rodriguez from Grant Town, West Virginia, to Ann Arbor, this past year looks less like a roadblock than a speed bump.
Rodriguez's grandfather left Spain for the coal mines of West Virginia. Looking for a better life, the family moved to Chicago, where he was born.
His father soon became fed up with the crime and intimidation of their rough neighborhood. So one night he rented a U-Haul and a guard dog, packed the family's scant belongings in the middle of the night, and headed for tiny Grant Town, West Virginia, under cover of darkness.
"I was in the second grade," Rodriguez recalls, "and I'd never even heard of West Virginia. Man, I just hated it. But what saved me was sports. I could go outside, and bounce a ball off our roof for hours—a baseball, a basketball, even a football, it didn't matter—until my dad got a hoop and bolted it onto the roof. Looking back on it, for a family that was getting government cheese and didn't have enough money to pave our dirt driveway, that was a hell of a gift."
Rodriguez shot on that hoop every chance he had. In the winter, he'd grab the family snow shovel, pack down the snow, put his gloves on, and keep shooting. By his senior year in high school, he was the state's leading scorer.
"I knew two things: I wanted to spend my life in sports, and I wanted to do it on the biggest stage around. I wanted the pressure!"
He turned down scholarship offers to play basketball at Davidson, Marshall and Army because, he says, "I really loved football, and I wanted to play for the Mountaineers. That was always my dream. So I decided to walk on and take my chances."
As a 4.0 student in high school, he had cobbled together enough scholarship money to last one year. After that, he either had to earn a scholarship—or drop out.
When his father drove him down to the University of West Virginia, it was an adventure for both of them. Neither had ever seen the campus before. "He dropped me off with just a single hand bag—that's all I had. We left me at the stadium—on the wrong side! We didn't even know where the locker rooms were."
The assistant coach who welcomed the walk-ons didn't know Rodriguez's name. When the coach barked out the list of walk-ons, he called off "Gonzalez," thinking it was Rodriguez.
It's been a tough season for Rodriguez and U-M football, but the coach says he's faced longer odds before. (Photo: Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services.)
"Once I realized they had no idea who I was, my plan was simple: I was going to get in as many fights as I could the first week, just so they would know my name! They put me at defensive back, and I was getting in everyone's face, especially the offensive linemen, because they were all taped up and couldn't really get you. The other guys might not have liked me too much, but the coaches remembered my name!
"I played hard—every play, every practice and every game. No exceptions. I played desperate—because I was. If I didn't get a full ride by the end of the year, my college days were over."
At the end of Rodriguez's freshman year, Coach Don Nehlen offered him a full ride. He'd made it. His gamble had paid off.
Since then, Rodriguez has repeated the formula at every stop: Turn down the sure thing, bet on himself—then work to make it come true.
In his first season as Glenville State's head coach, his team posted an anemic 1-7-1 mark. "We were so bad, the crowd would literally give us a standing ovation if we got a first down," he says. "Trust me, just to keep that team together, that was the best coaching job I've ever done!"
The next year he knew he had to shake things up to get his offense going. "I started thinking about what was the toughest thing to defend when I played defensive back. To me, it was the two minute drill. Well, let's see if we can do that the whole game."
From that point on, Rodriguez's team skipped the huddle, went to a shotgun snap, spread the receivers out and started taking chances to get some points on the board—and kept it up for the entire game, every game.
It worked. Glenville State's radical offense left opponents chasing their tails and gasping for air. His revamped squad started rising up the ranks, and finally won the first of four league titles in just his fourth season. For good measure, they also won the Division II national championship.
As an offensive coordinator, Rodriguez worked the same magic for Tulane and Clemson before becoming the head coach at his alma mater in 2001—where he did it again, taking a 3-8 squad his first year and transforming them into a national contender.
Coach Rodriguez's invention, the spread offense, the very scheme that was once considered the last resort for desperate Division II teams, has now taken over the college game. You might argue it's worked too well, because many of the teams Michigan faces every year now employ Rodriguez's stratagem—and it works for them, too.
This season has tested Rodriguez in every way imaginable, on and off the field. After Michigan's 48-42 loss to Purdue left the hopes of a winning record—and with it, a bowl game—in the dust, Rodriguez faced one of the greatest challenges of his career. How do you motivate a team to keep playing hard the remaining three games of the season when you have virtually nothing to play for? It was a new problem for a Michigan coach.
When he addressed the team the night before the Minnesota game, he said, "You seniors can make a statement about your careers in the last three games, and you freshmen can make a statement about the future. Like the movie says, we need to get busy living, or get busy dying."
Instead of packing it in, the Wolverines packed a punch, dominating heavily favored Minnesota 29-6, to keep the Brown Jug, their confidence up and their hopes alive for the games—and the seasons—ahead. It's difficult to remember a Michigan team so happy to hoist the Jug.
"People say it's harder to be at the top than the bottom," he says. "But I guarantee you, anyone who says that has never been at the bottom.
"We're going to get there. It won't be tomorrow, and it won't be easy, but we're going to get there." "
Oh, UCLA, Michigan cant seem to quit you. Just when you're off the schedule, you reappear as an opponent in this pre-conference tournament. Luckily, the Bruins survived a spirited effort out of Miami Ohio last week to advance to tonight's semifinal game against Michigan.
Previously, the teams had played for six straight seasons, but that series ended last year. The first couple of years of this head to head worked out well for Michigan as they notched wins over the Bruins. Of course, those were the final two years of the Stevie Lavin era. Since BEN Howland took over, things have bee much different in this series. The Bruins won and covered each of the final four meetings, at times dominating the Michigan squad. Remarkably, as recently as 2005, Michigan was favered by seven points to win in this matchup. Since then, UCLA has played in three Final Fours. Michigan, meanwhile, uh, has not. Tonight, the Bruins are favored by 12 points.
Michigan advanced to this game with a pair of smooth wins over Michigan Tech and Northeastern. The Wolverines played good D, shot the ball reasonably well and Manny Harris showed All-American potential in those games. That was nice. Step forward and take a bow. Now, forget about it. The next two nights, the competition takes a major step up with the Bruins tonight and either Duke or Southern Illinois tomorrow.
It begs the question of not only how will Michigan perform, but what should Michigan fans' expectations be for their squad during the rest of this tournament?
A third place finish--meaning a win tomorrow night--would set the bar a little bit higher for UM this season. If they can get out of this foursome with one win, considering the other three squads are perennial tournament teams and each season rank among the best defensively in the country, it would signal a tougher Michigan squad than what they've shown in recent years. It could set them up for a run at the upper half of a pretty watered down Big 10.
Its hard to see Michigan getting by UCLA tonight. I would be happy just to see Michigan compete, give the Bruins a run for their money and cover the spread.
You have to wonder how Michigan is going to score against UCLA tonight. In the last three matchups with the Bruins, Michigan has averaged just 56.6 ppg and shot a combined 38.9% from the field. While the operation looked smooth last week, no secondary scorer emerged after Harris. The Bruins specialize in taking out the other team's best guy and making others beat them. Dont expect that scorer to emerge tonight against the stingy Bruins who have been ranked in the top-10 nationally in scoring D each year during their Final Four run. Can Harris overcome the Bruin D? Can he score 30 tonight? More importanly perhaps, is can he score the ball tonight with efficiency and help set up his teammates?
The Bruins counter with Darren Collison at point guard. Its unclear how much Harris and Collison will match up head to head, but you have two of the best guards in the country tonight. That alone will make this quality viewing. If Collison stands out over Harris, this will be a blowout. If Harris has the upper hand, then Michigan might be in the ball game the whole way through.
Overall, the jury is out on this year's UCLA team. They are not as talented and fine tuned as other Howland squads. Other than Collison and Josh Shipp, they are relying on a lot of freshmen. And, while its a great freshmen class, they looked out of sorts in their game with Miami last week. Miami is a tough team to play. They play in your shorts D and have a goofy, half court style of O, that always seems to surprise the big name out of conference foes. Collison and Shipp starred against Miami, but they needed every bit they got out of them to advance. The rest of the club, however, shot less than 40 percent against Miami. If Michigan can keep the ball out of Collison's hands, the Wolverines can probably thwart the young Bruins with their 1-3-1 defense. Of course, keeping the ball out of Collison's hands is a lot easier said than done.
Beyond the win-loss expectation, I think there is an intangible element of success or failure that hangs in the air the next two nights for the Michigan basketball program. Can they come out of these two games with their confidence intact? Even if they go 0-2, do they do it in close affairs, or, under the pressure of some of the best D they'll face all year, do they wilt and get blown out?
Lets assume they go to the consolation game and play SIU tomorrow. The Salukis are a great program coming off a down season. Despite that, Chris Lowery's crew was right up there with UCLA in most defensive categories last year. If you can score 60 or more against the Egyptian Dogs, then you are doing better than most. In a span of 24 hours, Michigan will be playing a pair of teams that have the best defensive systems in the country. For a team that has no consistent secondary scoring, it could get ugly.
Aesthetics may be as important as the actual scoreboard results for Michigan the next two nights. Last year, the team came out looking OK, but then struggled mightily against some cupcakes. The team never recovered their confidence until late February. By that point, any possible postseason berth was off the table. UCLA and then Duke/SIU can destroy this team's confidence. Would anybody be totally shocked if Michigan failed to score a combined 100 points the next two nights? Disappointed, yes. But, totally out of left field shocked? No.
The next two nights are not as much about wins and losses for Michigan. Its about can they stand up and play against some of the winningest programs of the decade? Its about can their offensive system manage enough efficiency against some of the best defenses they will face all year? Its about role players like David Merrit, who was a surprisingly steady force in the opening games last week, not being so overwhelmed by the step up in competition that his confidence does not get so shattered. If the team goes 1-1 or loses a pair of competitive games, then feel free to raise your expectations a little. If the team loses its dignity and the coaches have to spend time rebuilding their spirits, then keep your expectations down until further notice.
Enough of what I think. What about you guys? Are you interested at all in these games? What do you expect out of UM in these games? In your mind,what would be a succesful weekend for the hoops team?
- That didn't score a TD in 3 games this year(2 games @ home)
- Including Purdue @ home....c'mon seriously???
- Trailed after 3 quarters to Ohio U @ home
- Only led Troy by 4 points after 3 quarters @ home
- Starts a freshmen QB who fumbled away the Penn St game @home
- Passed for 70 yards against Minnesota @ home
- Rushed for only 61 yards against Penn St. @ home
Many columnists, tv personalities, and even people on this blog are eager to point out UM's deficiencies but no one is talking about the fact that OSU also has some issues. Ahhhh how they're all are so quick to gloss over those above points when considering what will happen this Saturday.
Everyone speculates about the manner in which UM is going to lose instead of what UM can do to win. I'm not naive enough to think UM will win by 20 points but I don't think OSU will either. Why is it so hard to believe that UM might actually have a chance to keep this game close and win?
If you take the averages against the 7 common opponents UM & OSU have played the #'s aren't as lopsided as you might think. (Yes I understand there are many variables before you comment). Wouldn't most of you assume that OSU would have a larger advantage over UM in these categories against common opponents?
UM averages 24 points per game, 164 rush yds, 145 pass yds which amounts to 309 yds per game and just over 2 TO per game
OSU averages 28 points per game, 203 rush yds, 128 pass yds which amounts to 331 yds per game and only 1 TO per game
As the season comes to a close this Saturday I thought about the last three months and started thinking of some questions.
I thought about how it may have turned out differently if one, two or an untold number of things would have fallen into place or turned out in a different way.
Of course, this serves no practical application other than the pure sport of conjecture and debate, but still, if you're bored at work or just desperate for something else to comment on, have at it.
1. What happens if Terrelle Pryor signs with Michigan? He obviously starts, but how much better does Michigan do?
2. If Lloyd Carr had not retired, what would our record be this year? Would Michigan be better or, given the departures last year, about the same?
3. If Michigan played Utah again at this point in the season, would we win or has Utah progressed that much more throughout the season?
4. If Threet starts from the opener and stays healthy throughout the season, does it get us another win or two?
5. What happens next year?
So, yea, just some things to think about.
This post is, by no means, a declaration of anger about what has transpired this season. I just like to think about how things may have worked out under different circumstances.
I live in California, and have been an avid Michigan fan for about the past 2 years...especially now since my brother is a Grad student (he was also an undergrad, but I had yet to see the true value of being a Michigan Fan :).
Out here most people live and breath Cal or USC football, and wearing my Michigan jersey will bring shouts of "Michigan Sucks" even from those fabulous 49ers fans...yes the same team whose record closely resembles our beloved Wolverines.
Needless to say, hearing all the anti-RR banter, and reading the absolute garbage that comes from the media and many bloggers has made me resent many of those who call themselves "fans" of the Maize and Blue. Every Saturday I wake up to watch our boys take the field, and in fact the Minnesota game will forever hold a small place in my heart, as later that same day I married the love of my life...it couldn't have been a more perfect day.
I am excited to have RichRod as our coach...just as excited as I was last year on the day I found out we had him and one of my close friends, an MSU grad, just moaned. While she got her wish this year with a win from her "little brother"...she knew, deep down inside, she knew...Michigan will be a force in the coming years under RichRod.
This post was not designed to elicit responses...and if you see fit to poke fun or rip on what I am saying, so be it, you are not a true fan, and your words are wasted, as I really don't care what you write. BUT, if you feel like responding and it's positive, please write it, so others can see, we are not alone...we are Michigan.
Don't get me wrong, you are allowed to be frustrated, in fact if you aren't frustrated, I would question your devotion to this program...but please don't attack me, this is not my fault, only my opinion.
But before you comment, please read the following quote from Teddy Roosevelt, as I feel it encompasses many of the things we, and RichRod, are going through this year.
"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat."
Keep your chins up, this week we take the field as part of the greatest rivalry in all of college football, and we are alive to see it. Maybe you feel that it isn't the same as years past but GOD DAMMIT THIS IS MICHIGAN FOOTBALL, cheer for our boys, cheer for Rich Rod, cheer for all of those who have participated in this wonderful event, and most importantly cheer for Michigan, we are only as strong as our weakest fan...GO BLUE!!!!
The media has decided to crucify Rodriguez because they think he doesn't understand why Michigan football is the life of us fanatics and why his very salary depends on it. What I think RichRod doesn't understand is why we fanatics have to live our Michigan football lives like irrational blithering idiots who make despicable comments about his family and his players (possibly one in the same) on a regular basis and expect him to take every last inch of the criticism in stride. I too don't understand this, so let's compare Michigan football life to actual life, or rather identify this one over-arching similarity: neither can be explained. From the very start humans have been pondering the meaning of life itself. There are endless ways to pose this question, and people have been doing it for thousands of years, but there has not yet been an answer, and there most likely never will be. There is no explanation for life-consuming fanaticism either. We are just fans, we bleed Maize and Blue, and live and die with this team. We just do. We were put on this Earth for some inexplicable reason, and we were made fans for some inexplicable reason, but that is where the lack of rationality ends, because we humans are rational beings. We often treat each other in despicable ways, do atrocious things to each other, but we also possess the capacity for great thinking, great accomplishment, and great good. We love our family and our friends, and detest our enemies, and the best of us atleast have respect for those hated ones. We fight with those we love too. We have disagreements. But we often make up because we have the brain power and rationality to consider our actions in the grand scheme of things and do what we believe is right. All of the things I just mentioned are broad ideas that I think we can all agree happen in real human life. So lets apply them to the part of our lives consumed by Michigan football. Lets act like rational men and women. Leaving cowardly and disgusting slurs of RichRod's family and team on messageboards is a sign that our Michigan football lives have descended into chaos. If this is the case, we need to do what Rodriguez would merely like to suggest: to get a life, or rather to restore some common sense and dignity to our fandom lives that have fallen into the depths of hateful insanity. Just because we can't rationally explain why we are fans doesn't mean we have to act irrationally as fans. It means we have to except that we are fans because we are, that Rich Rodriguez is paid a lot of money to coach the team we (him included) love and is doing everything in his power and then some to satisfy our (his included) expectations, and that we are human beings and experience adversity every day, every week, and every year, some more than others. It is how we respond to adversity that defines our lives, and some of us fans have not responded admirably and have proven their weakness and insanity by saying simply nasty, unfounded things. I expect RichRod to also respond a little better to criticism, but I am willing to forgive him, and our fanbase, because we are humans, and we have the capacity to make mistakes, learn, and move forward.
I will now get off my pulpit. Sorry if I have sounded vague and preachy and condescending, I just had to get that off my chest. Go Blue. I will see you all in Columbus.