After last week's loss at Illinois, I went on one of my patented "after-a-Michigan-loss-what-are we-going-to-do-to-fix-this team!" walks through the neighborhood.
The thought popping into my head was this...what former/current college coach had a trajectory similar to Rich Rod's first 22 games at Michigan?
I don't think he is anything like the Gillespie guy who bombed out at Kentucky (and who is one serious head case and arrested recently for a DUI). It's clear he hasn't resembled Tressel or Urban Meyer who won NCs in their second seasons. Nor Charlie "sandwich" Weis who won big his 1st two years at ND and has since gone 3-9, 7-6, and is looking at anywhere from 7-5 to 9-3 this year.
Anyway, after the same walk (probably on the same darn path!) last night, I realized just whom I hope Rich Rod follows.
A bit of history first...in January 1982, Bo had just finished a 9-3 "disappointing" season with a rare bowl win against UCLA in the now defunct Bluebonnet Bowl. I was a freshman at UM and was in the Marching Band. We started the season Numero Uno in the country and were shocked by a Wisconsin team, 21-14, that we had shut out for FOUR consecutive years (by the combined score of 176 to nothing!). We recovered nicely only to lose to upstart Iowa at home, 9-7. Again, we recovered nicely until losing a stunner at home to OSU, 14-9. We tumbled all the way from the Rose Bowl to the Bluebonnet Bowl.
During those days, Bo worked off a 1-yr contract. Yes, there was always an implied "Bo is coach forever" belief, but coaching contracts were coming into vogue. In January, Texas A&M dumped its coach after a 7-4 season. They contacted Bo and offered him a deal for something like 10 yrs and $2 million (200 K per season). Peanuts today, but at that time it was HUGE money. Any UM fan at the time remembers where they were when Bo was mulling the offer on a Friday or Saturday night. Bo decided to stay at Michigan and Canham decided it was time for a contract to make Bo feel secure, if the guy really should have had to worry about his job!
Having missed on Bo, TAMU offered and got Jackie Sherrill, highly successful coach at Pitt, though they didn't have to pay him as much or for as long as TAMU offered Bo.
Sherrill's teams started with two 5 win seasons, no bowl game, and a frustrated fan base. If the guy fired in '81 could win 7 games, why is Sherrill here winning 5 games! Things really boiled over early in the 1984 season. I was living in Texas at the time and TAMU stumbled to start the season. After a tough home loss to a weaker opponent (think Purdue in '09), Sherrill, even with troopers around, was harassed by fans as he was leaving the field. I still remember seeing the news coverage on the Houston TV station, thinking "Sherrill is toast!" TAMU was 5-5 going into its final game at Texas, which was playing for the SWC Title. TAMU blew out the Horns in Austin, something like 38-12, sending the Horns to one of those nondefunct bowls. The 6-5 record wasn't good enough for a bowl game in those days (unless you were ND or UM) so TAMU stayed home but the win in Austin took all of the heat off of Sherrill.
TAMU went on to win 3 consecutive SWC titles in 85-86-87 and beat Texas each year. Sherrill had finally "arrived" at a school where Football is king over the other sports.
Thinking to today...highly successful coach at one school, goes to a football-mad school (even though the school didn't first offer the job to him), stumbles the first few years, fan-base erupts, coach is harassed, calls for his head, and FINALLY said coach beat's the school's hated rival. Then the wins and conference titles start rolling in.
Can it happen here? Stay tuned!