First, let me start off by saying: I hate to be 'that guy' who shares a "I ran into a someone in the know…", because this really isn't scoop or necessarily is new information; but, I'll share this story anyway because I think it was interesting enough. (Hey, at least it beats an expansion thread.)
As I was waiting to board my flight to Atlanta tonight, I was wearing my 'Strike a Pose' t-shirt (shameless MGoPlug) and my Adidas Michigan hat. My outfit must have really stood out because I was approached by two gentlemen on two separate occasions. (The first guy was from Columbus... Blah blah, you know how that conversation went "When are you going to get good again to make the rivalry meaningful… blah, blah." I then diffused the situation by discussing Nebraska.)
The second guy, was much more interesting (aka not from Columbus.) He approached me shortly after the Columbus guy, then looked me in the eyes and said, in a fairly stern tone, "You guys ought to hold onto Coach Rodriguez. He's the best coach in the country, bar none. Stick by him and you'll be winning a big ten championship every other year." I was caught completely off guard. I expect most people to either ask me first about what my opinion of RR is or they just flat out open up with something negative about Rich Rodriguez. (I wear a lot of Michigan attire, so I get into these conversations with random people all the time.)
After talking to him a bit, I found out he played football at WVU (Bobby Bowden's last year at WVU.) He had met Rich Rodriguez when Rodriguez was coach at WVU. Apparently they're good enough friends that he came to a couple of games at the Big House (the ND game this past year, in particular.) When we talked about the ND game, he pulled up some photos on his phone of him, RR, Rita, and Tony Gibson.
We talked a little bit about the hack job the Freep pulled on Rodriguez and how a few disgruntled players/people within or close to the program led to this jihad. According to the guy, he seemed to feel there were/are definitely dissenters from within the program who haven't liked Rich Rodriguez since day one and are looking to drive him out. Not only are they not helping the program, but they're holding it back. But, as we all say, the wins will quiet the doubters.
He kept emphasizing how great Rich Rodriguez was at taking raw, undeveloped talent, and churning out NFL athletes. He sees the same happening at Michigan… only the type of talent RR has to work with is leaps and bounds better than he had at WVU.
He made one interesting comment that had me thinking. We started talking about the whole "lack of talent" on defense when RR first came to Michigan. Not only did he say we were short on depth (obvious), he also said that the players just weren't even in any shape ready to play football. He said even a guy as phenomenal as BG would have struggled to compete for playing time at WVU, because he simply wasn't in the right shape. I'm not sure how true that point is, but I still found it interesting nonetheless. The best comment he made on this front was to point out that if guys are leaving because they can't handle the workouts (ahem*Boren*ahem)… that could actually be viewed as a good sign. 1) Someone with less work ethic is no longer a distraction and 2) It shows you're effective at strengthening a previous weakness.
His feelings on the season weren't too reassuring, but not bad either. He thinks Michigan will win 7 maybe 8, starting off similar to last year but finishing somewhat stronger. He's also a huge fan of our AD.
He said he still keeps in touch with RR and even spoke to him as recently as a couple of weeks ago, I told him that I hope RR knows there is a large number of Michigan fans who support him, and want him to succeed at Michigan. He appreciated that. We shook hands and said our Go Blues.
Take from this what you want, I just figured I'd share since it was a rather interesting conversation I had with someone who was a friend of Coach Rodriguez himself. He's the second (technically 3rd if you count a swimmer) WVU athlete I've met, and all sing RR's praises.