Interesting MichiganToday Article on RR

Submitted by willywill9 on November 20th, 2008 at 12:44 PM

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:

And here:
No Honeymoon
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." "



November 20th, 2008 at 1:02 PM ^

I love it. I am hearing so many people throwing RichRod under the bus. He is a hell of a coach and the inventor of the spread(in one way or another), he just needs some time, just like he did everywhere else. Even more his players need some time. It is obvous that this is an emotional problem more than anything(blowing leads weekly is not called inconsistent). Partially coaching, but mostly the players. As Michigan fans we are not used to having to wait or work for this. I have been a fan since i could talk and will be until I cannot. I just want everyone to take a deep breath, pull your finger off the panic button (at least until next year), and wait...because we WILL be back on top, and it will be sweeter than it ever has been. Go Blue


November 20th, 2008 at 1:32 PM ^

John Bacon is a lecturer at Michigan, and the best teacher I have ever had. Granted, he had a topic that is pretty easy to hold student's attention (history of college athletics), but he didn't put up with any excuses from anyone - he was strict.

He got Bill Martin, Red Berenson, Carol Hutchins, and a couple of former football players to come in and speak, including Jamie Morris and Jim Betts. He is a great writer, too - if you are looking for anything else he wrote he has by far the most comprehensive guide to Michigan Hockey (Blue Ice), and a book he co-wrote with Bo (Bo's Lasting Lessons). Just make sure you have John U Bacon - there is another one without the U.


November 20th, 2008 at 1:46 PM ^

Halfway through that article I thought to myself, "Is it possible in this day and age to actaully win like Wooden did back then?" I thought this because if he gets things going with the dirty Blue Collar attitude he portrayed in this article, who would not want to play for him. If he can get his guys in here with his abilities and the UM tradition, LOOK THE F OUT. I know that is such the homer thing to say and makes me look downright crazy coming off this season but wow, think of the possibilities.

Gosh I love the Wolverines... even if they are 3-8.


November 20th, 2008 at 5:05 PM ^

Reading some of the letters to the editor on the article, the stupid is embarrassing for them being Michigan grads. Clearly the University and athletic department have failed at getting out their side of the story over the crap the media has run.

mad magician

November 20th, 2008 at 7:06 PM ^

you've got to admit, West Virginia's effort to destroy RR's public reputation was extremely effective. Even among some of our own fan base and especially within the two Detroit papers. The national media has picked up on that and piled on every once in a while. And really, what did he do that was so terribly wrong? What was the difference b/w him and Dantonio leaving Cincy, as Brian pointed out? A bigger buyout? Who fucking cares?


November 20th, 2008 at 8:04 PM ^

While this is a feel good story, its not all true. First of all Rich Rodriguez was born in Grant Town, WV (I'm pretty sure he never lived in Chicago). So it would be really odd if he'd never heard of WV. Secondly, Grant Town is 15 miles from Morgantown. His high school, North Marion, played Morgantown HS and University (Morgantown) HS in both football and basketball, so odds are pretty good that he had been to Morgantown before he became a student there. Also, Glenville State is an NAIA football team and they didn't win a national championship (although they did play once in the championship game). Some of the story may be true, just knowing those facts are wrong makes me question the rest of the story.


November 20th, 2008 at 9:06 PM ^

Bacon has been working on a feature story on this years Michigan team all season. He has had incredible access, to all facets of the program. I would assume he got the story directly from RR, so I would lean towards questioning your entire post.


November 20th, 2008 at 11:37 PM ^

Maybe bacon did get quotes from RichRod, but the facts aren't true. This could be a case of Rod embellishing, but anyone with knowledge of WV knows the story has a lot of fiction to it.

Here are a few places to reference for the info in my post....

Birth place: Grant Town - (Freep and Wikipedia)…


Distance from Grant Town to Morgantown (approx 20 miles) from MapQuest:…

Glenville State lost to East Central 49-35 in the championship game on December 11, 1993

I haven't found the exact football or basketball schedules for North Marion (or Farmington) for the years that Rich went there. But here is the link the current WVSSA where you look at North Marion's current athletic schedules. I will grant you that some of the scheduling may have changed in the last 20 years, but as you can see the do currently play both of those schools. If I find the actual schedules I will post a better link later.

Also, just another "fact" that he missed, it's West Virginia University not the University of West Virginia. Kind of trivial fact, but still something I would assume you would want to get right.


November 21st, 2008 at 12:46 PM ^

Would you admit you were born in West Virginia? He probably isn't of direct Spanish descent either. I heard he's really Puerto Rican. Or so I like to think so at least ;)

But in all seriousness, for me, the important part of the article was that he's a proven fighter and a proven winner. And I'm excited to see what he'll be able to accomplish with Michigan over the next few years.

Go Blue!


November 21st, 2008 at 12:12 PM ^

Great piece... Just if it were more accurate I could believe more of it. I don't know where some of these stories and quotes came from.

In 1993, Glenville St. lost the NAIA championship to East Central in Oklahoma 49-35.…

Rich Rodriguez was born in Grant Town, WV.… or or

I feel as though growing up so close to Morgantown and playing sports, he must have been to Morgantown earlier than being dropped off for school. North Marion plays both University High and Morgantown High every year.


November 21st, 2008 at 4:18 PM ^

Your right, those sites may not be accurate-- even now Wikipedia says he is from Grant Town again... However the Detroit Free Press wrote several articles about him at his hire. They all show that he is from WV, and not Chicago. I would assume they would have done their fact checking.…


November 21st, 2008 at 5:05 PM ^

RichRod is certainly from Grant Town, he lived there most of his life. But it's easy to assume someone was born where they're from, if that makes sense. Look, I lived in Michigan for about 21 years and if I never told anyone otherwise they would probably assume I was born there. The only article where he mentions where he was born himself is this one.