Rich Rod comparison with Jackie Sherrill (former Texas A&M coach)

Submitted by tybert on November 8th, 2009 at 10:51 PM
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 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!



November 8th, 2009 at 11:07 PM ^

I like your reasoning! We can only hope as I don't want to watch more painful games. You mention the loss to Wisconsin in the fall of 1981 after 4 consecutive shutouts. I was at that game in Madison having just graduated and taken a job in Milwaukee in the spring of 1981. I was rather cocky and Badger fans at that time paid more attention to their band than the team...of course the overwhelming darkness that consumed me after that loss seems a long way off but is always just under my skin, especially with another game in Madison coming up. Could we turn the tables on them this time!?!


November 8th, 2009 at 11:10 PM ^


Growing up the only NCAA coverage we received was over Lake Erie (actually from Erie) and every Sunday at 12 noon we got the Pitt Panthers post game coaches show. This was during the Blair Warner/Hugh Green era. Until common sense took over after my first trip to the Big House as a teen I was a committed Pitt Panther backer and was certain Jackie Sherrill was a football genius.

Thanks for the memories.

ATX Wolverine

November 8th, 2009 at 11:29 PM ^

Unfortunately, Sherrill also resigned after the NCAA found major violations, including the dreaded "lack of institutional control", in 1988. So, yes, he won 3 titles and had a winning record against UT, but he was cheating and is still considered a punchline down here in Texas.

Here's to hoping that RR won't have the same ultimate trajectory here.


November 8th, 2009 at 11:57 PM ^

And one thing I noticed was RR just looked Mad as Hell. Hope had just pulled his little busch league stunt, and RR was already frustrated with losing the game. It looked to me like he knows what to expect from the press and the media after a tough loss (God knows we've had enough of them lately), but now He's got the freaking coach at Purdue, going out of his way to take a cheap shot at him right there on his own field, a shot that was even cheaper than the one Reckman landed on the NIU player.

I look at him in that press conference, and I for one LIKE IT. It looks to me like he's got more drive in him right now instead of just "Letting the Process run it's course", and I would not be suprised if we didn't see this team's best effort since the NOtre Dame game at Camp Randall.


November 9th, 2009 at 4:54 AM ^

Yep...I was also aware of Sherrill's NCAA issues and castration (which occurred in the 90's at Miss St.).

No meaning to imply those would apply to Rich Rod (the Free Press' chicken crap airing of anonymous complaints don't apply here).

My sense is that Sherrill was an EXCELLENT CFB coach, at least getting his players ready for games, making adjustments, and knowing how to beat his rival (after losing the first two).

And, like RichRod, had to change a "soft" culture at a time when Texas owned the conference. Anyone who knows Sherrill knows that he came across as a prick to his players during the game (yelling, stern looks, etc.) BUT his players did rally around him when they realized that this guy could lead a time to championships.

My feeling is that RichRod's transition would take as long as Sherrill's and WILL be fulfilled when we pull an upset of the Buckeyes, whether this year or next.

The old SWC was notorious for cheating. Everyone but Rice cheated. It was a different era and why the "death penalty" got instituted, with SMU the first victim.

Needless to say, it was a very tough conference at the time --- Texas, Arkansas (in the SWC at that time), and SMU were in bowls every year. The only easy game was Rice.

Tim Waymen

November 9th, 2009 at 9:47 AM ^

The old SWC was notorious for cheating. Everyone but Rice cheated.

Something tells me that that applies the whole South. During that time, there were also cheating scandals at Florida and Clemson, who was put on probation a year or so after winning the national championship. The South is dirty. Let's just give it to Mexico.

Twisted Martini

November 9th, 2009 at 7:04 AM ^

When Kevin Murray, the A&M QB was suspected of taking a car from boosters. The local TV stations started asking about other programs, and it turned out that TCU had 7 seniors who took payments from booster as well. They all got kicked off, the mild comeback TCU football had was over, and that eventually was the end of Sherrill at A&M. Jim Wacker was the TCU coach at the time, and ended up doing nothing at Minnesota.

TCU's team was so inexperienced after that mess, I remember a guy sitting in front of me at a game. On offense he would yell "everybody block!", on D it was "everybody tackle!"

Eventually I transferred to UM and all became right with the world.


November 9th, 2009 at 8:27 AM ^

The one difference is that Michigan should expect wins over OSU more often than A&M expects wins over Texas. Sadly, I think that at this point in the rivalry, it would mean the same for us as that 1984 game for A&M. Another difference is, A&M fans weren't used to 35 years straight of bowl games. They don't have the winningest program in College football, and they weren't coming off the worst season in their history. I guess I just realize how sad our fanbase feels when we are looking externally for bright spots. As a program, we shouldn't be begging for parallels with other schools, we should be setting the bar on how to do things.

FYI of the overall records:

74-36 in Texas' favor.
57-42-6 in Michigan's favor.


November 9th, 2009 at 8:57 AM ^

I hate to say it, but the Gillispie comparison may not be that far off. Both worked their way up from tiny schools, had success at BCS schools that weren't traditional powers, and took over power schools where the cupboard was bare.

The difference is that it was an open secret in College Station that Gillispie was a raging alcoholic. Either Kentucky didn't do their homework, or they just didn't care. It was a mistake for them to hire him, and an even bigger mistake to bail after two years. I think five years from now Calipari will be gone and they'll be dealing with the fallout from his many NCAA violations.

So what's the take home lesson? If Michigan pulls the rug out from under RichRod, he will be doomed to fail. We'll be left with either starting the rebuilding over or hiring a shady quick fix artist (some sort of a version of Dennis Erickson comes to mind). Better to stay the course and see what happens.


November 9th, 2009 at 9:55 AM ^

Without much support to rely on (I wasn't an active college football fan in the early 80's), my guess is that coaches have less time today to prove themselves. Our collective patience as fans is shorter. For better or for worse, there's a greater focus on immediate results that prevents a coach at a big-time program from having oodles of time to prove himself.

On the flip side, however, there are now long-term contracts and a corresponding financial loss if you cut some guy loose before the expiration of his contract. We've already spent a good amount of money getting Coach Rod, and I would imagine that we'd give him at least three years to see if the investment pays off.

Perhaps these two forces cancel each other out, and we wind up with the possibility that we can indeed have a repeat of the A&M situation.


November 9th, 2009 at 10:35 AM ^

Will go ALONG way for all of us. I'm with the guy that said 6-6 and a win o er them is better then 9-3 and a loss to them. I know 9-3 means a better bowl game. I just think that a win over them bastards will help everyone.


November 9th, 2009 at 10:44 AM ^

Jackie Sherrill also paid his players. I don't know if I like that comparision, but it's one of the better researched ones I've read thus far (hopefully minus the ubiquitous impropriety).


November 9th, 2009 at 10:47 AM ^

the others have hit on this, but I don't think having your program never reach the heights it did before (A&M was a power before Sherrill) and having the coach leave after scandal is what most of us are hoping for.


November 9th, 2009 at 12:10 PM ^

Sherrill fielded 3 straight 11-1 Pitt teams between 1979-80-81 and three bowl wins. The 1981 team may have been his finest ever.

Similar to Rodriguez's last three teams 2005-06-07 at WVU prior to heading to Michigan.

Sherrill never repeated the same pinnacle of success at TAMU or Miss State, but he did win 3 straight SWC titles with very Lloyd-like results (i.e. 9-3-0 records on average).

Rodriguez is having success turning the offense around at Michigan, but I think the deficiencies on defense will take years to restock.

The biggest difference: Sherrill's best teams at Pitt and TAMU were all defense-heavy and had great offensive lines.

Rodriguez's best teams so far have been offensive powerhouses and with functional defenses. Todd Graham (HC at Tulane) and Jeff Casteel (DC at WVU) were Rodriguez's best DCs. Neither is coming to Michigan any time soon.

P.S. At Pitt Sherrill took over for Johnny Majors after the 1976 Nat. Championship. Sherrill came from a disasterous 3-8 Wash State team. Obviously very little Pitt player attrition for Sherrill between 1977-1981.


November 9th, 2009 at 7:36 PM ^

I like Markus2007's thoughts that even though Sherrill turned it around, he never really had great TAMU teams - his teams were more like the Lloyd 9-3 teams. If Rodriguez ends up being the same, and takes us only to as high as 9-3, he will be a HUGE disappointment. Michigan took a chance on Rodriguez because of the thought that he could get us competing for national championships, not just Big 10 championships. If Rodriguez never reaches the pinnacle, and he only ends up being Lloyd post 1997 (which isn't bad, mind you), he would have to be considered a failure because he would have not improved upon what we already had and he would have done so at the costs of a 3-9 season and potentially a 5-7 season that ended our bowl and winning season streaks. I think most fans who still support Rodriguez are able to stomach these results thinking of the potentially greener pastures that lie ahead. If we never get to there, then all of the misery of these last 2 seasons will have been in vain. Which is another reason to hope like hell that we get there.

And beating the Bucks this year would be a great way to start.