Rich Rodriguez Has Till 2011

Submitted by oakapple on November 5th, 2009 at 12:05 PM
What I'm about to say will please Rich Rodriguez's fans and frustrate his critics. Barring an off-the-field scandal or significant NCAA violations, Rich Rodriguez will be the Michigan head coach at least through the end of the 2011 season.

Rodriguez was brought in because the administration believed the football program needed to be rebuilt, and not just tweaked. I realize that there are some fans who never agreed that this was necessary, but in hiring Rodriguez, the administration decided to go in a new direction. He made this clear from the day he arrived.

As of today, Rodriguez has exactly one full recruiting class to his name. (The 2008 class was still mostly Lloyd Carr's.) Most of the offense are underclassmen, or upperclassmen who came in to play for Lloyd Carr. It will be 2011 before Rodriguez can field a team of veteran players who were brought in to play his system.

The story on defense is much the same, with the added complication that Lloyd Carr's last few recruiting campaigns were exceptionally poor. No coach could field a great defense with the players Rodriguez currently has to work with. Once again, it will be 2011 before you can expect to see a defense not comprised of walk-ons, true freshmen, or kids forced to change positions.

Now, that doesn't mean the team is going to be awful between now and then. This year's team has already improved on last year's 3-9 debacle, even if it fails to win another game. Next year's team will be better than this one, but it will still play at least a few deeply frustrating games. Not until 2011 can you expect Michigan realistically to contend for a conference championship. Not until 2012 will Rodriguez's first two full recruiting classes be juniors and seniors.

There are a few reasons why Rodriguez is not realistically likely to be fired before the end of 2011 — again, assuming no off-the-field issues or significant NCAA violations. The first is that if you hire a guy on the premise of rebuilding, you cannot expect the job to yield results until a few recruiting classes are in the door and playing with normal depth behind them.

The second is that, as we've seen, transitions are painful. Let's suppose Michigan loses its next three games, and Rodriguez is fired the day after the Ohio State game. Most of the decent athletes in the 2010 recruiting class, if they have any realistic options, would decommit and go elsewhere. The new coach would arrive facing a horrible 2010 class, a 2009 class chosen for someone else's system, and the dregs of Lloyd Carr's last few classes. If you think that new coach could turn this bunch into instant winners, you're kidding yourself.

Since Michigan has already improved on the 2008 season, Rodriguez is a lock to be back in 2010, and unless the team collapses totally, he'll be back in 2011 as well.

By the end of 2011, the administration will have a decision to make. Rodriguez has a six-year contract, which would last until the end of the 2013 season. But it is rare for anyone to coach in the last two years of a contract, because it impairs recruiting. Kids who have a choice don't want to come play for a guy when they're not sure if he'll be around. Because recruiting these days begins in the junior year of high school, it would be very tough for Rodriguez to be the Michigan coach in 2012 without a contract for 2014 and beyond.

So Rodriguez gets four years. Before the end of 2011 (but probably not before), management will have to decide whether to cut their losses or extend his contract.



November 5th, 2009 at 12:12 PM ^

"There are a few reasons why Rodriguez is not realistically likely to be fired before the end of 2011 — again, assuming no off-the-field issues or significant NCAA violations."

I'd say the most important reason is because Mary Sue Coleman implied as much.

Tha Stunna

November 5th, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

"I don't think it's fair to coaches to bring them in and say, 'We're going to give you three years.' When Tommy Amaker came in, we stuck with him for six years. It just wasn't going to work; it wasn't the right fit. But it wasn't a rushed decision."

Sure, that means he's not on a three year timeline up front. But if he goes 5-7 this year and 5-7 next year, he'll probably be gone, and deservedly so. Just because you expect someone to stay more than three years doesn't mean you won't toss them out if their performance is severely below par.

I would like him to succeed, and maybe I even still expect him to succeed. However, no coach is bigger than the future of the program.


November 9th, 2009 at 2:35 PM ^

But Frontbutt's 3-9 was in his third year. If RR were to go 3-9 next year (or ever again) he'd be gone in a second. But I'd be totally shocked if M doesn't have a winning season next year, and in that event I think there's no chance RR gets the boot before the end of '11.

The King of Belch

November 5th, 2009 at 12:16 PM ^

The team beats OSU and MSU next season and goes New Years Day (or better) bowling.

But face it--this year's team really hasn't improved (especially if they lose the rest of their games). 1-7 and last place in the Big Ten--which by most, if not all, accounts is having a "down season"? Nope.

I think the doomsday predictions of mass defections are silly when you think about the fact that Rodriguez was able to keep Lloyd's last class nearly intact. Besides, not many of these kids have substantial offers from big time schools anyway. I can't picture Jordan Paskorz passing up Michigan for Bowling Green. Or DJ Williamson passing up UM for--no one.

I think a third year is in order--but beyond that if the team sucks ass next year (assuming they go 5-7 this year)--he's gone gone GONE. And deservedly so.

Whatever this season's final record shows (short of 8-4 with a big win over OSU), 2011 can NOT be guaranteed at all without significant improvement in 2010.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:52 PM ^

but as with other major programs, if the groundswell of alumni and former player frustrations puts so much heat on the athletic department to make a change (including donating the $$ for a buyout and a new hire) then anything is possible. I doubt it is anywhere near that point yet but if next year goes poorly and includes further embarrassing losses as the past 2 weeks (a distinct possibility considering the schedule) it could get there.

Realistically, the end of next year is the earliest possible anything would change because of the money and time invested into RR. The AD knows that after hiring a coach like RR, the next staff will struggle with personnel based on type of players RR recruits and knowing that I doubt the AD will initiate a new regime any time earlier than they absolutely need to.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:47 PM ^

The team beats OSU and MSU next season and goes New Years Day (or better) bowling.

Those are pretty high expectations for a team that's going to be starting sophomores and that could conceivably finish this season with a 5-7 record.

Things should be better next year - a lot better, hopefully - but have we learned nothing from the flurry of posts about the woeful state of our defense? It's going to take more than one offseason to fix what's ailing this team.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:51 PM ^

Our record doesn't suggest much improvement, especially since the DSU win should not be counted. While our defense is struggling, our offense looks to have improved. I don't know if you want to attribute that to better talent or better coaching, but I think it's there and has shown in the offensive production so far. Things can only get better after this year, and if we really don't see improvement next year then it's time to worry.

Plus, we still have 3 games to go. Let's not throw in the towel yet, we could still have a 8-4 season...


November 5th, 2009 at 6:16 PM ^

I get your point, but DSU was infinitely worse than App State. I'll admit it felt somewhat good to win a game with absolutely no worry. But let's admit it, in terms of gauging the improvement of our team, the DSU game should not be thrown in the mix.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:17 PM ^

the following: "the administration believed the football program needed to be rebuilt, and not just tweaked."

I don't buy this at all. You think Coleman and Martin were thinking this when they offered Greg Schiano? Or targeting Les Miles? Niether would have been a tear-down, rebuild story. The RR hire happened fast and furious. Both RR and Michigan saw a top brand and an opportunity, and I think both jumped thinking it would all sort itself out rather easily.

The King of Belch

November 5th, 2009 at 12:49 PM ^

There is nothing to indicate that Rodriguez was a target until his agent contacted UM. The considered (and verified) frontrunnes were Schiano, Ferentz, and Miles.

I don't think anyone at UM thought some radical paradigm shift was in order, especially since Lloyd left UM with players like Mallet behind, along with a recruiting class geared more toward his style of offese and defense.

It's a huge leap into the justifying of keeping Rodriguez around to say that UMwent after this type of change in the football program. Even more so when Rodriguez came in touting HIS ability to ADAPT to the talent at hand.


November 5th, 2009 at 2:02 PM ^

Whether the administration originally intended to "rebuild" the program or simply "tweak" it is now meaningless. Once they hired RR (whether 1st choice or 87th choice) the adminstration committed to the "rebuilding" path. That's where we the OP point still holds.


November 5th, 2009 at 2:10 PM ^

Verified by whom? Schiano, yes. Ferentz appears to have been the favored coach by some people in the program but I haven't seen any indication that Bill Martin actually favored him or offered him the job. And either Martin is a complete incompetent or he actually had no interest in Les Miles who was begging to come to Michigan even after he held a press conference saying he wouldn't. My money's on the latter--Martin had no interest in Les Miles.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:35 PM ^

No one really knows what was said between the University and either Schiano or Miles. But we do know what Rodriguez said in his opening press conference, and it was pretty clear what he was going to do. One has to assume that it wasn't any different than what he said when they interviewed him.

So by hiring Rodriguez, they were buying into a rebuilding project. If they didn't want that, then he was the wrong guy to hire. From the moment he arrived, he said he was going to install the system he had run at West Virginia, and that's exactly what he has done.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:53 PM ^

represented in the end, but I just don't agree with the premise the administration went out in search of a radical change. In fact, I think most of the candidates whose names were surfacing indicated something different--they were not radical departures from the status quo (beyond Schiano and Miles, there was Ferentz and Hoke and a couple others) In that they came to an agreement with Coach Rod shows a willingness that to bring in something completely different--totally agree. But I think the circumstances of his availability and the mounting pressure on Martin (after PR dissaster with Miles, and moderately embarrassing rebuff by Schiano) to bring in a big time coach factored more into the offer than a let's "rebuild" with something completely different.


November 5th, 2009 at 3:18 PM ^

I agree that they might not have started their search with the intention of a full rebuild. But by the time they introduced Rich Rodriguez, that's what they had signed up for.

Now, you could argue that Michigan didn't need to rebuild, and that's fair enough. But having done so, they'd have to be complete fools not to give it a shot, and my point was that you need until at least 2011, barring violations or a complete collapse next year.


November 5th, 2009 at 4:04 PM ^

me wrong. Giving up on this staff and approach after 2010 would be shortsighted. I hoping for significant strides next year to keep the wolves at bay, and take the pressure off the new AD, the Board, and Prez Coleman so Year 4 is a given.

It's been beaten to death, but the reality is the current staff is trying to compete with one hand tied behind its back vis a vis depth and experience. Part of that is a new system's incompatibility with some legacy players, but more so I think several recruiting misses over multiple years at key spots on both sides of the ball. I always liked Coach Carr, but even his most ardent admirers have to admit some of those late classes have been hugely disappointing. 2011 is the earliest that some of this can be shored up. Let's hope for good health, good talent evaulations, good development (technique and phyiscal), and good attitudes.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:24 PM ^

Lets try to figure out what the problem is:
Rodriguez was a good coach at wvu,has something changed between then and now.If Rodriguez was still at wvu would they still have a good team?If you answer yes then you have to have faith that Michigan is going to come around.Things we know are that he is going to get better talent here,there are better facilities and resources here,his system is downright unstoppable when run correctly {see oregon}.So unless he has some how become brain damaged between then and now a Michigan resurgence is inevitable.


November 5th, 2009 at 12:39 PM ^

I think it is VERY VERY unlikely that Rich Rodriguez's job is in any jeopardy whatsover until at least the end of next season. That being said, that belief is formed in part on the belief that Michigan will win one, maybe two of their remaining games this year, and will win at least 7, maybe 8 games next year, and that the Freep report regarding practice time etc. was the bullshit that I believe it to be. However, if this team loses out this year, going 5-7, and the NCAA finds any significant violations in that investigation, I think there is the possibility Michigan pulls the plug on him. See above as to third choice as head coach, and lets face it, this thing has not been a marriage made in heaven. I am not saying it is likely, but Michigan has a lot to lose here.


November 5th, 2009 at 10:17 PM ^

Section 4.02 Under Article IV entitled "Termination" states "The University has the right to terminate the employment of Rodriguez for cause in the event of the following:"
sections (e) and (f) address NCAA missteps
(e) Rodriguez is determined by the NCAA, the Big Ten Conference, or the University to have committed a major violation of the NCAA Rules, or to have intentionally committed any other type of violation of the NCAA Rules, pursuant to Section 2.05 of this Agreement.
(f) If Rodriguez has personal knowledge of a violation of the NCAA Rules by an assistant football coach, football staff member, student athlete who is a member of the Team, or other representative of the University's athletic interests and fails to promptly report it to the Athletic Director pursuant to Section 2.04
"a major violation" is not defined...

the whole of the contract can be found courtesy of mvictors here:

Enjoy Life

November 5th, 2009 at 12:56 PM ^

To fire any coach in any college sport without giving them at least 5 years is just plain IDIOTIC!

The first recruiting year is mostly kids that they did not select.

That means it takes another 4 years before the program even has experienced players.

Lest anyone think that the 33 year bowl streak (which would have been over 40 years without the Big10 Rose Bowl restriction) was a run not soon to be repeated, here are the current bowl streaks:

* Florida State (27)
* Florida (18)
* Virginia Tech (16)
* Georgia, Georgia Tech (12)
* Texas (11)
* Boston College, Oklahoma (10)
* LSU, Ohio State, Texas Tech (9)
* Southern Cal (8)
Yes, even the mighty have had a losing season in the recent past.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:20 PM ^

"To fire any coach in any college sport without giving them at least 5 years is just plain IDIOTIC!"

Michigan's fans and administration are too impatient to give a coach 5 free years. With the history and reputation Michigan has, there is a demand to succeed and succeed quickly.

If RR cannot put this team into the running for a Big Ten Championship by 2011, I think he will be gone.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:53 PM ^

The Amaker-Rodriguez comparison is apples and oranges. First, football is immensely more important at U-M than basketball, so the pressure to succeed is that much greater. Second, Amaker took on a program recovering from a huge scandal, so his first years were essentially gimmes. After stabilizing the program, he then had the typical 3-4 years to take the program to the next level--and failed. What kind of program did Rodriguez inherit?


November 6th, 2009 at 1:08 AM ^

What kind of program did Rodriguez inherit?

One that had just lost Henne, Hart, and a slew of other players, an almost entirely new coaching staff, and (at least in 2008) nonexistent offense and defense.

It's not quite as bad as things were for the basketball team, but Rodriguez wasn't exactly handed a gem of a team.


November 5th, 2009 at 10:01 PM ^


I don't think RichRod need 5 years to have some success; this said, I think what's missing here is any vision that firing coaches short into their tenure (i.e., within the window in which their recruited players become seniors) sends an extremely negative and counterproductive message about the school and potential employment to any other coach you would want if that scenario played out. You make that move then look at hiring B level coaches at best.

If you're an elite coach (and at the time of hiring RichRod would have fit that definition) Michigan is a great opportunity provided you have the time to a) implement your system and b) match talent to your system. If it looks, externally, like there will be problems in this regard (impatient admin., boosters etc.) then quality coaches will not look at coming, regardless of compensation, tradition etc. No one wants to be set up to fail with completely unrealistic expectations.

One wonders if Schiano didn't see the sketchy recruiting classes and obvious period of program recovery that would be indicated when he declined our overtures. I mean, you can't seriously tell me he *wanted* to stay at that football power in New Jersey...

Best wishes.


November 5th, 2009 at 2:57 PM ^

Are you saying that the bowl streak likely won't be repeated soon...? Or that other teams are, so it could be? Because you're saying "lest not" but then "everyone has a losing season". I'm not playing grammar police, just trying to get your point.

Because it looks like FSU is really close to passing us up. Florida, not so close, but that doesn't look to be anywhere near a bad team for decade, at least. And with more and more bowls, and tie in's, it's getting kinda hard to MISS a bowl. That's why it seems a damn shame we couldn't crawl our way to Detroit last year. Or at least get past Nebraska's streak.

And while who knows how many of us will be around to see ours approach such proportions again, here's hoping to #1 starting this season.

Enjoy Life

November 6th, 2009 at 10:43 AM ^

My point is that the primary reason so many folks are freaking out is that M did not have a losing season in 40 YEARS!!!

Most other (exception is FSU) "elite" programs have had losing seasons recently. If M fans expect that the "right" coach will start another 40 year streak, I think that is not going to happen.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:16 PM ^

If RichRod fails to take the team to a bowl game both this year and next, I think that he will be gone. I am speculating that he needs to go 7-5 next year to keep his job. If you had asked me two months ago, I would say this would be an absolute lock. Now I think it's a 50/50 chance. Firing a guy after only three seasons is pretty rare, but it has happened in some rare cases where it was painfully obvious that the guy getting fired was taking the program in the wrong direction. A few guys I can think of who were fired after 3 or less years...

John Blake
Booby Williams
Ron Zook
Paul Hackett
Tyrone Willingham

In each case it was absolutely the right decision.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:40 PM ^

" If we make a change before 2012 prepare to suck for a very long time"

1. If RichRod doesn't make a single bowl game in three years as the head coach, then it should be apparent that we will suck for a long time if we DON'T make a change.

2. There are probably a dozen coaching candidates around the country who would run an offense that takes advantage of what Rodriguez leaves behind. An offensive transition problem is something that can easily be avoided.

3. Even if #2 isn't true, a good coach can bring a team out of the toilet in 2-3 years. Contrary to popular belief, Rodriguez's disastrous transition at Michigan is an incredibly rare exception and not the rule. Look at Ron Zook. He's not even a good coach and he took Illinois to the Rose Bowl in year #3. And Illinois was in far, far, far worse shape when he took over that program than Michigan was in when Rodriguez took over here.


November 5th, 2009 at 1:46 PM ^

Especially the fact that Rich Rod is not the only coach who could utilize the kind of player that he recruits with reference to the alleged "destruction" that would result from his firing. I am not sure I would use Ron Zook at Illinois as the "good result" example though.


November 5th, 2009 at 2:50 PM ^

I kinda agree that the except to the OP which is otherwise accurate is if they have a losing season next year (and I don't know if a winning season this year mitigates it or not, because that's regression). After almost 50 years of non-losing seasons, 3 losing seasons in a row, and I can't imagine the heat that there'd be. If he can scrape by to 7-5 next year, there will be a lot of bitching, but he'll survive. It may or may not be the right'd have to see how things play out (7-5 after looking great and then having Tate out for the season after the first month or something doesn't look as bad as 5-7 same as last year...year before)... But there's a chance then he could be in trouble. Meander to average, and he's safe at Michigan. (not sure that would be true at all schools).


November 5th, 2009 at 1:22 PM ^

The team needs to keep improving each year though otherwise recruits will sniff out the fact that RR may be fired. However I don't think Robinson has the same job security and that is where my major beef has been all year (even despite the players). I am not sure if it was missed assignments or a bad scheme on D against the speed and zone options but we constantly had players playing the RB and the QB which means they end up not being able to do either. On the zone option the backside DE should have been laying Juice out each time instead of trying to scrap down the line. Weird.

But ya I agree keep RR for at least four, I think he will do well.

Blue in Yarmouth

November 5th, 2009 at 2:25 PM ^

And bring on the fourth D-coordinator in four years. That makes perfect sense, perhaps you should be the new AD. Maybe the fact that the D players are adjusting, yet again, to another D-coordinator that is effecting their play. It could also be that our D is just not that good aside from Graham and a couple of others. There are many reasons why it is not all Gergs fault IME.


November 5th, 2009 at 3:15 PM ^

Changing D-coordinators is much easier than changing head coaches. If you think that his job is a lock no matter what then so be it. Most people think that people need to show results in order to keep their jobs but if you don't then that's fine. I guess a 10-37 record at Syracuse merits giving him as many years as he needs here at Michigan. Robinson does not have the credibility built up that RR has. Also I don't want to be the new AD i just want the salary.