Friday, December 21, 2007

Rod Settles @ UM

Since everyone else has weighed in on Rich Rodriguez's departure from WVU, I'll drop my two cents into the cup.

Whether Mountaineer fans want to believe it or not, Rod brought the program into the national spotlight but that doesn't mean it will stay there. It is NOT one of the premier programs in D-1 college football...period. Could it be? Yep. But it's not right now. That sort of recognition is built over decades of greatness. Decades...not three/four years.

Rod knows that but the fans refuse to admit it. When WVU lost their season-closer to Pitt (one of Rod's absolute worst coaching performances in the past 3 seasons) the 'Eers lost recruits (Saddler to Pitt). For what? They choked in ONE game but they featured an incredible offense and a top ten team. But WVU does not have the name recognition. Rod discovered that if his teams at WVU didn't win when they should, he simply would not get the guarantees from recruits. That was a crushing blow to his ego and a wake-up call. I can imagine him saying, "I work too damn hard to have kids jumping ship because I lost one game. I'm going somewhere where that won't happen..."

That won't happen at Michigan. Kids in the Midwest grow up looking at those helmets everyday. The passion that WVU fans show for their team is incredible, but that is not enough. It only applies to state natives and diehards. You are unfortunately few and far between. There is more interest and more money at Michigan. Just like there was at Alabama...and we all know now that Rod was packing for Tuscaloosa before a last minute change of heart. I wonder if UM AD Bill Martin ever called down to the Tide to ask their opinion of Rod? I would have.

WVU fans need to relax. It's over. Your native son is gone. Deal. There will be another coach...and probably soon. Pat White is staying. Steve Slaton may not(he's got a family you know). Noel Devine is staying. But if Devine thinks he can flourish in a 'non-spread' offense, he is mistaken. He is not Willie Parker, he's Garrett Wolfe. Remember him? Thought so.

Additionally, as of this morning Rod has fired the entire UM coaching staff one-by-one. At a school so obsessed with tradition, was that the right call? Dropping Ron English as Defensive Coordinator without what appears to be a legitimate interview process? Does that mean former D-coordinator Jeff Casteel follows Rich to Ann Arbor? Don't know about that one. I will describe the 3-3-5 defense in one word: C-U-T-E. Not a Big Ten defense...sorry. Get the best athletes available and run a 4-3/3-4 for God's sake! Get serious! How many NFL-caliber players has the 3-3-5 produced at WVU in the last few years? It's time to reevaluate your approach b/c the BEST defensive prospects in high school want to play for a college defense that will display their pro-level skill. Wake up Rod. Tell Casteel to drop the stack D or get a new coordinator.

I used to cover this team as a TV reporter/anchor. I've watched them countless times and interviewed the 'guys' hundreds of times. I'll end by saying this. I don't blame Rod for leaving. That's not our business. But his timing was poor and his job choice perhaps even poorer. WVU will be a better team next season than UM. Period. No Henney, no Hart, no Long in Ann Arbor while White, Slaton (maybe), Devine and the entire O-line returns in Morgantown. Bad call.

To Rich: Rod, I like you but you jobbed these kids. You know it. That's why your team meeting was short. You couldn't look them in the eye. I wonder what that felt like. I wouldn't know because I don't betray people I love in a time of crisis. The state won't welcome you back...not unless you win the National Championship and instantly rip off the block 'M' and weep at the 50-yard line. I can see the camera shot now..."Oh God, it doesn't feel as good as I hoped...West Virginia, what have I done? What...have....I....done?"

But WVU fans, chill. You've got an 8-11 win team next season regardless of head coach. But UM fans should be concerned. In four years, Rod will look to the SEC or to the NFL. That's a fact. He left his hometown for greener pastures after presenting himself as 'college football Jesus' in the Mountain State. As the Boy Scouts say: Be prepared.

You can be sure that Jim Tressel, Kirk Ferentz, Bret Bielema and Joe Paterno will be.

P.S.- (Oh yeah Rod...) On October 18th you're going to be at Happy Valley staring across the way at Joe Pa. At that point of the season you'll probably be 3-3, 4-2, or 2-4. And, you WILL lose to the winningest coach in college football history.

Paterno never left his team. Ever. How do you want to be remembered?

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