Michigan Gets Rich, West Virginia Gets The Rod

On a day marked with bad football, bad weather and bad fantasy football, it should have come as no surprise to me that the eventual “bad news” would be on the way. At 2:09 PM, my telephone rang and immediately began to inform me that Rich Rodriguez had packed his bags and was Michigan bound. While I’m certainly a little bitter at his departure, I can’t really cast many stones at the guy. He certainly served the Mountaineers well during his time in Morgantown, and passing up an opportunity to coach in the most elite of elite programs in the country just isn’t something that you hastily turn down.

The Michigan job knows very few peers. Perhaps only Notre Dame and Ohio State… actually, perhaps only Notre Dame. That prestige, paired with the recruiting prowess of the blue & gold and the untold millions of dollars he’s been offered, are enough to challenge any man’s loyalty to a program… even their own alma mater. In a year marked by abrupt (and often classless) coaching changes, Rodriguez at least took the time to discuss his future with his players in person, and respectfully left West Virginia for greener pastures. While I’d love to curse his name from the highest mountains, I can’t help but begrudgingly pat him on the back as he heads for Ann Arbor.

 

The question then arises, what will become of the WVU football program in the coming years? For Michigan, the skies look to be clearing and things may just be turning around. Terelle Pryor, a heavily recruited quarterback, announced to the Associated Press that after learning of Rodriguez’s arrival at Michigan, the Wolverines “just got on my list.” Landing such coveted recruits will immediately endear RichRod to the Michigan faithful, and his unique offense could prove to be highly effective in a Big Ten field that’s best described as “set in their ways.”

For West Virginia, however, the future can’t be viewed quite so optimistically. The departure of Rodriguez can all but guarantee that Heisman candidate Steve Slaton will be tossing his name into the realm of the 2008 NFL Draft. Slaton’s early exit, paired with the losses of Owen Schmitt, Darius Reynaud , Jayson Jackson and much of the highly improved defense, will leave tremendous holes in the lineup for next year. A new strategy under a new coach could prove problematic for Pat White, and unless the new boss in M-Town can quickly become a locker room favorite, we can’t expect to see Noel Devine on the field as a senior.

So, who can we expect to see roaming the sidelines in the other blue and gold this season? As expected, former Auburn head coach Terry Bowden’s name has immediately risen to the top of the heap. Bowden is a WVU alumnus and more than eager to return to the coaching ranks. He boasts a 93-39-2 record as a division I head coach and, perhaps more importantly, happens to be named Bowden.

However, the names (and the incredibly incestuous nature of college athletics) don’t stop there… enter Jimbo Fisher. Fisher was the name on every pair of Mountaineer lips when Rodriguez was reported to be considering taking the helm at the University of Alabama. Born in Clarksville, WV, Fisher has the “good ol’ West Virginia boy” pedigree that’s so important to the state, and has compiled an impressive record as offensive coordinator for LSU and later Florida State.

terrybowden.jpg

Fisher was coached at both Salem and Samford by the other WVU candidate, Terry Bowden… eventually moving to Auburn with his former coach. Fisher’s travels have led him to FSU, where he leads the offense for Terry’s father, Bobby Bowden. It is predicted by the university that Fisher will step into the head coaching position in the event that Bobby Bowden decides to ever retire… but could the opportunity to coach immediately, especially in his home state, win out over future Seminole glory?

Of course, there will be several “also ran” coaches vying for the position in Morgantown. I think we should fully expect the search to be relatively short, with an announcement possibly coming as early as this week. While I tend to believe that Bowden will be the next darling of the Mountaineer faithful, my gut reaction tells me that Fisher is a better choice. Unfortunately, I’m not the athletic director for West Virginia University… if I was, we’d still have Rich Rodriguez.

So, if it’s Fisher or Bowden or any other candidate that hasn’t yet appeared on the radar (Nick Saban? Bobby Petrino?), Mountaineer football fans will have to remember one very important thing. Don’t expect the new guy to walk into a brand new situation and win a national title (or even The Big East) in his first year. This season showed a remarkable level of parity in all of the NCAA and The Big East is certainly no exception. With Louisville weakening and an uncertain future for West Virginia, programs like Cincinnati, South Florida, UConn and Rutgers will have their chance at the top next year. West Virginia fans would be wise to reserve judgment for a few years, waiting to see if things will pan out.

 

Besides, it just gives the Mountaineer nation an even better reason to hate Ohio State… and may save a few couches from destruction.

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5 Responses to “Michigan Gets Rich, West Virginia Gets The Rod”

  1. cardtraderchat Says:

    ouch..
    Card Trader Chat

  2. Sportsattitude Says:

    Here’s the thing…I’ve heard a lot of the sports pundits talk about “well, you just can’t turn down a Michigan when they call…how many jobs are out there like that.” Michigan lost to App State this year. The world has changed. Rodriguez is going to a school with a rich tradition of football history, but it is history nonetheless. It is a brave new world in college football and, as we see from this season, he can as easily win a national title at West Virginia than he can at Michigan. The guy literally bleeds West Virginia and he gave it up for a “dream job.” My guess is halfway through his first year there he’ll be saying “what the hell have I done?” I will give Rich credit for handling the move better than Bobby The Pig…yet, I did hear he met Michigan officials in Ohio while the Athletic Director at WVU had no idea he was doing so. In fact, I read Governor Joe Manchin was quite disappointed with Rich’s decision and was actually quoted as saying “Something is wrong with the profession of college coaching today when a leader’s word is no longer his bond.” Manchin believes Rodriguez was pushed into taking the job. I give Rich more credit than that, but I still think he’s made a mistake thinking Michigan is a “better job.” As for WVU’s fortunes, I think they’ll be just fine!

  3. Greg Says:

    I agree with Sports Attitude on this one. West Virginia is clearly on the up and up in college sports.

    If you want a true homecoming, someone born and raised in West Virginia, and you also want the greatest story ever, here is your next West Virginia Mountaineers Football Coach:

    Mark Canterbury

    Perhaps you know Mark as Henry O. Godwinn…and if you dont, then i encourage you to google Henry O. Godwinn as soon as possible.

  4. Sportsattitude Says:

    Greg – would this be a “package deal” where Phineas Godwinn would “tag in” whenever he called plays for the Mountaineers, and vice versa?

  5. Greg Says:

    Oh yes. West Virginia would become legendary for running the Slop Drop on short yardage plays and succeeding…every…time…

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