When Rich Rodriguez accepted the job as the head football coach at the University of Michigan, he did not know what he was in for.
Before he could start relocating to Ann Arbor, his family was receiving death threats and his children were being bullied at school by West Virginia fans.
Once he arrived at Michigan, the endless stream of events that have caused some people to dislike Rich Rod continued.
It started when he gave the No. 1 jersey to a cornerback.
This went against a tradition, which started with Anthony Carter, that only the greatest of wide receivers could acquire the No. 1 jersey.
The real cause for this, however, was a major figure at Michigan not stepping up and showing Rich Rod all of the Wolverine traditions. A person like Bo Schembechler would have shown Rich Rod the ropes.
Now, it is important that the head coach learn some of the traditions on his own, so he can promote the program to recruits effectively. But something as miniscule as a jersey number that had not been worn since 2004 can easily be missed.
Athletic director David Brandon said the most important thing was for Rich Rod to show progress. Winning three games in his first year, five games in his second year and seven games in his third year is progress.
It just so happens to be the path of the coveted coach Jim Harbaugh, the Stanford coach many Michigan fans hope will replace Rich Rod.
Harbaugh won four games in his first year, five games in his second year, and seven games in the regular season in his third year.
Some people think Michigan’s 0-6 record against Michigan State and Ohio State is a reason why Rodriguez should be fired, but those programs already have their wheels turning.
Ohio State won its sixth consecutive Big Ten Championship this season, while Mark Dantonio is in his fourth year at Michigan State and some players that he recruited are now upperclassman.
One of the things the critics of Rich Rod continue to put forth is that his offense will not work in the Big Ten. They point to the Wolverines’ slow starts against Iowa, Penn State, Michigan State and Wisconsin, and their failure to get it going at all against Ohio State.
Even with their struggles, that cannot be a legitimate argument because Appalachian State, Texas, Oregon and many other teams have had success against Michigan in the Lloyd Carr era using the spread.
Plus, Ohio State was dismantled in the 2006 BCS National Championship by a team that uses the spread in Florida. The struggles they did have this season are because of a first-year quarterback leading the offense, not because the spread doesn’t work in the Big Ten.
There is a reason eight teams in the top ten have at least a second-year starter at quarterback.
In the two biggest games of the year, a spread team and pro style offense went head-to-head.
No. 1 Auburn played at what was then No. 11 Alabama and after Alabama went up 24-7, Auburn’s offense put it together and won 28-27.
In another game that featured No. 2 ranked Oregon and No. 4 ranked Stanford, Oregon’s spread attack prevailed after being down 21-0, to win 52-31.
What people have a legit gripe about is the dreadful defense Michigan has right now.
In three years under Rich Rod, the points allowed have increased every year, but Rich Rod should be given one more chance to hire a new defensive coordinator. If you look at Illinois, they cleaned house on the defensive side of the ball and went from 96th in points allowed to 53rd this season.
What Brandon needs to look at is Rich Rod’s prior success at West Virginia because, while improving by two wins every year should put Rich Rod over the top, his success at Morgantown is what should give Rich Rod leverage.
From 1891 to 2000, West Virginia had four 10-win seasons. After a couple seasons at West Virginia, Rich Rod had three straight seasons of 10 wins or more.
That would make Rich Rodriguez a step up since he finished his last three years 32-5, while the last three years at Michigan without him was 27-11.
While his defense has been bad, during his last year as head coach of the Mountaineers they finished seventh in points allowed nationally and fourth in total yards allowed nationally.
As many critics as there are, there are just as many people who see the bright future Michigan has.
Sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson won the Big Ten offensive player of the year this season, when during the pre-season he was fighting for his job at the quarterback position.
With a win in their bowl game anything is possible next year.
Michigan is returning 19 starters. Four of the teams in the top ten in the BCS right now had an 8-5 record last year: Auburn, Stanford, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Plus Michigan State had a 6-7 record. Four out of those five teams had a defense that did not rank in the top 50 in points allowed.
All in all, with Rich Rod, Michigan can win national championships. With coaches like Jim Harbaugh they can win Big Ten Championships, but nothing more.
In the last five years, three teams have won the championship using the spread. It will be four out of six after this year.