To understand just how quickly a coach’s stock can plummet, one need only look to the afternoon of Dec 1, 2007, just less than two years ago, when Les Miles and Rich Rodriguez were the toast of their profession.
Hours before coaching LSU in that day’s SEC Championship Game, Miles, coveted both by his alma mater (Michigan) and his employer, held an unusual pregame press conference to debunk an ESPN report claiming he had accepted a job in Ann Arbor. That night, West Virginia’s Rodriguez, who just a year earlier had come close to signing with Alabama, coached for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.
Soon, the two men’s fates became intertwined. Miles’ team beat Tennessee, while Rodriguez’s team fell to 4-7 Pittsburgh, opening the door for Miles’ Tigers to play for a national championship. As a result, Michigan was forced to end its courtship of Miles, who, upon claiming the sport’s top prize a month later, signed a lucrative new contract making him (at the time) the highest paid coach in the SEC ($3.751 million annually). Michigan turned instead to Rodriguez, thinking highly enough of his work at West Virginia to hand him the keys to the sport’s all-time winningest program.
This past Saturday, these same two coaches were the subject of widespread scorn from their fan bases and much mockery around the country. With a 21-10 loss to Ohio State, Rodriguez completed his second straight losing season at Michigan, an indignity Big Blue followers have not suffered since 1962-63. Between his ugly divorce from West Virginia, an NCAA investigation into allegations he violated practice limits and a 3-13 Big Ten record to date, Rodriguez’s reputation as an offensive guru suddenly seems like ancient history. Now, to most, he’s a man in over his head and begging for sympathy regarding his rebuilding project.