Taking the reins of the University of Michigan’s football team should be a college coach’s fairytale come true. For Rich Rodriguez, the venture has been somewhat less enchanted.
Mr. Rodriguez accepted Michigan’s head coaching job last December, shortly after Lloyd Carr retired. He inherits a program embarrassed in 2007 by a historic loss to Appalachian State. Mr. Carr’s team in recent years had also taken a beating from Ohio State — Michigan’s chief rival.
Michigan’s first choice for Mr. Carr’s replacement, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, turned the university down, and Michigan’s dead-end interest in LSU’s Les Miles created a fiasco. The school finally hired Mr. Rodriguez, who arrived with a brand of controversy unfamiliar to the storied football program.
As head coach at West Virginia University, Mr. Rodriguez helped the team reach national prominence. But his abrupt departure led to harsh criticism among West Virginia faithful and triggered a deal that forced Michigan and its new coach to pony up $4 million for a buyout clause that had been in Mr. Rodriguez’s recently inked contract. Mr. Rodriguez will pay $1.5 million in coming years; the school has covered the remaining balance.