Rich Rodriguez

Rich Rodriguez

Rich "Rod" Rodriguez (born May 24, 1963 in Grant Town, West Virginia) is the head football coach at the University of Michigan. Prior to moving to Michigan, he was the head coach at West Virginia University for seven seasons. He is one of only two current Hispanic head football coaches in the NCAA.

Playing career

He graduated from North Marion High School in 1981 where he had played four sports and was an all state football and basketball player. After high school, Rodriguez attended West Virginia University (WVU) where he first walked on to the football team and later earned a scholarship under coach Don Nehlen. Playing as a defensive back, Rodriguez recorded 54 career tackles over three seasons.

Early coaching career

WVU and Salem

During the 1985-1986 season, Rodriguez served as a student assistant coach under head coach Don Nehlen and graduated with a Physical Education and Safety degree. In 1986, he moved to what was then Salem College (now Salem International University) where he served as special teams coordinator and secondary coach. In 1987, he became Salem’s defensive coordinator and in 1988 took over as head coach. At 24 years old, he was the youngest college head coach in the country. He was 2-8 in his first season as head coach, after which the college announced it was dropping its football program.

In 1989, he returned to West Virginia University as a volunteer assistant.

Glenville State, Tulane, and Clemson

After Rodriguez's return to WVU as a volunteer coach with the outside linebackers for the 1989 football season, he left again to take over as head coach at Glenville State College. During his stay from 1990 to 1996, the team earned three consecutive West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships and competed in the 1993 NAIA national championship. His first season, 1990, he led the team to a 1-7-1 record, but improved to 5-5 in 1991. In 1992, Glenville went 4-5-1 - an improvement. 1992 showed a 6-4 season; however in 1993, Rich Rodriguez led Glenville to a 10-3 record and the WVIAC Championship and NAIA runner-up. The next two years, 1994 and 1995, Glenville finished as WVIAC Co-Champions. In Rodriguez's final season at Glenville, 1996, he led them to a Co-Championship once again. While at Glenville, Rodriguez compiled a record of 43-28-2 and was named WVIAC Coach of the Year in 1993 and 1994, NAIA National Coach of the Year in 1993, and West Virginia State College Coach of the Year in 1993 by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. Glenville State's four championships under Rodriguez were their first since 1959 while his players' set five national career records for Division II. He also coached three players who earned WVIAC Player of the Year honors.

Rodriguez left Glenville State at the end of the 1996 season to serve as assistant coach, offensive coordinator, and quarterback coach for Tulane University from 1997 to 1998, under head coach Tommy Bowden. Rodriguez was essential in Tulane's success, including their 12-0 season in Rodriguez's last season at Tulane, mainly for his spread offense with quarterback Shaun King. When Bowden was hired as the head coach at Clemson University, he retained Rodriguez on his staff. Rodriguez served as the offensive coordinator and associate head coach until the end of the 2000 season, traveling to a Peach Bowl and Gator Bowl.

WVU head coach

On November 26, 2000, WVU's athletic department announced that Rodriguez would again return to West Virginia, this time as head coach to replace the retiring legend Don Nehlen. Rodriguez's first season at West Virginia, 2001, was a disappointing 3-8 season. However, Rodriguez's turn-around of the 2002 team is the greatest turn-around in Big East history with a 9-4 record, Big East runner-up finish, back-to-back road wins against ranked Virginia Tech and Pitt, and a Continental Tire Bowl berth. The Mountaineers finished second in the nation rushing with 283 yards per game and fourth in turnover margin. In 2003, the Mountaineers started the season 1-4, and after losing to #2 Miami 22-20, the Mountaineers posted a 6-1 Big East record and tied for the Big East championship with Miami, earning a Gator Bowl berth. That season, the Mountaineers replaced 22 seniors, eleven of which were starters. In 2004, the Mountaineers posted a 8-4 record with a talented team of seniors and juniors, but were ranked as high as sixth during the regular season.

Following the 2002 season, Rodriguez was awarded the Big East Coach of the Year by Sporting News and state college coach of the year for all sports by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. He also received the 2003 Frank Loria Award from the West Virginia chapter of the National Football Foundation, and also earned Big East Coach of the Year that season. In 2005, he was offered to join the AFCA Board of Directors, and that same season was against given Big East Coach of the Year honors. Despite Rodriguez's success at WVU he was unable to eclipse some of his predecessor Don Nehlen's accomplishments, which included teams that played for the National Championship in 1988 and 1993.

In 2005, Rodriguez and the Mountaineers won the Big East title with freshman tandem Steve Slaton and Patrick White, thus claiming the conference's automatic berth in the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), where they defeated the Georgia Bulldogs in the Nokia Sugar Bowl and a final Associated Press ranking of fifth, tying the highest in school history (other in 1988). Ironically, Pat White was not a starting QB; his opportunity arose from a game injury to Adam Bednarik in the 2005 Louisville game. In 2006, the highly-ranked Mountaineers ended the season 11-2, with losses to Louisville and a shocker to USF. The Mountaineers won a classic comeback in the Gator Bowl against Georgia Tech 38-35, led by Pat White without Slaton.

Repeating off of their 2005 success, West Virginia posted another 11-win season, which was the first consecutive 10-win seasons in school history. The Mountaineers defeated Georgia Tech, 38-35, in the Gator Bowl and finished 10th in the final polls. Rodriguez also had two consensus All-Americans, running back Steve Slaton and center Dan Mozes (who also Rimington Trophy as the nation's best center).

On December 7, 2006, Rodriguez received an offer from the University of Alabama to be the next Alabama Crimson Tide head coach. Despite reports that he had agreed in principle to coach at Alabama, which Rodriguez described as totally incorrect, on December 8, 2006, Rodriguez announced he would remain as head coach at West Virginia.

The Mountaineers started the 2007 season ranked #3 in the AP poll and #6 in the Coaches' poll. They were #5 in the nation, before losing to #18 South Florida for the second consecutive time. South Florida eventually moved to #2, before dropping out of the Top 25 after losses (though USF would end the regular season ranked at #21). West Virginia dropped to #12 and #13 in the AP and Coaches' poll, respectively, before rebounding with wins against Syracuse, Mississippi State, #25 Rutgers, Louisville, and #21 Cincinnati. The Mountaineers eventually defeated #20 Connecticut to clinch the Big East Championship and move to #2 in the BCS standings and #1 in the Coaches' poll, both the highest position ever for a Mountaineer football team. WVU's regular season ended at home with a crushing loss in the Backyard Brawl against Pittsburgh.

Rodriguez was one of the most successful coaches in West Virginia history. He was credited with the first back-to-back Top 10 finishes in school history, four consecutive New Year's bowl appearances (joining USC as the only program at the time to do so), the school's first BCS bowl win, three Big East championships, eight wins over Top 25 teams, twenty-six straight weeks in the Top 25, a 30-6 record from 2005-2007, and a home-attendance average of 98% of capacity. Rodriguez brought his unique offensive style to WVU and after a disappointing first year, led the Mountaineers to four straight winning years, in three of which (2003, 2004, & 2005) the Mountaineers won or shared the Big East Conference championship. Rodriguez led the team to six straight bowl appearances (the 2002 Continental Tire Bowl the 2004 and 2005 Gator Bowls, the 2006 Nokia Sugar Bowl, the 2007 Gator Bowl, and the 2008 Fiesta Bowl).

Departure from West Virginia University

On December 16, 2007, Rodriguez informed players at West Virginia that he was leaving to succeed Lloyd Carr as the University of Michigan head football coach. Rodriguez's decision came on the heels of a loss to the unranked Pittsburgh Panthers, which eliminated WVU from National Championship contention. Rodriguez's original resignation letter listed January 3, 2008, as his resignation date, but he subsequently made it clear that he would not be coaching WVU in its January 2 appearance in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl vs the University of Oklahoma. On December 18, 2007, Rodriguez informed the university that his resignation would instead be effective at midnight that night and was replaced by his former assistant coach Bill Stewart, who was selected as head coach after the Mountaineers won the Fiesta Bowl.

The announcement of his departure came just four months after Rodriguez last renegotiated his contract with West Virginia, and was made despite his stated long-term commitment to the Mountaineers. The contract included a $4 million buyout if he left WVU within one year of the August 2007 signing date. It has since been speculated that Rodriguez's departure was triggered by conflicts with the new President of WVU, Mike Garrison.

Some insight into the discontent between Rodriguez and West Virginia University is evidenced in a compendium of emails that were released to the Associated Press on January 23, 2008. An Associated Press story indicates that Rodriguez's agent Mike Brown was threatening to take his client elsewhere early in the 2007 Football season. Less than 24 hours after Rodriguez announced he was leaving WVU to take a job as Michigan’s new football coach, Mayor Robert Riggs ordered two signs taken down that proclaim Grant Town as the “Home of WVU Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez.”

On December 27, 2007, West Virginia University filed a motion for declaratory judgment in Monongalia County Circuit Court, asking the Court to find that Rodriguez's contract with the University was valid, that WVU had not breached that contract, and that Rodriguez had breached it. Subsequently, on January 18, 2008, WVU added a count of breach of contract after Rodriguez allegedly failed to pay the first installment of the $4 million liquidated damages clause (often referred to as a "buyout clause" by the media) when due.

On July 9, 2008 Rodriguez and WVU agreed to settle the lawsuit. The terms of the settlement state the University of Michigan will pay $2.5 million of the settlement by the end of July 2008. Rodriguez will pay WVU the remaining $1.5 million in three installments of $500,000 each, spread over three years starting in January, 2010.

The resolution of the lawsuit provoked mixed reactions from the media. Some in the Michigan media have been critical of Rodriguez in light of the lawsuit. Yet others, feel the settlement was mainly driven by the University of Michigan (and not Rodriguez) for the sole purpose of enabling their coach to try and focus on coaching.

Paperwork Controversy

On January 15, 2008, West Virginia University announced that they would investigate the disappearance of player and football program files from the former office of Rodriguez. The reportedly destroyed paperwork was alleged to have detailed every player on West Virginia's roster and included program activities for the previous seven years of Rodriguez' tenure; however, Rodriguez and his representatives have contended that these were personal office files and that the University maintained duplicate file and player master records. [17] [18] When the University revealed it had copies of relevant academic information, the controversy subsided.[19]

WVU versus Rodriguez Lawsuit

On December 27, 2007, West Virginia University filed a motion for declaratory judgment in Monongalia County Circuit Court, asking the Court to find that Rodriguez's contract with the University was valid, that WVU had not breached that contract, and that Rodriguez had breached it. Subsequently, on January 18, 2008, WVU added a count of breach of contract after Rodriguez allegedly failed to pay the first installment of the $4 million liquidated damages clause (often refered to as a "buyout clause" by the media) when due. Rodriguez had the lawsuit removed to federal court on January 16, 2008, claiming that he had established a domicile in Michigan prior to the original December 27 filing date. WVU filed an objection to that removal, and ultimately prevailed on February 11, when the federal court remanded the matter to the Circuit Court. [20] [21] [22][23]

Rodriguez claims that he departed WVU because of alleged verbal agreements which were not kept by WVU. Most notably, he claims that incoming WVU President Michael Garrison told him that WVU would waive or reduce the amount of liquidated damages specified in the contract, as an inducement to having Rodriguez sign that contract. WVU has denied that any verbal agreements were made. [24]

On January 29, Rodriguez posted a $1.5 million letter of credit with the federal court, which he described as a gesture of good faith. The letter of credit was designed to fund any payments, up to $1.5 million, that the court might order Rodriguez to make to WVU prior to April 27, 2008, which is the expiration date of the letter. Rodriguez claimed that $1.5 million is the maximum amount of damage to which WVU might be entitled under the terms of the contract, an assertion that WVU has denied. [25] [26] [27][28]

Recruiting Controversy

In its January 15, 2008 court filing, WVU alleged that Rodriguez used WVU cell phones to make calls to players that he had been recruiting on behalf of WVU, in order to let them know he was going to Michigan. This was allegedly done prior to resigning his position at WVU or telling his own players on the West Virginia team. [29] [30]

University of Michigan

Rodriguez was introduced by Michigan as their new coach at a news conference held on December 17, 2007 at the Junge Family Champions Center on the University of Michigan campus. WVU recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson and offensive coordinator Calvin Magee accompanied Rich Rodriguez and were introduced as members of his new Michigan staff. Since arriving at the University of Michigan, Rodriguez has installed an entirely new staff, with selected holdovers from outgoing Coach Lloyd Carr's staff, upgraded the strength and conditioning facilities, completed a top 10 incoming recruiting class (which was recruited mainly by the previous coach, Lloyd Carr) and initiated aggressive recruiting for future years which more closely fits the spread offense Michigan is expected to run.

When Rodriguez became coach of Michigan, several players left before the start of the 2008 season. One player, Justin Boren, stated that "family values have eroded" at Michigan. . Another player, freshman Taylor Hill, announced his intent to transfer after the first game of the season . Similar issues occurred when Rodriguez took the helm at WVU in 2001, where several other players quit or transferred, including current NFL tight-end Sean Berton (transferred to North Carolina State).

Spread option

Rodriguez has been considered the pioneer/creator of the no huddle spread option offense (although a pass-first version was already being implemented), while at Glenville State, which he refined through his stops at Tulane with Shaun King, Clemson with Woodrow Dantzler, and West Virginia, most recently with dual-threat quarterback Pat White. This strategy features frequent use of the shotgun formation.

In 1997 with Tulane he called 366 passes vs. 424 runs (54% Run). In 1998 he called 375 passes vs. 518 runs (58% Run) with Tulane. In 1999 with Clemson he called 422 passes vs. 486 runs (54% Run).

With West Virginia his playcalling continued to center around the run.
2001: 355 passes vs. 474 runs (57% Run)
2002: 279 passes vs. 714 runs (72% Run)
2003: 252 passes vs. 600 runs (70% Run)
2004: 259 passes vs. 589 runs (69% Run)
2005: 193 passes vs. 625 runs (76% Run)
2006: 233 passes vs. 590 runs (72% Run)
2007: 265 passes vs. 628 runs (70% Run)

Head coaching record

*Indicates record/standing before the Fiesta Bowl game.

References

External links

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