Rich Rodriguez: Next Second Year Coach To Win National Championship?

Michael ClineSenior Analyst IMay 18, 2009

ANN ARBOR, MI - SEPTEMBER 27:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines leaves the field with his son Rhett after defeating the Wisconsin Badgers on September 27, 2008 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Ridiculous? Probably. But history has a strange way of repeating itself.

The Michigan Wolverines had a forgettable year (or unforgettable, depending on your allegiance) under Rich Rodriguez in his first season as head coach. They finished the 2008 season a humiliating 3-9, missing out on post-season play for the fist time in many of our lives.

However, one bad season doesn't define a team nor a coach.

Rodriguez came to Michigan after having a very successful career at West Virginia. But it didn't start out so successfully.

His first year as Mountaineer head coach pitted him with a 3-8 record, sound familiar? But it didn't take him long to turn things around.

In the following season, Rodriguez led his team to a runner-up spot in the Big East and ended the season with nine victories to only four defeats.

Quite the accomplishment.

Of course we're all aware of the accolades that followed. Rodriguez will be remembered as one of the best coaches ever to hold the position in Morgantown, WV.

He himself won multiple Big East Coach of the Year awards and the team won their conference championship a couple of times.

So what does this mean for Michigan in 2009?

It means that you can't count the Wolverines out based on their performance last year.

Many pre-season conference rankings have the Maize and Blue located at the bottom of the barrel in the Big Ten, but I have a feeling they'll prove otherwise.

Everyone was shocked by the Wolverines 2008 season under Rodriguez. I'll never forget the video of the fans, disbelief in their eyes, arms crossed, just staring at the scoreboard unable to believe their eyes, week after week.

Rodriguez is a good coach, he's already proved so at West Virginia, and that's why Michigan hired him.

But one thing we must remember is that Rodriguez isn't a conventional coach.

He went to Ann Arbor with a plan, and he's sticking to it.

Fans, and professionals relished the thought of finishing 3-9, missing a bowl game, but I'm sure Rodriguez is still confident in his vision for the team, and I'm sure he feels like the ship is still on course.

Success is only a short distance from failure.

If you make the right moves and take advantage of all opportunities, you'll do well in life, whether its coaching, or flipping burgers at Wendy's.

And success seems to be a pattern for coaches entering their second season at a university.

Three times since the BCS inception, a coach in their second season with their new team has won the national championship.

Bob Stoops was named the head coach for Oklahoma in 1999. That year, the Sooners went 7-5 and were invited to a bowl game for the first time in four years.

The very next year, Stoops and the Sooners completed an undefeated season and won the national championship.

In 2001, Jim Tressel took over the helms as the Ohio State Buckeyes head coach. That season, the Buckeyes finished the year 7-5, beating Michigan for the first time after two consecutive losses.

The following season, Tressel led Ohio State to an undefeated season and a national championship, the first since 1968.

Urban Meyer came to the University of Florida in 2005 after much success as head coach of the University of Utah.

In his first year in Gainesville, Meyer led the team to a 9-3 season, and finished his second year with his first national championship under his belt.

Now it is a bit of a stretch to say that Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines will win a national title this year, but my point is that several coaches have had great success following their inaugural season.

I listed three coaches who took their teams to the pinnacle of college football, but there are several others whose accomplishments in their second year as head coach made incredible improvements, many above and beyond expectations (Alabama rings a bell).

So as the offseason begins to dwindle, let's not be so quick to count out certain teams before a snap is even taken. Strange things happen in college football, and that's what makes this sport the best of any.

Will Rodriguez turn the Wolverines around in 2009? Will he bring them back to winning, and business as usual for everyone in Ann Arbor?

I can't foretell the future, but one thing I'm certain of: The only way to go when you're on the bottom is up.


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