Morgantown and Ann Arbor: A Tale of Two Cities and Their Coaches
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way . . . --The Tale of Two Cities
In Morgantown, West Virginia, a recently hired employee has been going through spring football practice, realizing that his performance might determine whether he retains his position as head coach.
In Ann Arbor, Michigan, a recently hired employee has been going through spring football practice, realizing that his performance might determine whether he retains his position as head coach.
But in this tale of two cities and their coaches, that is where the similarities end.
Bill Stewart’s audition for the West Virginia job was a brilliant coaching performance in a glorious, upset victory over an outstanding Oklahoma Sooners squad in a BCS bowl game.
Rich Rodriguez’s audition for the Michigan job was a miserable coaching performance in a humbling, upset loss to a mediocre Pitt Panthers squad, costing him a shot at the National Championship game.
Bill Stewart is only faced with the court of public opinion. Rich Rodriguez, who is also faced with the court of public opinion, cannot escape a public court of a different sort.
The legal case will in no way affect Stewart’s pay. It will not render a judgment for, or against him. It will not put his job in jeopardy by being a distraction from his preparations for the upcoming season or his desire to beat the team’s archrival.
The legal case will in every way affect Rodriguez’s pay. It will most certainly render a judgment for or against him. It could quite possibly put his job in jeopardy by being a distraction from his preparations for the upcoming season or his desire to beat the team’s archrival.
Michigan Coach Rich Rodriguez was hired for one reason only: to beat the Ohio State Buckeyes. The rest is simply window dressing. Anything that distracts Rodriguez from that job is a direct threat to his continuation in that position.
If the former Mountaineer coach wins 11 games every year and loses to the Buckeyes, then he, with absolutely no ties to Michigan football, will soon be another footnote in Michigan history behind the name of Bo Schembechler.
Bill Stewart is not conflicted at all. He has only to please those in Morgantown. Rich Rodriguez is a man with two conflicting interests: trying to succeed at his current job while still trying to harm those he left behind.
As a West Virginia football fan, I will quickly acknowledge that I hope the university’s suit against Rich Rodriguez is successful.
I will also concede that some of you reading this will not share my opinion on that issue. However, those who disagree with me cannot legitimately argue that the ongoing court case has the potential to be a greater distraction for Michigan’s football team than it is to the preparation of the West Virginia squad!
Sometime between the end of spring football drills and the beginning of fall drills, Michigan’s football coach will still be facing this ongoing legal case. And with the money at stake in this suit, there is absolutely no way that his legal woes will not distract him from the X’s and O’s.
The case will at least temporarily remove the playbook from his hand and silence his swearing as he places that same hand on the Good Book and swears another kind of oath.
Coach Bill Stewart, who is no longer the program’s interim coach, has absolutely nothing to do with the case against Rodriguez. Although it is quite likely the man might share my hopes for the case’s eventual outcome, the legal battle has absolutely nothing to do with him or the players he coaches.
The officials in Morgantown have wisely done everything in their power to help Bill Stewart succeed in his mission. They have given him their support and the money to hire an outstanding staff. The officials in Ann Arbor have foolishly done absolutely nothing to help Rich Rodriguez to succeed in his mission.
Michigan obviously did not consider the implications this $4 million buyout might have on the coach when they hired him. Moreover, it would appear that they do not think their coach’s fortunes and their team’s future is worth settling the case and paying the buyout.
If Michigan wants their new coach to succeed, then they should immediately intercede, pay the buyout, and settle this case. For the town of Ann Arbor and the fans of Michigan football, this spring of hope could quickly become a winter of despair.
For Bill Stewart and Rich Rodriquez, respectively, it was the best of times; it was the worst of times. One is light; one is darkness. One has heaven ahead of him; the other is headed in the opposite direction.
In this tale of two cities, we are all waiting to see how the story ends.
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