Rodriguez vs. Michigan vs. The Big Ten

Buckeye CommentarySenior Analyst IAugust 31, 2009

None of us has any sympathy for Rich Rodriguez and Michigan but we all agree that the current situation and, perhaps Rodriguez tenure as a whole, is a giant mess.  I am not super interested in rehashing the gory details, you can check out MGBlog’s take for that.  But I am interested in talking about this mutiny on a few other levels.

Rule bending happens everywhere, don’t kid yourselves.  It seems to happen more in some regions, conferences, and/or states - say the the SEC, for example - but that could be the product of coaches being more likely to report (or falsely report) other team’s violations.  Rarely, if ever, have you seen a team turned in by current and former players.  That just doesn’t happen.

It seems to me that whether or not Rodriguez and/or Michigan are ever reprimanded for these alleged misdeeds is beside the point, at least partially.  Some measure of damage has been done.  

For starters, this has to be negatively impacting recruiting for the Wolverines, right?  And, I am not taking about the sly comments assistants and recruiting coordinators make on the trail.  Kids nationwide are hearing about players already in the program saying they are worked to the bone or punished for not doing so.  

Between the mass transfers early (and more recently) in Rodriguez’a tenure (highlighted by Justin Boren’s move to Columbus), last season’s plummeting win total, and this saga, any high senior would be well within their bounds to question the current stability of the proud program.

Then, there is a the following thought, which I cannot fully articulate.  So let me say it simply: I feel like Ohio State and the Big Ten are being harmed through this episode and it makes me sorta angry.  It just seems like it is reflecting on the entire condition that is Big Ten football.  

Maybe I am being too sensitive because Ohio State’s recent big game failings have been imbued on the league.  And maybe, as a result, I am extra sensitive to collective league shame, while simultaneously looking for another team to be responsible for its origin.

I don’t pretend to equate this to Alabama’s fall in the 90s because that was the result of two teams waging war off the field, but this entire affair could set back any Big Ten resurgence by handicapping Michigan for years to come.  If that happens, no one wins because, like it or not, Michigan is one half of the best rivalry in sports and a major part of the Big Ten.

If Rodriguez does something to cause The Game and all its traditions from maintaining his stature, that will be the greatest harm of all.