The Michigan Wolverines Schism: Hating and Supporting Rich Rodriguez

Mitch MeyleContributor IFebruary 8, 2010

There is an undeniable divide within the Michigan community; a divide that has existed since the hire (not failure or success, but hire) of Rich Rodriguez as head football coach at the University of Michigan. 

Let’s face it, whether Coach Rod won every game his first year or (more in line with what happened), lost every game, there were going to be fans of Michigan football who would never accept an outsider.  Those fans are probably the same fans who were the first to join, a site devoted to trying to oust Michigan Man Lloyd Carr.  They’re never satisfied.

Nowadays they will tell you their vehement hatred of Rich Rod is because he can’t adjust his system to the players he has, he’s crooked, he brought an NCAA investigation, and so on and so on…but all it really boils down to is, “he isn’t a Michigan Man.”  That was the criticism from the start, and that’s why Rich Rodriguez had no shot with some of the fanbase. 

There are others, myself included, who just want to see Michigan win.  Obviously we want it done the right way, the Michigan way, but we fully acknowledge that you don’t need to be a Michigan Man to get things done that way.  Bo Schembechler wasn’t a Michigan Man, though you can’t tell that to those Rich Rod hating Michigan fans.  

What about Fielding Yost?  More than half of Michigan’s national titles were won with this non-Michigan Man at the helm.  Those fans in the first group simply can’t hear this either over their blind hatred of everything Coach Rod. 

The Michigan fans I consider myself grouped with are fans who love this school.  We cheer for our maize and blue even when they’re down.  We watched every football game start to finish, and let me tell you, at times it was painful to do so, but we did.

Now I’m not going to say the Michigan fans in the first group are wrong to be critical.  Rich Rodriguez has won 33 percent of his games at Michigan in two years.  That’s unacceptable.  But that group of fans doesn’t seem willing to accept that most of us wanted change.  We wanted to win national titles. 

When Rich Rodriguez was hired he was on the verge of a national title at WVU.  He had recently turned down an offer to be Alabama’s head coach.  It isn’t like this is, as some of the more eloquent in that group put it, “some dumb hick who doesn’t know football.” 

Quite the contrary, he created a version of the spread that is now widely used.  Coaches like Urban Meyer would call him for advice on how to make their, somewhat similar system, fall more in line with his.  At Michigan he inherited a group of athletes that simply put, are the opposite of what he uses in his system.  

Should he have adjusted his system to their abilities more than he did?  I’d say that’s a fair criticism, but it would’ve just delayed his entire system implementation for so long it may not have been workable.   Did Coach Rod handle the WVU divorce as best as he could?  Again, valid criticism. 

But if you thought this transition was going to be easy; that Rich Rodriguez should’ve been able to come in and on day one make Michigan a contender, you really weren’t thinking clearly.  That’s not on Rich Rodriguez, that’s on you.

We are divided, but we have not yet fallen.  While I’m supporting Rich Rodriguez and Michigan 100 percent, I too was not thrilled when he was hired.  I loved that Michigan was Quarterback U; known for guys like Tom Brady and the quintessential power arm pocket QB.  The idea that we would no longer have that really rubbed me the wrong way. 

In the end though, I am all in for Michigan.  It’s my team.  It’s my school.  And I support the head coach because I love Michigan.  You don’t have to love Rich Rodriguez to support Michigan, but you can at least cut the guy some slack.  No, this isn’t the Michigan it used to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad version of what once was a great thing.

I actually think Michigan is evolving into a true contender.  If you have the time to spend, look over the depth chart from last year and examine the youth that was starting on this team.  As those players get older they become more and more familiar with the system and undoubtedly Michigan will get better.  However, there are people who want to destroy Michigan and stop it from having the chance to recover.      

Knowing full well that this divide is a strong one, some members of the media (Drew Sharp, Dave Birkett, Michael Rosenberg) have decided to play off of it by writing strong criticisms and pitting the two sides of Michigan fans against each other.  They increase the traffic to their websites and they get a lot more comments on their articles by doing so.  They make money off of the Michigan schism. 

If you want to find a critique of Michigan football, just google Rich Rodriguez and hit news… one of these three has probably had something negative to say within the last 24 hours of any given day.  The worst offenses are when they attempt some kind of “investigative journalism” which in my opinion probably amounts to a conference call they all have together where they talk about the best way to trash Michigan athletics. 

If you want to read that kind of garbage, be my guest, but don’t call it “investigative journalism.”  I’ve read stories with more “investigative journalism” in the Enquirer.  I will give them credit though, it seems to work.  Look at their most critical articles and count the comments.  They are getting exactly what they wanted.

Michigan fans need to be better than this schism.  In the end both sides want to see Michigan win.  We can’t allow biased reporters looking to make a dime off angry fans to frame the story for us.  Look at the Demar Dorsey debacle. 

It was a shocking LOI-signing day commitment that should’ve been praised since he wasn’t considering Michigan a month ago, and in that month, Rich Rodriguez and staff were able to get him to come north. 

Instead, two of those reporters I listed above berated Coach Rod over the kid’s past legal trouble and refused to accept any of Coach Rod’s answers.  Then they go off and write their negative pieces about a kid who doesn’t have a felony or a misdemeanor, and who has even gone to a trial on one of the charges only to be acquitted. 

What does Drew Sharp say, “Well OJ was acquitted” and “I know Demar’s fast, but that 40 time was with police chasing him”… these are the guys that we are letting write about Michigan football.  This is who we get our news from.  As a Michigan fan, whether you hate Rich Rodriguez or not, that should bother you!  Where is the outrage? 

If there is something we can come together on, let it be fair coverage of Michigan athletics.  This isn’t to say all members of the media covering Michigan football are in it just to make money off of the schism either.  Rob Otto of wrote a very fair piece about the situation with Demar Dorsey.

We are supposed to be rooting for Michigan, not rooting for Michigan’s coach to be fired.  As Bo Schembechler said, it’s about “The Team The Team The Team.”  Michigan hasn’t fielded a very good team the last two years, and as head coach that does fall on Rich Rodriguez. 

To call for his firing though—to buy into what these biased reporters are telling you…that’s not how we should react to a poor record.  If you give Rich Rodriguez time he can make Michigan into a contender.  You don’t have to pledge any allegiance to him, but let your love of Michigan overwhelm your hatred of Rich Rodriguez.  Cheer for The Victors whether we win or lose. 

The old adage, “Those who stay will be champions” is truer now than ever before.  It may be hard to see when it seems every piece of news out there about Michigan football is an attack on the coaches, but Michigan is getting better.  The storm is almost over, and when it is, Michigan will be stronger because of it. 

I will leave you with the words of Fielding Yost: "True loyalty is that quality of service that grows under adversity and expands in defeat.  Any street urchin can shout applause in victory, but it takes character to stand fast in defeat.  One is noise—the other, loyalty."