Rich Rodriguez: West Virginia's Benedict Arnold
It may have something to do with our history of relying on each other for the truth—instead of the lies and myths we've had to endure from outsiders.
Now, though, the people of West Virginia feel betrayed by one of their own—Rich Rodriguez.
His defenders will say Rodriguez was only trying to better himself in jumping ship to Michigan. After all, you can find hundreds of WV families in Ohio who worked in the tire factories and steel mills, or in Pennsylvania in the steel mills and coal mines, or in Maryland in the construction industry.
But those families left because they had to—because there were no jobs available for them in West Virginia.
Rich left for personal glory.
Rodriguez has plenty of money—endorsements helped his salary reach the low seven-figures. When Mountaineer fans had to put up extra cash out of their tight budgets for tickets, and when WVU dropped other small sports to pay the football coach, we understood.
But this is more than we can stomach.
First of all, Rich, you betrayed your own Mom and Dad, who were so proud of you as the Mountaineers head coach. They loved that you were the coach of the team that they'd listened to for years on the radio on autumn Saturdays.
Now they can't go out of their house without being bombarded by questions and comments befitting the parents of Benedict Arnold.
As it stands, your folks are trying to explain to their friends and neighbors why you made the decision to coach at Michigan—from problems with scholarships at WVU to Don Nehlen's personal recommendation.
Ultimately, they're doing what you should have already done: explain why you'd throw away the West Virginia Mountaineers for the Michigan Wolverines.
And that's exactly what you did.
You've let down all the old high school friends who supported you when others questioned your ability. They're in utter disbelief that you didn't discuss the decision with them.
These are guys who played football with you on that state championship team, who grew up with you, bled with you. Lifelong friends weren't even a consideration in your poor decision—and now they're totally disgusted with you.
As I talked to one of them in the wake of the announcement, I could hear the sound of a person who'd been terribly hurt—by a blow worse than any football injury.
And don't forget the young players you abandoned—like children left on a street corner with National Championship trophy in a nearby window.
They gave their total commitment to you, Rich—and you let go of the rope.
And what about the rest of West Virginia? Even after you lost one of the biggest games in Mountaineer history, fans were still looking forward to the Fiesta Bowl and the 2008 season.
So much for that.
You could've gone down as the greatest coach in WVU history, Rich. Instead you'll be forever known as the coach who oversaw the worst loss in school history...and who abandoned his team as they were poised to achieve the greatest success the program had ever known.
Benedict Arnold was one victory away from becoming the Revolutionary's War greatest field general. You were one season away from becoming West Virginia's greatest football field general.
History, unfortunately, doesn't always go as well as it might.
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