Rich Rodriguez Fallout: In Search of Off Campus Coaches at WVU

Roger HayhurstCorrespondent IDecember 20, 2007

IconThe search for a college coach can be a painful experience for everyone involved, rom the administration tasked with actually finding the coach, the boosters that may help in financing the coach, the fans of the school that are waiting and speculating on who the new coach may be, and finally, fans of other schools who worry about whether or not their coach will leave them.

The search for a coach is infinite.

When a coach is found, unless it's his his first coaching position, that coach must be replaced. And so on and so forth, until someone hires the person who doesn't have to be replaced, such as a rookie coach.

The big news coaching wise this year can be summed up in one word "Michigan."

After 13 years with the maize and blue, Lloyd Carr stepped down as the head coach of the program that has more college wins than any other in the country. When Lloyd decided that his time would be better spent in the retirement community rather than courting more high schools seniors than Debra Lafave, he sent an unprecedented ripple effect through college football that has unfolded into one of the most unusual and highly covered coaching searches that I can remember.

When Michigan's AD went on a coach poach, they had one man in mind: Les Miles.

Les miles, who had replaced Nick Saban as the head coach of the LSU tigers and was preparing to coach in the BCS championship. He was coaching the first two loss team to ever reach the national championship.

Many claim that Miles is overrated due to the fact that he is playing with Nick Saban's kids. Ask Cam Cameron about playing with Saban's players, and I'm sure he'll have a different outlook on the subject.

Some say that no one knows how good Miles really is because he isn't playing with his recruits yet. If that were true, then why would arguably the best college football program in the country look at Les Miles?

Simple: he is what's referred to as "A Michigan man." He was a player and assistant at the big house.

When Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin wanted Les Miles to come home, it was a given that people said "No doubt—he is a Michigan Man." It was even confirmed by Kirk Herbstreet on ESPN that Miles would in fact be headed to Ann Arbor. Kirk was wrong of course.

Les Miles, in an angry and short press conference, stated his position clearly so no one would misunderstand. "I am the head coach at LSU. I will be the head coach at LSU. I have no interest in talking to anybody else."

Well what happened? He was a "Michigan man" after all.

Miles' decision Bill Martin, who continued his search. He turned to Rutgers and Greg Schiano, who last year turned down Miami. Schiano gained the least amount of coverage in this search because without delay or confusion, he simply said that he would continue to coach at Rutgers.

Now we get to the meat of the subject. 359 miles southwest of Bill Martin's second choice lay his third.

In the Heart of Morgantown, WV is West Virginia University. A program that often knows success in football and basketball, winning both the NIT Championship and the Gator Bowl.

This year, West Virginia had led one of its own home. Bob Huggins had become the new men's basketball coach for his alma mater and his home state. For the first time in WVU history, both teams were coached by what are referred to as "True Mountaineers."

Morgantown was not unfamiliar territory to Michigan AD Bill Martin. Eight months ago, he had lured then WVU Basketball Coach John Beilin to Michigan—and in a whirlwind of meetings over a 48-hour period, Bill Martin had convinced WVU head football coach Rich Rodriguez to do the same.

As a native West Virginian, I cannot convey to you how much this stung. It was much worse than Beilin, and the fact that Michigan had raided the Mountaineer cupboard once again didn't help.

A short history of Rich Rodriguez: he is from Grant Town, West Virginia, where he played high school football and won a state championship. Not highly recruited, he walked on and eventually started coaching for Don Nehlen at West Virginia University. Rodriguez was the youngest coach in college football history at 24, with stops at Glennville State, Tulane, and Clemson before arriving in Morgantown in 2000.

As most already know, as of December 19th, 2007, Rich Rodriguez still wears blue and gold—but now as a member of the Michigan Wolverines.

People in West Virginia are stunned. Not because they wanted him, but because he left. Rich was introduced in Ann Arbour and then promptly resigned from WVU.

Unfortunately, Coach Rod's departure has had different type of negative effect on Mountaineers fans. As WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong searches for the next head coach, a few names keep coming up amongst fans, and three of them have already interviewed.

The names under consideration are: former Auburn coach and broadcaster Terry Bowden, Central Michigan head coach Butch Jones, Florida assistant coach Doc Holiday, and Florida State heir apparent Jimbo Fisher. I have my personal top pick, and I assure you it isn't any of these.

The biggest problem right now is that WVU fans are looking for what Michigan was looking for: a hometown Hero. Each one of those candidates is from West Virginia, and has played or coached at WVU at one point in time.

West Virginia fans have a skewed vision of who should be coach because of our experience with former coaches. Coach Rodriguez was a local boy, as is Coach Huggins. Sure, it means a bit more when a player returns to coach his alma mater—but in the case of WVU fans, they want a "True Mountaineer" leading the way, just for the sake of the person being a "True Mountaineer."

The Mountaineers fans, administration, boosters, and the Governor in this case need to look outside the state borders for possible candidates. Look at Boise State's Chris Peterson, who has been wildly successful. Look at ECU's Skip Holtz, who runs a spread and has been doing pretty well with it while not nearly having the talent of a Pat White. Those are just a couple of suggestions.

The WVU fan base needs to rethink their approach to finding Rodriguez's successor, and realize that the next great Mountaineer coach may not be from WV, may not have played at WV, and may have no ties to WV whatsoever.

The administration needs to hurry the process along. Right now, the the Mountaineers are like a girl waiting for their father to decide on a husband for a pre arranged marriage.

Michigan's defensive coordinator Ron English is said to be ready for the next level. Maybe the Mountaineers administration should look at the fact that planes that fly from Michigan to WV to interview Rich Rodriguez probably also fly from West Virginia to Michigan as well.

Rumor is now circulating that Michigan’s Athletic Director Bill Martin has set his eyes on Nikki Izzo-Brown. The head coach of the WVU Wildly successful woman's soccer team. If you didn't know WVU had a woman's soccer team I suggest you take a look, these young ladies are a national powerhouse known across the country and they represent us well.



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