Rich Rodriguez Shown the Door: What's Next for the Michigan Wolverines?

Brandon CavanaughCorrespondent IJanuary 4, 2011

Rich Rodriguez Shown the Door: What's Next for the Michigan Wolverines?

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    It’s official...kind of.

    Rich Rodriguez is allegedly no longer a Michigan Man, even in name only.

    Following a dismal 15-22 record during his tenure as head coach of the Wolverines, he was reportedly dismissed by Athletic Director Dave Brandon.

    Brandon told ESPN's Desmond Howard that this is not the case and that Rodriguez's future is undetermined, though, leaving things temporarily up in the air.

    Michigan was flogged by Mississippi State in the Wolverines' final game of a 7-5 season, 52-14.

    If the speculation is true, then the Wolverines can start fresh, but how will they return to respectability?

    Will Jim Harbaugh actually return to his alma mater?

    How does the removal of Rodriguez affect the future of Michigan football?

What If Harbaugh Spurns Michigan's Advances?

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    Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    The thought of Rodriguez being on the hot seat this year was nearly universal by fans and pundits alike.

    A good year or two ago, the idea of bringing in Jim Harbaugh to replace Rodriguez, should he be fired, seemed silly.

    The Internet chuckled at the thought as it was rumored that relations between the former Michigan quarterback and the Wolverines were rather sour.

    At this point, several fans across the college football world see Harbaugh to Michigan as a given.

    Perhaps tensions on both sides have eased.

    That may be true, but reports are circulating that Harbaugh is either having a difficult time seeing a departure from Stanford or simply plans to pass on such an offer.

    If he does, then what?

    Does Michigan even have a Plan B at this point?

Does Denard Robinson Equate to Automatic Success?

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    Well, that all depends, now, doesn’t it?

    The junior-to-be is a true dual-threat with 2,570 passing yards and 18 touchdowns through the air combined with a stunning 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing in 2010.

    The right system demands the right quarterback, and Robinson would likely be able to mesh into a variety of schemes.

    There are three key questions that define Robinson’s future at Michigan:

    1. Who will the new head coach be?

    2. What will the offensive scheme be?

    3. With the new coaches, will Robinson be interested in sticking around?

    Shoelace’s abilities suggest that he will be a Wolverine next year simply because he can adapt to several styles of offense.

    Here’s hoping for Michigan’s sake that its new head man has the gift of gab.

The Cornhusker Effect

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    While Michigan has trudged through recent seasons under Rodriguez, it now looks at a re-aligned Big Ten conference that might ease its pain to a degree.

    Unfortunately, even though their offense remained stagnant in the final two games of 2010, the Nebraska Cornhuskers are coming.

    The fans are warm and inviting.

    The players? Not so much.

    Michigan is placed in the same (insert less embarrassing name here) division of the Big Ten.

    Bo Pelini’s stout Blackshirts will make recruiting even more difficult for Michigan to rebuild its porous defense.

    While excited to be a part of the new and improved Big Ten, Nebraska will do to the Wolverines what other teams did to the Cornhuskers during the Bill Callahan era:

    Kick them while they’re down.

When Will Michigan Rejoin The Nation's Elite?

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    Take heart, Michigan fans.

    While Nebraska isn't interested in letting the Wolverines win ballgames, Cornhusker fans can certainly appreciate your position.

    The two programs aren't so different.

    Both feature legendary programs, national championships, multiple Heisman winners and much more.

    They also are both trying to dig out of a large hole.

    Many Nebraska fans didn’t appreciate the hiring of former Oakland Raiders head coach Bill Callahan by then-Athletic Director Steve Pederson.

    Callahan’s tenure was met with much scrutiny as he tried to install his West Coast Offense system, and he eventually was fired along with Pederson.

    Nebraska is slowly working its way back up the food chain.

    Despite the disappointing season, the Cornhuskers have won 29 games in the past three seasons, and things are looking up.

    What Cornhusker fans would advise the Wolverines to do is learn from Nebraska's mistakes.

    Hope—nay, pray—that Michigan doesn’t hire its own “Callahan.”

What About Recruiting?

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    When coaches get the axe, recruits usually drop from the commit list.

    The key question is: Can the new head coach and his staff lure them back?

    Michigan currently has a respectable recruiting class.

    Rivals.com ranks running back Justice Hayes, defensive back Blake Countess and defensive end Brennen Beyer as four-star prospects.

    The last thing Michigan can afford is to lose these talented players, especially Countess.

    The Wolverines secondary needs help in the worst way (No. 112 out of 120 teams).

    Michigan fans need to hope that Countess truly wants to both be a Wolverine and start from Day One.

    A word of warning: There are several commitments on Michigan’s list that Big Ten teams wouldn’t mind cherry-picking.

Who Can the Wolverines Turn To?

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    There’s Harbaugh, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume that he does turn down an offer from Michigan.

    Nebraska seems to be doing well with a defense-minded head coach.

    Why not Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster?

    Plenty of defense, half of the aneurysms.

    How about Les Miles?

    The Hat has ties to Michigan as a player and a graduate assistant.

    Why not bring The Luckiest Coach in College Football to Ann Arbor?

    There’s always the eventual Mike Leach, Bob Stoops, Bill Cowher, and now Urban Meyer rumors for good measure, too.

How Much of a Say Will the Boosters Have?

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    Money talks, and poor-performing coaches walk.

    Boosters at prominent programs across the country have made this very apparent.

    To ensure that the new head coach of the Wolverines is a true “home run hire,” are the high-rolling fans ready to open their checkbooks for the home team?

    Michigan already dropped down seven figures to lure Rodriguez to Ann Arbor from West Virginia.

    Clearly there is some buying power among the university.

    It’s time for the Wolverines to test the ideals of some powerful head coaches and see if a large quantity of zeros on a sparkling new contract is enough to get them the man they want.

How Much Patience Will the Fans Have?

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    Congratulations, you're the new head football coach of the University of Michigan.

    We’ve been in business for 131 years, and, as you may have heard, things haven’t been going so well for us lately, but that’s why you’re here, coach!

    You’re going to change the face of this program and do it pronto, right?

    After all, that’s quite an addition we gave to the ol’ bank account.

    Now, don’t worry, because you’ve got a very talented kid at quarterback.

    You’ll like him.

    He doesn’t even need shoelaces.

    What’s that about defense?

    Oh, defensive coordinator Greg Robinson will fill you in about that. No worries.

    OK, so you’ve got 109,901 people watching you in the stardium every Saturday during the season and they carry expectations as high as Paul Bunyan’s eye.

    No doubt that you’re going to make them all proud from the get-go.

    Good luck, and Go Blue!

About That Defense...

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    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    The 3-3-5 is simply a poor choice for the Wolverines.

    Yes, the Michigan defenders are young, but to rank near the bottom of total defense is inexcusable for a program that wants to win the Big Ten, let alone have realistic national championship aspirations.

    Greg Robinson might want to start updating his resume.

    Unless he’s got a chalkboard full of new and exciting ideas, he’s likely about as long for the program as Rodriguez was.

    It would do Michigan well to switch back to a 4-3 base or even convert to a 3-4.

    The Wolverines could take advantage of some speedier linebackers, convert some more physical safeties and voila!

    Is it a guaranteed fix?

    Not at all, but it may very well get Michigan out of the bottom of the nation’s defensive rankings.

In Summary

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    It’s easy to say, but Michigan needs an excellent head coach in the worst way.

    The last thing that the Wolverines can afford to do is become the next Notre Dame where a hot new name comes in every four years and, like clockwork, they’re gone.

    Michigan needs either a proven leader or a young talent waiting in the wings at a top program to make positive changes and make them now.

    Overall changes in staff need to be made.

    Recruiting needs to be not only salvaged but stepped up.

    Crucial players need to be reassured of the future lest they transfer.

    It’s a big job, but someone has to do it.

    If they can’t, the Michigan head coaching job will be a gig that you quite literally cannot pay someone enough to take.

    Don't let the offseason get you down.

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