Did Rich Rodriguez, Like Dennis Franchione, Jump One Too Many Times?

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IAugust 26, 2009

There is something to be said for the Joe Paternos, the Bobby Bowdens and all the other coaches that find a home and stay put.  Can you imagine either of those coaches leaving without it being on their terms?

They will have statues of themselves, stadiums named after them, and will live forever with their names being revered at their respective institutions.

These are coaches who who took their "hot" seasons only to cement themselves deeper in their own pastures, not jump to seemingly greener ones.

There's a reason only Coach Bryant was a head coach at two schools that either won or shared a national title. He did it sharing a title at Kentucky and several times at Alabama.

No other coach has ever left a hot program that won a national championship and turned that into greener pastures.

Sometimes the last jump is the one jump too many.

Dennis Franchione turned many programs from losers to contenders.  He was becoming known as the "Master of the Turnaround." After setting TCU on a national stage and big bowls he jumped to Alabama and a 10-win season and a Sports Illustrated cover that proclaimed, "Bama's Back."

His next jump was his last.

He jumped to Texas A&M for more money, and the "Master of the Turnaround" turned them from a decent team to Big 12 doormats. Since his firing, no one has wanted his services as a head coach.

Rich Rodriguez could have been another Joe Paterno.  The prodigal son who came home to the school where he toiled as a student and player, who married the cheerleader and came home to lead the team to glory as a head coach.

He could have stayed there forever and had the stadium named for him as well as half the male kids in West Virginia, but he became a hot property, and felt the need to jump.

He gave Alabama a hard look, but it was said his wife Rita talked him out of it. Then came Michigan and a chance for Rich to be a big fish in a smaller pond than the SEC and he jumped on it.

This was a chance to bring the kind of speed to the Big Ten they weren't used to seeing.  It was a chance to have an SEC type defense in place where it could do the most damage.

Rich knew that if his Mountaineer team had been in the Big Ten, he could have been ruling that conference at will.

Unfortunately, he didn't bring his Mountaineer team and the square pegs at Michigan wouldn't fit into the round holes of his offense or defense.  Last year was one of the worst in Michigan history.

The good news is this year's team will be better. The bad news is, it's better because it would almost be impossible to be worse.

In television there's a saying called "jumping the shark." It refers to an episode of "Happy Days" when Fonzie jumped a tank of sharks on a motorcycle.

The show was getting stale and the writers and staff knew it. This was their attempt at trying something different.  Now it means, something different that failed, that signaled the day when it became apparent there was no more glory to be had.

Has Rich "jumped the shark"? Will he look back in a year or two and regret leaving West Virginia for greener pastures?  Or is he doing it already?

Maybe he'll discover it was better to be King of a small mountain estate forever, than King of a glorious castle in ruins for a year or two.

Somewhere in Texas this fall, Dennis Franchione will be watching Alabama play for another SEC Championship and BCS Bowl and wonder about all the what if's in his life yet again.

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