I'm a Fan of...Rich Rodriguez?: Afraid So, Even With the Practice Allegations

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIAugust 31, 2009

SOUTH BEND,IN - SEPTEMBER 13:  Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines runs onto the field with his team before the game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on September 13, 2008 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. (Photo by: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

First, let's get the bad part out of the way.

Even after nearly 20 months to get over it, I'm still PO'ed at Rich Rodriguez for being completely outcoached by Pittsburgh's Dave Wannstedt at the most critical juncture in the history of West Virginia football, the 2007 Backyard Brawl, during which the Mountaineers were 28-point favorites to go to the BCS Championship game. 

We may never get that close again. 

What a monumental blown opportunity it was.  

All Rich had to do was open it up for a few plays by throwing downfield—and do it before halftime—and WVU would have had the chance to hoist the crystal football. 

The choke thing, and the fact that I think he yells too much, are the only problems I have with Rich Rodriguez.

Apparently, many of you think I'm taking it way too easy on him.

I'm not going to review the facts of "Practicegate." They are too numerous and get more ridiculous as time passes. Soon, we'll have players chained to the bench press rack, books and laptops in hand, puking in a bucket, and begging Coach Rod for a chance to study.

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Nor am I going to use the argument that "everyone does it," not because that's not true, but because it is a banal, knee-jerk reaction to a serious issue. As much as we silently laugh when we say it, football players are student-athletes.

The vituperative outcry says more about the antagonists than it does about Rich himself. He's had people out to get him since after his 3-8 2001 season, when some WVU boosters took the higher ground and tried to remove him from office using the "morality clause" in his contract.

I'm certain such a clause exists in the contract of every coach, but no one was preaching when Rodriguez boldly faked a punt late in the fourth quarter in the 2005 season's Sugar Bowl, cementing the victory over Georgia in Atlanta.

Those same boosters probably gave him moral latitude to keep him from the clutches of Alabama after the 2006 season.

Fame is fleeting.

Back to Practicegate. Michigan has a chief compliance officer to both interpret the NCAA rules and to maintain that her school is operating within those rules. She is independent of Coach Rod and probably reports directly to the AD and even the president.

If the allegations of Practicegate are true, then everyone goes down with Rich because so far no one has admitted there is a problem save the players interviewed, according to the Associated Press.

The issue here is the Meat On The Hoof Syndrome. Everyone wants to be Gary Shaw. But with regard to that classic University of Texas college football exposé, Shaw had names to go along with the allegations. That's why I believe Meat On The Hoof, and why I have serious doubts about Practicegate.

And even after all that, Darrell Royal has a stadium named for him in Austin.

Show me some names, and you'd better do it before 2010, because Rich Rod will have Michigan up there with Ohio State, Michigan State, and Penn State in the battle for the Rose Bowl. By then, Practicegate will be a late night joke.

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