Greg Eno

Archive for the ‘Rich Rodriguez’ Category

RichRod Gamely Tries To Inject Perspective Into U-M Football; Good Luck With That

In Rich Rodriguez, University of Michigan football on November 19, 2008 at 3:13 pm

It’s the economy, stupid.

That was the mantra during Bill Clinton’s drive toward his successful bid for the presidency in 1992, spread by his Johnny Appleseed, James Carville. And Clinton rode that focus on the economy straight into the White House.

Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez seems to want to use that same strategy to divert attention from the white elephant in the room — namely, his football team.

RichRod bristled during his Monday press conference about some of the vitriol and personal attacks that he’s had to weather because of U-M’s unseemly 3-8 record — the most losses for a Michigan football team. Ever.

He said that those fans — which no doubt included more than a few alumni — should “get a life”. His words. Then Rodriguez borrowed another campaign theme, i.e. redistributing the worry.

“I mean, look at the economy,” Rodriguez said.

Nice try, coach.

But this is Ohio State week, and even if every single Wolverine fan were homeless, penniless, and financially hopeless, the focus would be on the Buckeyes — no matter how much you’d like to hide that 3-8 white elephant.

Hey coach — nice try! But it’s the team, stupid!

An unlikely win over the Buckeyes — and make no mistake, this would be about as unlikely as it gets — would go a long way toward making this muck somewhat digestible. Rodriguez’s team could, in one fell swoop, send Wolves fans into the bowl-less season with a degree of holiday cheer.

And as far as the “get a life” comment: they already have one, those types. It’s called Michigan football. Don’t you know that by now, coach?

Yes, it would be lovely if all the critics — and that train is so full that a second has just been summoned to carry them all — would look at the state’s failing economy and put things into perspective. It would be grand if they suddenly said, collectively, “You know what? This whole Michigan football thing — not really all that important. How am I going to pay the mortgage?”

But here’s the rub: fans use sports as an escape route from life’s daily problems. Two or three hours away from the bills and the angst life brings is just what the doctor ordered, even if what you’re escaping to is dysfunction. So to tell people to “get a life” and pay attention to the economy is counter intuitive; they want to ESCAPE their lives and the economy — stupid!

No, Rodriguez isn’t stupid. He’s just stupid about the football fans in Michigan. But he’ll learn. He’ll come to know that they don’t want to be told to channel their anger and frustration to more important things; they’re perfectly happy channeling it toward your football team, coach. And they’re perfectly unhappy with being told otherwise by the man presiding over the worst season in U-M football history.

The timing of the “get a life” comment couldn’t have been much worse, coming during OSU week. Even Bo Schembechler’s amazingly ironic death two years ago — on the eve of the Big Game — failed to dwarf the game itself. Of course, in 2006, the Wolves and Buckeyes were actually playing for something more than one team simply wanting to spoil the other’s season. But once the ball was kicked off, Bo’s death was set aside for three hours, despite the numbing shock of its news.

I know what RichRod is trying to impart. I truly do. Good intentions are terrific. Well-meaning pleas for perspective are honorable. And to a more sane, reasonable, and significantly less spoiled electorate, maybe Rodriguez’s words would have taken hold. But these are Michigan football fans, and this is all they’ve got, many of them. So don’t go ruining it by injecting sanity and perspective, OK?

Rodriguez will learn soon enough. He’s not in West Virginia anymore.

Get a life? Sure — as soon as you get a clue.

Spartans Have Golden Opportunity To Put “Arrogant Asses” In Their Place

In Darryl Rogers, Mark Dantonio, Michigan State University football, Rich Rodriguez, University of Michigan football on October 25, 2008 at 4:42 am

I’m telling you, I don’t know what’s happened to football coaches names anymore. They’ve gone and gotten themselves called things like Mike and John and Pat and Mark and Rich.


Don’t they know that properly-named football coaches answer to Knute and Bo and Woody and Bear? Or Biggie and Duffy?

Certainly not Darryl.

Thirty years ago, there was a Darryl in our midst; twenty years ago, he faded away, and mercifully so.

But Darryl Rogers made a mark around these parts. Better put that more often than not, he left a mark.

Duffy was gone in 1978 – Duffy Daugherty, that is, the head football coach at Michigan State University. He retired in 1972 and gave way to the kind but bland Denny Stolz. The lineage went Munn to Daugherty to Stolz: Biggie to Duffy to Denny. Not a Mike or John or Pat in the group.

After Denny proved mostly ineffective – including managing to get the football program placed on probation – he was swept out the door and this dude from small California schools like Fresno and San Jose State came eastward to coach the Spartans: Darryl Rogers.

No one knew much about Darryl. Quickly, though, it was evident that a physical quirk forced him to talk out of one side of his mouth, literally. Eventually, we’d discover that a character flaw meant that he talked out of both sides, figuratively. But I digress.

Rogers came to East Lansing in 1976 and coached two mostly bland years. Then the Spartans came alive in 1978. One of their stars was a bombastic, caustic receiver who also was pretty good at baseball: Kirk Gibson.

Yet the Spartans were still losing football games again when the 1978 season began. Ready or not, they were on a collision course with their in-state rivals, the Michigan Wolverines, for a tilt in mid-October. The game would be played in Ann Arbor. The usual posturing began as the game drew nearer. Then Darryl opened the good side of his mouth and called the folks from U-M “arrogant asses.” Not that he was lying or anything.

The comment caused a low boil on Michigan’s campus, which grew to a rolling one as Saturday approached. The Wolverine faithful – the folks that Rogers had called, in so many words, over-confident posteriors – couldn’t wait to see what their team would do to MSU. The Spartans were annual victims to the Wolverines. They were beaten down by U-M in Rogers’s first two seasons. And MSU was 1-3 in ‘78 when Rogers made the remark. The series had taken on an almost Harlem Globetrotters-Washington Generals persona.

Rogers led his Generals/Spartans into Michigan Stadium, fresh off losses to big-time football programs USC and Notre Dame. Over 101,000 over-confidents sat on their posteriors, waiting for the slaughter.

Except that when the day was done, the Spartans/Generals had whipped Bo Schembechler’s boys, 24-15. In Ann Arbor.

Rogers: Hard to tell if he’s packing or unpacking

Rogers’s team kept right on winning. They wouldn’t lose another game all season, in fact, speeding to the finish line with an 8-3 record, including 7-1 in the Big Ten – co-champions of the conference with … Michigan! But because of Denny Stolz’s little probation, the Spartans were banned from appearing in the national polls or any bowl game. Despite knowing there wasn’t any carrot at the end of the stick, MSU still kicked everyone’s ass in the Big Ten – including the arrogant ones from Michigan.

The Spartans faltered in 1979, and that’s when Darryl Rogers revealed that he could, indeed, talk out of both sides of his mouth after all. Rumors started to swirl that Rogers, after a few seasons in the Midwest, was itching to get back to the Pacific time zone. Arizona State University was courting him. It was reported.

Rogers said no. He kept saying no. Right up to the moment, almost, that he hopped a plane for Arizona and was introduced as ASU’s new coach. It was behavior that would be repeated five years later, when he would deny to the ASU folks that he was about to bolt to the NFL to coach the Detroit Lions. He pulled the same stunt – managing to work both sides of his crooked mouth before ending up in Pontiac, hours after denying that he would coach the Lions.

Michigan State has a great opportunity this Saturday to kick some over-confident posterior, when said rear ends are down and out. The 6-2 Spartans will invade Ann Arbor to play around with the 2-5 and almost-1-6 Wolverines. This time, MSU is Harlem and U-M is Washington. Or so you would think.

Two things are certain in October in this state: the leaves fall, and so do the Spartans. It’s becoming an annual tradition: MSU starts fast, then fades. They raise hopes, then crush them. This year, a 6-1 start turned sour when the Ohio State University barged into Spartan Stadium and manhandled the Spartans, 45-7. That loss had a familiar odor to it: that of impending doom.

Michigan’s program is down. They haven’t even been able to handle the likes of a mediocre MAC school, Toledo, in their own Big House. Penn State toyed with them before racing away like a gazelle. This is, by far, the worst Michigan team that MSU has played in decades.

Yet it won’t surprise too many people if the Spartans lose Saturday – not true football historians, anyway. MSU has perfected the art of spoiling promising seasons for themselves.

Spartans coach Mark Dantonio is a nice man, by all appearances. Definitely not one to create bulletin board fodder with accusations of being arrogant or posteriors. Or both. He’s smarter than to think his team has this one in the bag, even if they do.

Besides, his name is Mark and his counterpart is named Rich. That’s not a rivalry, that’s a business lunch.

Let’s see if the Spartans belch it back up, once again.

R-Rod Comes With More Baggage Than Any U-M Coach In Memory

In Rich Rodriguez, University of Michigan football on August 11, 2008 at 1:42 pm

This isn’t the first time that I’ve imparted this nugget to you, so I apologize if you’ve read it here before.

I was talking to the late Mark “Doc” Andrews, then a member of Dick Purtan’s radio chuckleheads, back in the early-1990s. This was when the Tigers were in search of a new radio team, with the forced retirement of Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey still fresh in everyone’s minds. I knew that Andrews, for several years, was the Pistons’ radio voice in the late-1970s to early-1980s.

“Are you going to throw your hat in the ring for the Tigers job?,” I asked Andrews. There were many candidates at the time.

He frowned. “I won’t be the guy to replace Ernie,” Doc told me. “But I’ll be the guy who replaces THAT guy!”

Indeed — an easier act to follow.

With all due respect to Lloyd Carr, his emergence as the head football coach at Michigan in 1995 was, frankly, made easier by the circumstances under which it happened.

His predecessor, Gary Moeller, had lost the job in the wake of a very humiliating, drunk-in-public ordeal in a Southfield restaurant. Bootlegged audio tapes of Moeller’s arrest made the airwaves, in which his loud, slurred, emotional words were heard, and he’s lucky it was a time before the Internet got hopping, because we’d probably all own a copy on our computers by now.

So in stepped Carr, and while he was definitely qualified, expectations were a little stunted, considering the distraction that Moeller’s fall from grace had caused. But Carr made things easier on himself, and the program, by guiding the Wolverines to a 9-3 record and a berth in the Alamo Bowl.

Before Carr, there was Moeller, of course — and Mo had to fill the shoes of Bo Schembechler, no less. But Moeller was another whose resume qualified him for the job, and he was that quote-unquote Michigan Man that seems to be so desperately needed.

Ironically, it was Schembechler himself who wasn’t a Michigan Man, when he arrived in Ann Arbor in 1969 to take over after the uneven Bump Elliott Era. In 1968, Bump’s last year, Ohio State beat Michigan, 50-14. That didn’t go over too well in Ann Arbor. Elliott’s overall record at U-M was 51-42-2, so Schembechler wasn’t exactly replacing a coaching legend. You couldn’t last anywhere near 95 games at Michigan nowadays with such a winning percentage.

Rich Rodriguez is on the scene now, and he comes with so much baggage, he needs his own conveyor belt.

Rodriguez has endured, before he’s coached one football game at Michigan, more off-the-field distractions than any U-M coach has for his entire career, almost. Most of them have been legal, and have involved his acrimonious departure from West Virginia. But some have involved messing with Michigan tradition (read: the great “Who wears jersey no. 1?” controversy), and players fleeing the team (Justin Boren). Then there’s following Carr, who might not cast as great of a shadow as Schembechler on campus, but who was pretty darned good, and certainly respected. The fact that Michigan’s last National Title was 11 years ago hasn’t lessened or lowered the expectations. Any Michigan coach has to win, and he has to win now. And Rodriguez must do this, regardless of the challenges posed by the transition from one coach to the next.

Rodriguez arrives in Ann Arbor under, perhaps, the strangest conditions ever for a Michigan football coach. Some of it was inevitable, coming from the natural drama that ensues when you don’t hire from within. But there were no clear-cut candidates already at Michigan to take over. Carr didn’t really groom anyone. Mike DeBord and Ron English, the offensive and defensive coordinators, respectively, weren’t deemed fit for the job, for one reason or another. There was Les Miles with his Michigan ties, but Miles rightly looked at the Michigan job and listened to his mind rather than his heart, and stayed at LSU — the proper decision, from a purely football perspective.

Rodriguez also doesn’t have anywhere near the trust factor from the fan base and alumni, yet, that Carr and even Moeller enjoyed. Again, you have to go back to Schembechler in 1969 to find a comparable situation in this regard.

All this, and R-Rod must win, and win now. What helps his cause is that expectations, from the national scribes, is relatively low — although Michigan does find itself in the pre-season Top 25. Yet there are three Big Ten teams, sometimes four, picked above them. Not too many folks think all that much of Michigan’s Big Ten title hopes, but that hardly matters, when it comes right down to it. Even in a so-called transition year, six or seven wins won’t be acceptable. Losing to Ohio State, despite the fact that Michigan will almost certainly be considerable underdogs, won’t be acceptable, even if it is expected. Michigan fans will recall what new OSU coach Jim Tressel said when he was hired lo those many years ago: We WILL beat Michigan this year! And Tressel did, and he hasn’t really stopped.

Michigan fans might bemoan the fact that their school didn’t hire that elusive Michigan Man to coach the football team, but who would you have hired, Miles excluded?