"Thank you all very much -- great crowd. It's an honor and privilege to be named the University of Michigan's head football coach. I will tell you, it was a very difficult decision to leave a place where I grew up, a program that we had built over the last seven years, to leave family and friends and a wonderful team with great young men. As I mentioned, it was a very difficult decision and in order to leave there, it was going to take a very special opportunity and a very special place, and I think that's what this is."
And with that, the Rich Rodriguez era in Ann Arbor got underway. I must admit that his name surfacing at the end of the coaching search came as a bit of a surprise to me. Honestly, I never thought he'd be in the mix as a candidate after turning down Alabama last year. I mean what was Michigan going to offer that Alabama didn't? They had a big contract at one of the true historical powers in the sport in a big time conference and he said "no thanks". Michigan came along offering a little bit more money and perhaps a little bit bigger of a name, but he decided to bite and for that the fans of Michigan should be greatful.
What do I make of the hire? Boy, oh boy, things are going to be changing in Ann Arbor. From the day Bo Schembechler was hired before the 1969 season until Lloyd Carr's last game in two weeks, it has been a long and continuous run of success at Michigan capped by the 1997 national title. Michigan has often been close but not in the national title chase, but has also been a bully in the Big Ten for 40 years. And they did it basically the same way. Sure, things changed a little over the years. But the people and the philosophy were the same.
What will 2008 bring? Fasten your seatbelts because this isn't your father's Michigan anymore. Rich Rodriguez favors a spread option attack that spreads the defense out and is always on the move. He also likes to go with a no huddle offense. He likes to score a lot of points. He is willing to take risks on offense. He isn't afraid to gamble at times. Gone are the days of Michigan sitting on a 10 point lead in the 3rd quarter content to let the defense close it out. Rodriguez will also likely be bringing about a change in the strength and conditioning program. Depending on who you ask, that might lead to big improvements in the explosiveness of players on both sides of the ball.
Beyond just a change in style, Rich Rodriguez has almost no prior connection to the University of Michigan. He is from outside the family. He is going to have to learn about what it means to be the head coach of the University of Michigan and everything that goes along with it. But he is a very good coach. He transformed West Virginia from a program that was usually on the fringe of the top 25 to a program that is looking for it's 3rd straight top 10 finish and was one bad loss away from playing for the national title. A common complaint from detractors is that he did it against a weak schedule and didn't have many quality wins. Well, I'd like to point out that he also did it with players at WEST VIRGINIA and almost no recruiting base. I'm confident that he can do big things at Michigan with all the talent that he will have at his disposal.
I don't know what his coaching staff will look like and I don't know how exactly how he will fit his offense around the talents of Ryan Mallett. What I do know is that he is a very good coach that he will figure out how to win a lot of games at Michigan. I look forward to seeing what he can do against Jim Tressel and the rest of the Big Ten.
Congrats to Bill Martin for another good coaching hire and apologies to West Virginia fans for once again taking one of your coaches.
Labels: Michigan Football