Michigan Hires West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez As Next Coach

Michigan has hired West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez as its next football coach

Dec. 16, 2007

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) -For the second time in eight months, Michigan lured a coach out of West Virginia.

Rich Rodriguez was to be introduced Monday morning at a news conference in the same place, sandwiched between the Big House and Crisler Arena, that the Wolverines used to announce the hiring of basketball coach John Beilein.

"People here are ready to come to Ann Arbor and shoot," joked Don Nehlen, a former West Virginia coach and Michigan assistant.

Rodriguez is set to lead college football's winningest program, succeeding retiring coach Lloyd Carr.

The Wolverines seemingly went 0-for-2 in their first coaching search since hiring Bo Schembechler away from Miami of Ohio, appearing to get turned down by LSU's Les Miles and Rutgers' Greg Schiano.

Rodriguez, though, seems to be much more than a consolation prize.

He built West Virginia into a Big East power, winning the conference championship this year for the fourth time in five seasons and going 60-26 overall.

"I am thrilled to have Rich Rodriguez as Michigan's new coach," athletic director Bill Martin wrote in an e-mail Sunday to The Associated Press. "Rich brings an exciting brand of football to Michigan Stadium. We welcome the entire Rodriguez family to Ann Arbor."

The 44-year-old Rodriguez said goodbye to the Mountaineers during an emotional meeting Sunday in Morgantown, W. Va.

"You've got to do what you've got to do sometimes," West Virginia fullback Owen Schmitt said. "He did all he could for us. As far as I know he did a lot of great things for this university."

Nehlen expected Rodriguez to focus on his new job, leaving the coaching to someone else when West Virginia plays Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

"He'll be in Ann Arbor to stay," Nehlen told The AP. "It would be too hard for him to coach West Virginia in the bowl game.

"He's got a lot of work right away at Michigan, where he has to assemble a staff and catch up on recruiting."

Carr announced Nov. 19 that his 13th and final season would end in the bowl game, which wound up being a Jan. 1 matchup with Florida in the Capital One Bowl.

 

 

As Nehlen predicted, some in West Virginia are not happy with the means in which Michigan got Rodriguez or the end result.

Martin and university president Mary Sue Coleman reportedly talked with Rodriguez, his wife and agent Friday in Toledo, Ohio. West Virginia athletic director Ed Pastilong met with Rodriguez on Saturday, saying they talked about general issues within the program.

Pastilong had said he was unaware Rodriguez went to Toledo and declined to disclose whether he had given Michigan permission to talk to the coach.

West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin blamed the involvement of what he termed "high-priced agents" in college sports.

"I have known Rich for most of his life, from a boy whose only wish was to play football at WVU to a young man whose only wish was to coach at WVU," Manchin said in a statement. "Something is wrong with the profession of college coaching today when a leader's word is no longer his bond."

Alabama's interest in Rodriguez last year wore on the Mountaineers for several days before he agreed to a one-year contract extension through 2013. The deal included a $4 million buyout clause if he leaves before next September.

Like Beilein, Rodriguez will make enough money at Michigan to cut West Virginia a big check.

Martin said he was prepared to pay as much as $3 million for a coach, roughly doubling what Lloyd Carr made annually.

Michigan is paying Beilein $1.3 million a season, plus bonuses, as part of a six-year contract.

When Michigan lured Beilein away from West Virginia last April, his contract had a $2.5 million buyout clause. Under an agreement with West Virginia, Beilein agreed to pay $1.5 million to the WVU Foundation.

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