Bringing The Big Ten Into The Future

Michigan's hire of Rich Rodriguez brings the Big Ten into the 21st century

Dec. 17, 2007

By Trev Alberts

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Trev Alberts is a football analyst for CSTV and
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When Rich Rodriguez turned down Alabama, he basically stated that he was going to be at West Virginia for the long haul. His roots are there and the university put a huge buyout clause into his contract, they bumped him up and gave him a salary that was competitive, but I think the lure of the Michigan job probably was just too much for him to turn down.


He's been so successful in the Big East - he's turned really good players into superstars like Steve Slaton and Pat White - and I think the challenge of going to Michigan and realizing that he's going to be recruiting a different type of athlete probably energized him to think about the possibility of getting the kind of players that he couldn't have gotten to West Virginia.




He has to be smart enough to look around at the Big Ten and see the kind of defenses that you see there on a regular basis. Those teams have struggled historically with those spread, wide-open type of running offenses that Rodriguez runs at West Virginia, so I think he's going to be an instant success.


I'm excited for the Big Ten. You can put the Big Ten on notice - all of the teams, with the exception maybe of Illinois and Ohio State to some extent, the days of lining up in the same old boring, traditional I formation have gone out the door. This is a dynamic offense that is difficult to defend and I think that in the end, the winner is not only Michigan, but a real winner is the Big Ten conference. Coach Rodriguez is bringing some real creativity to the Big Ten and I think the rest of the schools are going to benefit as a result of that and bring them into the 21st century a little bit.


From the players' standpoint, whenever you have coaching turnover, the players who had played an integral part of what they were doing this year - a guy like quarterback Ryan Mallett, for example - they probably are saying to themselves, I've watched film of West Virginia and I'm not Pat White.


But sometimes we get these coaches typecast. For instance, take a look at Paul Johnson. At Navy, the knock was that all he can do is run the wishbone, but he was at Hawai'i and he had a passing offense. So in my mind, what makes a successful coach is somebody who has an ability to understand the talent that he has and put the players in positions to be successful.


You would assume that there's going to be an awful lot of elements with the spread, but I think that Coach Rodriguez is smart enough to understand that he's not going to mortgage two or three years in Ann Arbor just so he can run a system. I think that he'll look at his talent and try to fit that talent into elements of what he does and yet not sell out on next year's seniors. I think he's that good of a coach and I understand the concern on the part of the players, but at the same time we tend to have a broad brush with these coaches. Maybe that's a coach's tendency, but they also are smart enough to make some adjustments and do other things to fit personnel.


Although you could make the argument that Michigan completely fumbled the search from the beginning, in the end, although the powers that be weren't expecting to take this big a hit from a financial standpoint, you realize just how important Michigan football is to the university and the state.


It probably doesn't hurt that they've had some success with the basketball coach that came from West Virginia and his work ethic and the relationship there.


As for West Virginia, It's got to be difficult. It goes back to that old question: do you hire coaches who might be so good that one day they'll leave? I've always believed that you hire the best. If one day there's a better opportunity than West Virginia, you thank that coach for his years of service. West Virginia football is better today because Rich Rodriguez was the head coach. You certainly wouldn't look back and say, if we had known he'd be going to Michigan, we never would have hired Rich Rodriguez.


They're not looking for the next Rodriguez. I just don't think that you can hire a guy that necessarily is a destination guy that will never leave. If Rich Rodriguez isn't a destination guy who will never leave, considering he grew up in the area and had such close ties, then you're never going to find that guy. You just hire the best football coach you possibly can.


There's a number of guys already in the mix. Todd Graham was the defensive coordinator there, he then was the head coach at Rice for a year and now he's the head coach at Tulsa, but I would assume that he might be a candidate at West Virginia.