If you've met Rich Rodriguez, it's hard not to like him. When you first meet him, Rich will shake your hand with a vice-like grip and softly thank you for supporting his players. He'll look down at the floor from time to time as he talks, and nervously shuffle his feet until he gets comfortable. Then a big grin opens up on his face and the stories start flowing. Within two minutes you realize Rodriguez is a guy you'd happily share a beer with and talk and football with. More importantly, within five minutes you realize he is a passionate educator and someone you're proud to call your coach.
In a certain sense, he is a lot like Lloyd Carr. Carr wasn't someone who could control a room all by himself and was someone who gratefully shunned the spotlight. But in more intimate settings could light up a room with a sort of folksy charm and wit. Where Carr was philosophical, Rodriguez is down-home. But they both play to these strengths and both seem to have that special talent to make the person they are talking with feel like the only person in the room.
Like Carr, Rodriguez also cares deeply about his players. There is no doubt in my mind that Rodriguez is a father figure and a role model to just about every player on this team. And these young men have steadfastly supported him and sung his praises. He is a man of faith, of family and humility. All of which are qualities we desire in what we call a "Michigan Man."
Despite this, he has never been accepted into this fraternity by a vocal portion of the Michigan fanbase. In many ways the things that make him so accessible to those who meet and know him are used as daggers for those who irrationally despise the man. His folksiness is considered being a hayseed, or worse, stupidity. Like with most prejudices, these suppositions have no place in reality. But they are there.
To me it's deeply distressing. Rodriguez is a good man, for all the reasons listed above and more. And that is what makes the current situation so miserable for those who care about Michigan Football. We want so badly for him to be successful at Michigan, but the results haven't followed. Michigan has made progress, but not the amount of progress we all expected.
There are many of us who are willing to give Rodriguez another year because we believe he is not only a good coach, but a good man. We're Rich anything like Lane Kiffin, we would've thrown him out the door after the first year. But then again, were he anything like Lan Kiffin he never would've gotten the job in the first place.
Rich is a good man. And that is why the next few weeks will be so hard on those of us who admire and respect him. A program is bigger than one man. We know that. But we want the best for both, and the thought of the program being unable to progress with a good man like Rodriguez at the helm is not just troubling, it's incredibly disturbing.
I want so badly for this to work, but I am not blind to the possibility that it won't. And if it doesn't, it won't just sting because Michigan couldn't make it work with a good man, it will sting because the good man in question was Rich Rodriguez.