To the Daily:
Imrad Syed’s column on Monday was on the mark concerning how the coach must be a University of Michigan and state of Michigan leader (The next Michigan Man, 12/06/2010). But to this, he must first be a teacher.
Coaches are the faculty in the Athletic Department. Faculty members are expected to teach. As a retired professor — I taught for 38 years — and a University of Michigan alumnus, I have been very disturbed by Michigan football head coach Rich Rodriguez’s failure to teach and to take responsibility for his teaching. Firing the coach is the equivalent of not receiving tenure. While wins and losses are like receiving grants of publishing, there is an expectation in all schools within universities that the faculty must teach effectively.
Rodriguez fails as a teacher. Bo Schembechler was a great teacher and a Michigan Man. Bo never blamed his players. Rodriguez makes excuses that his players are too young, that the cupboard was bare when he came — which is not true — and that he needs time to put in his system. Of course, many of the more experienced players left within a month of when he came and they are excelling on other Big Ten and BCS bowl-bound teams. If the Michigan defensive players don’t know fundamentals of where to line up, as Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin laughed about after the game, it’s the coaches’ fault. If the offense is too complicated for the young players, then the coach should teach a less complicated offense until the players mature, as head coach Jim Tressel of Ohio State University did with his star quarterback Terrelle Pyror.
The players have not been taught the fundamentals, as we saw in the Iowa game. A blocked field goal remains a live ball, but our players stood around as the Iowa player picked the ball up at the 7-yard line and ran it back to the 50-yard line when this happened. There are hundreds of examples, especially on defense, where the players are simply not coached or taught.
Woody Hayes, Bear Bryant and Bobby Knight were all great teachers. In a recent TV appearance, Bobby Knight gave three different scenarios for a game-ending play. While the scenarios were complicated, he taught the TV audience what situations to anticipate within 30 seconds. That’s coaching and that’s teaching. Rodriguez has not been able to teach his students how to line up on defense or play any phase of the kicking game in three years, let alone in 30 seconds.
In over 45 years of watching Michigan football teams, these past three years have been the first time when I have been embarrassed to admit that I am a Michigan fan because the players looked lost on the field. Win or lose, Bo’s teams never looked stupid. They never beat themselves. This coach shouldn’t get tenure because he has failed miserably as a teacher.
A Michigan Man would realize first and foremost that he is a teacher of his men. He must take responsibility for the performance on the field rather than make excuses and blame the players. You can’t be a Michigan Man when you fail to do your primary job. Fire the coach — he would never receive tenure within any of the schools at the University of Michigan due to his failure as a teacher.
The letter-writer is a University alum and professor emeritus at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine.