WAYNE, Mich. — Just as the University community is looking forward to next football season with a new coach, many here are also hopeful for a new start — something that will now be possible because of former Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez.
After being fired by the University’s Athletic Department on Jan. 5, Rodriguez donated 473 Wolverine-themed items to the Salvation Army’s Family Thrift Store in the Detroit suburb, according to the Salvation Army’s Maj. John Aren. On Saturday, 160 of those items were auctioned off during an event titled “Coach’s Closet.”
Articles donated by the former coach range from University of Michigan T-shirts to hats and helmets to shorts and pants. Rodriguez also autographed some of the items, but he did not attend the event.
More than 300 people participated in Saturday’s auction, according to Aren. The Salvation Army estimated that the total proceeds from all 473 items were $16,200. Of this total, $12,900 was raised from the “Coach’s Closet” auction.
Proceeds from “Coach’s Closet” will benefit the Salvation Army’s Romulus Adult Rehabilitation Center, which receives donations from the store throughout the year, Aren wrote in an e-mail interview.
“There’s 100 men there who are counting on the funds,” Aren, also the administrator of the rehabilitation center, said in an interview at the event Saturday.
The rehabilitation center offers housing, work and therapy to assist individuals in re-entering society, according to the center’s website.
Without the sale of Rodriguez’s donations, Aren wrote that the store probably would have sold only $1,200 worth of merchandise on Saturday.
The donations came after a recent furniture store explosion that killed two Wayne residents. The same disaster response truck that responded to the store explosion three weeks ago was present at the event and served free hot chocolate to customers at the auction.
Aren wrote that this event could not have come at a better time for the community.
“I’m really hoping it brings a sense of hope,” Aren wrote. “Some sense of life goes on.”
Aren added that he is very thankful Rodriguez thought of the Salvation Army.
“He was very gracious when he donated,” Aren wrote. “(He) gave the best wishes to anybody who might be encouraged or might benefit as a result of the proceeds.”
LSA senior Max Aidenbaum attended Saturday’s event and said he doubted whether the items had more value because Rodriguez once owned them.
“I guess (it’s) just for the humor aspect, not really for added value in terms of a keepsake that brings back good memories,” Aidenbaum said.
Farmington Hills, Mich. resident Jack Kramer, who won a University of Michigan Golf Polo for $130 at the auction, said he was happy to beat out other attendees in a close bidding race.
“I’m not sure if it was worth the price, but it was worth the pride,” Kramer said. “It’ll be kind of cool out on the golf course with a little story behind it.”
Toledo, Ohio resident Elaine Covert said she was happy to be at the event and was impressed Rodriguez chose to donate the items.
“I think it was a classy way for him to exit,” Covert said.