Posted Dec. 17
Fielding H. Yost, the patriarch of Michigan football, was a native West Virginian. Now, for the first time since Yost stepped down in 1926, the Wolverine program is back to its roots, with a born and bred Mountaineer at the helm.
West Virginia head coach Rich Rodriguez, who grew up just five miles from Yost’s hometown, was introduced as Michigan’s 18th head football coach at a press conference this morning at the Junge Family Champions Center.
The announcement concluded a four-week search in which Michigan Athletic Director Bill Martin was constantly vilified as a number of high-profile candidates publicly turned down the chance to coach the Wolverines.
But Martin acted quickly in hiring Rodriguez.
The pair met for the first time Friday in Toledo, Ohio. By Sunday afternoon, Rodriguez was on his way to Ann Arbor in anticipation of today’s press conference. Though the process was rapid, it wasn’t without some hand wringing.
“It was a very difficult decision to leave a place where I grew up,” Rodriguez said. “It was going to take a very special opportunity and a very special place and I think that’s what this is.”
Along with a history of winning in his seven years at the helm in West Virginia, Rodriguez brings the spread offense he is credited with creating.
West Virginia has seen success in recent years with fleet-footed quarterback Pat White and shifty running back Steve Slaton. The Mountaineers were just one win from securing a spot in the national title game this season.
Even though Michigan’s skill players don’t appear to have the same attributes, Rodriguez said he would still run the spread offense.
“If you want to know our system or philosophy, if you’ve watched us over the years, that’s what you’ll see,” Rodriguez said. “We’re going to do what we’ve done. That’s the only thing we know. I know we have the ability to adapt our schemes to our personnel.”
Rodriguez brought two of his assistant coaches with him to Ann Arbor: offensive coordinator Calvin Magee and cornerbacks coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Gibson.
Magee is considered one of the nation’s top assistant coaches and Gibson is known as an excellent recruiter. Both are expected to be on Rodriguez’s staff in Ann Arbor.
Rodriguez didn’t offer further specifics on the makeup of his coaching staff, saying only it would include some members of his West Virginia staff, some current Michigan coaches and perhaps some outside hires.
Rodriguez is unlikely to coach the Mountaineers in the Fiesta Bowl versus Oklahoma. The 44-year old coal miner’s son said he would speak with outgoing Michigan coach Lloyd Carr about potential involvement in the Wolverines’ preparation for the Capital One Bowl.
Rodriguez is the second West Virginia coach Martin has lured to Ann Arbor in the last nine months. Martin hired basketball coach John Beilein to replace Tommy Amaker in April.
Terms of Rodriguez’s contract were not released and Martin refused to say when he would do so. Rodriguez had a $4 million buyout clause added to his contract after he considered taking over Alabama’s team last year. Rodriguez said his lawyers were working with Michigan to negotiate paying the buyout.
“It’s going to take a while for the lawyers to look through.” Martin said. “We ultimately shook hands, looked each other in the eye and said ‘Let’s go.’ That’s where we are.”
One of Rodriguez’s first tasks will be to retain the recruits who verbally committed to play for the Wolverines before he was hired. Rodriguez said he has called some, but not all of those recruits and plans to talk to some recruits he was recruiting to West Virginia, too.
One high school senior, who was considering West Virginia, but said yesterday he would now consider Michigan, is Terrelle Pryor. Pryor, a Pennsylvania native, is the nation’s top prospect according to Rivals.com. The 6-foot-6 quarterback is most often compared to current Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young.
The coaching staff, recruiting and contract terms will be the topics of conversation in the weeks to come. But today the focus was on the new direction of a storied program and the new coach from a familiar place.