Scott Shafer didn’t have to do much thinking when Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez offered him the defensive coordinator job in January.
“There was no consideration at all,” Shafer said following the Wolverines’ loss to Northwestern on Nov. 15. “When he called, all he had to do was offer me the job, and I was coming — because of Michigan and because of Rich Rodriguez.”
But Shafer resigned today.
“I take full responsibility for the demise of where the Michigan program is now,” said Shafer, who declined to answer questions in a phone interview today. “I wish we could’ve done a better job. It was just time to move in another direction — simple as that.”
Shafer realized quickly his job would be tougher than he initially expected.
“When we got here, we kind of knew that we had a lot of work to do,” Shafer said in November. “That’s on the field and in recruiting. We looked at it after spring ball and tried to be real with ourselves and say we have a lot of work to do.”
Plenty of work still lays ahead for the Wolverines, who had a program-record eight losses this year. But that process will go on without Shafer.
Michigan allowed a program-record 28.9 points per game this year, more than five points more than the previous high (set in 1962).
En route to a 3-9 season, the Wolverines allowed 40 points four times. Ohio State scored 42, Purdue 48, Penn State 46 and Illinois 45. Michigan had never allowed 40 points more than once in a season prior to this year.
“Scott and I agreed that moving in a different direction was in the best interest of the program,” Rodriguez said in a written statement. “I appreciate Scott’s hard work on behalf of Michigan football the past year. He is a good football coach, a good person and a true professional. We wish him well in the future.”
But Bill Mallory, who coached at Indiana, Northern Illinois, Colorado and Miami (Ohio) and gave Shafer his first coaching job, doesn’t think Shafer’s resignation was a mutual decision.
“For Scott to me leaving after the first year, I know that he’s the kind of person that would work very hard to get the situation better,” Mallory said. “And for him to, you say, resign, I can’t believe there wasn’t pressure put upon him. For him to get the blame, I think that’s ridiculous.”
Mallory said he feels anger toward Rodriguez.
“Yeah, I do,” said Mallory, who never fired an assistant based on performance in his 27 years as a head coach. “I think that kind of mindset today, to me, is very irky. I know Bo was not that way.
“Maybe the defense wasn’t as good as they want, but the offense wasn’t either. Rodriguez is on the offensive side of the ball. I don’t have any respect for that kind of situation, where people can’t stand up and take the pressure and stick together as a staff and find out, ‘What can we do to get this thing better?’ I don’t buy into that at all, that kind of thinking.”
Even after the loss to Northwestern, the Wolverines’ seventh of the seaosn, Shafer said he didn’t regret his decision to join the Wolverines.
“No doubts at all,” Shafer said. “I think I’m working for the best coach in the country, and I’m blessed to be here. I just need to continue to work hard to put the type of defense on the field that we deserve at Michigan and he deserves as a head coach at Michigan.
“It’s been a good experience, believe it or not. Obviously, it’s been difficult at times because we haven’t played as well as we wanted to and haven’t had the success across the board as a team. That’s all part of the process.”
The Wolverines returned seven starters, but they lost their four leading tacklers from a year ago — safeties Jamar Adams and Brandent Englemon and outside linebackers Shawn Crable and Chris Graham.
“I feel like two years is enough time to judge someone,” fifth-year senior strong safety Charles Stewart said. “It’s a little shocking that he resigned, but I don’t know. I don’t really have a comment. I’m gone. I’m out of Michigan, so I really don’t have a comment about it.”
Shafer does not have plans for the future yet.
“Right now, we’re just looking at everything and anything out there and trying to find the best situation for my wife and kids.”
Shafer added that his year in Ann Arbor had the benefit of helping his wife’s melanoma skin cancer.
“It’s a blessing that we came to Michigan because she’s got arguably the best care in world with the University of Michigan medical, especially the cancer and melanoma clinic,” Shafer said. “We’re indebted to those people over there. … There’s special people over there helping a lot of good people.”