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Time to move on

WVU's juvenile behavior toward Rodriguez must stop

Posted: Friday January 18, 2008 11:57AM; Updated: Friday January 18, 2008 4:37PM
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Rich Rodriguez
Since Rich Rodriguez took the Michigan job, his house in West Virginia has been vandalized and his relatives have been harassed.
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On behalf of any sane, reasonable people out there who may be reading this story, I'd like to make a simple request to West Virginia University and its followers.

Let it go, already.

Your coach, Rich Rodriguez, left for Michigan -- a month ago. Obviously it was disappointing, perhaps even painful, coming as abruptly as it did. I'd imagine it's not too different from a guy dumping his girlfriend out of the blue for a hotter, sexier catch.

But c'mon, West Virginia. This is getting absurd. You would think you would have moved on by now, what with that Fiesta Bowl trashing of Oklahoma. You even found yourself a new man, Bill Stewart, who, while seemingly unqualified to run even a Division II program, you apparently really like.

So why all this continued venom toward Rodriguez?

It started the night he flew to Ann Arbor (with hecklers showing up at the airport), and it's only gotten worse since. Almost every day, we're treated to a new story about some supposed atrocity committed either by bitter fans (who have reportedly harassed family members of Rodriguez and his assistants -- including children -- still living in Morgantown) or by Rodriguez himself (who reportedly shredded some documents while cleaning out his office, originally reported to be players' entire personnel files but now believed to be ... umm, notes.)

The school slapped the guy with a $4 million lawsuit and made sure ESPN knew about it before he did. Now officials are rifling through his cell phone records, trying to figure out whether he called a few Michigan recruits on his West Virginia-issued phone before leaving town. (I'm sure he'd be happy to reimburse you if it caused him to go over his minutes that month.) You're doing your best to convince the college football world what a bad, bad man your once-beloved coach really is.

"It's something new every day, and it's totally ridiculous," Rodriguez told the Toledo Blade.

Don't you see what you've become, West Virginia?

You're the psychotic ex-girlfriend.

It's my experience that attempting to reason with such parties is almost always a fruitless endeavor. But for the sake of the involved parties' sanity, I might as well try.

Here are the realities of the situation:

• Rodriguez is the coach at Michigan. He's not coming back.

• Much of your animosity toward Rodriguez took root with the Mountaineers' inexplicable, national title-crushing loss to Pittsburgh on Dec. 1. Once he took the Michigan job, angry revisionists began deluding themselves into believing (or at least pretending to believe) Rodriguez was never that good to begin with -- never mind that he's the single biggest reason the Mountaineers were playing in a game of such magnitude to begin with. In the waning moments of the Fiesta Bowl, one section even began a mocking "Thank You, Michigan" chant.

Are you people nuts? Never in the 106-year history of the West Virginia program have the Mountaineers enjoyed such sustained success (three straight 11-win seasons) and accompanying national prominence as they did under Rodriguez. Rodriguez's revered predecessor, Don Nehlen, enjoyed just two such seasons (1988 and '93) over a 21-year run.

• As hard as this may seem to believe, Rodriguez is not the first successful coach to profess his undying love and loyalty to a school ("I plan on being here a long time," he said upon rejecting an offer from Alabama in December 2006.) only to leave for a more attractive suitor. It happens multiple times every year. Unlike some other famous defectors (ahem, Nick Saban), Rodriguez never lied about the courtship (ahem, Bobby Petrino). In fact, he never said anything at all.

His lone error in judgment was informing coveted recruit Terrelle Pryor of his decision before he told his own team. It's probably safe to surmise he's not the first coach to do such a thing -- in this case, however, Pryor happened to make it public. Yet somehow Rodriguez has managed to become the most vilified coach ever to leave a school. Even Saban is sitting somewhere right now saying, "Now that guy's got it rough."

• As tough as this may be for you to swallow, Michigan is a better job than West Virginia. Period. Richer tradition, bigger stadium, better resources, more prestigious conference, wider recruiting appeal ... I'll refrain from piling on. It should hardly come as a shock to you that Rodriguez would leave West Virginia for Michigan -- the stunner would have been if he'd turned down the Wolverines.

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