Here’s a question I’m hearing a lot: I’m an Alabama fan; should I feel slighted that Rodriguez took the Michigan job in ’08 after turning down Bama in ’07?
My answer? No. Alabama should definitely not feel slighted by Rich Rodriguez accepting the Michigan job.
Why? Because of the two primary factors involved:
- West Virginia had a very good stock of returning talent for ’07 and Rodriguez knew he’d have a decent shot at a national title.
- For ’08, WVU’s talent stock will be significantly lower, and the likelihood of competing again for the NC will drop significantly.
Basically, the time was not right for a job change in ’07, but it couldn’t have been better for ’08.
Additionally, Alabama in ’07 would have been a rebuilding project. Rodriguez likely looked at the two situations in hand (WVU or Bama for the ’07 season) in terms of what the hires could mean in a few years, rather than at their immediate benefits. When he was offered the Bama gig, he had a lot of stock as a head coach, but no National Championship. Looking at the talent pool at both schools, the chance of winning a NC at WVU was pretty good, but at Bama it was not. Realistically, the only situation for Rich Rodriguez in ’07 that might have improved his situation was with an Alabama-caliber school which was also in a position to compete for a National Championship. Alabama, clearly, was not. This little factor would effectively narrow the potential schools to: USC, Florida, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan and the like, none of which were on the table at the time.
Championships being the primary motivation for any coach, it’s easy to see why he would remain at a school with inferior facilities for lower pay for another year or two. He realized his shot was happening at WVU, while accepting the Bama gig would have meant rebuilding the team, a prospect that is altogether likely due to the many benefits of coaching at a school like Alabama, but for immediate gratification as well as what a potential NC would mean for his future, it made sense to stay put.
Supposing he had taken the Bama job, the chances of his team being ranked #2 in the country going into the last week of the season would have been practically nil. He would have been stuck in the same 6-6 (or similar) season Saban has been stuck in, collecting talent and building for the future. As it is though, he had his shot and, though he failed, it could do nothing to his stock as a proven head football coach because based on his schedule alone he was virtually guaranteed a winning season. Combine that with the potential for a NC and it was a no-brainer.
Now, fast forward to ’08 and look at the motivating factors: Your star running back is gone next year and your talent stock is declining. You’re facing a potential rebuilding year regardless if you stay at WVU, and word has it your relationship with the WVU AD is strained. Plus, the promises made by WVU to keep him from leaving for Alabama have yet to even get a sniff at becoming reality. Time, clearly, was right for leaving. Since he stayed at WVU for that one extra season, taking his shot at the title and finishing the year ranked in the top ten if not top five, you knew someone was going to come calling. That someone just happened to be Michigan, who have a lot of talent in place, so rebuilding won’t be nearly as significant a project as it would have been at Bama in ’07 or WVU in ’08.