ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If it was just Toledo ...
If it was just the NCAA stuff ...
If it was just the record ...
|Rich Rodriguez, Michigan||5.0|
|Paul Wulff, Washington State||5.0|
|Dan Hawkins, Colorado||5.0|
|Todd Dodge, North Texas||5.0|
|Ralph Friedgen, Maryland||4.5|
|Mike Locksley, New Mexico||4.5|
|Ron Zook, Illinois||4.5|
If it was just -- swallow hard here -- Ohio State ...
Any of those factors by themselves might have made the past two seasons at Michigan intolerable. Maybe. Heap them on top of each other, like multiple stab wounds in a knife fight, and Big Blue is hurting. All of the above came under the watch of an accomplished coach who has combined bad luck with bad decisions to forge the worst of times at one of the nation's most tradition-rich programs.
"Oh yeah, no question," Rich Rodriguez said when asked if he thought the transition from West Virginia would be smoother. "I didn't come in with complete blinders."
Maybe one eye patch. For whatever reason(s), Rodriguez hasn't fit at Michigan. Start with his cutting-edge spread option which hasn't had the required trigger man at quarterback. Continue with a defense that has been horrid at times. The next blow came Tuesday, when the school released its response to allegations of five major NCAA violations. Michigan self-imposed sanctions to the program in hopes of beating the NCAA to the punch later this year.
"One of the penalties you receive in going through a [NCAA] process like this, is the process ...," said Michigan AD David Brandon. "There's no question about it. It has created a pressure on all of us."
The pressure begins at Schembechler Hall. Brandon has said only that Rodriguez is his coach this fall. That ominous pronouncement suggests that Rich Rod, 8-16 in two seasons, is on a short leash entering his third season in Ann Arbor. Let's confirm it, putting Rodriguez on top of our annual Hot Seat Rankings. One-hundred twenty coaches were rated on a scale of zero (Don't even think about it) to five (It's time to win now!). Rodriguez was one of only four coaches to earn a five. (Colorado's Dan Hawkins, Washington State's Paul Wulff and North Texas' Todd Dodge are the others.)
MaxPreps.com: Top 100 recruits for 2011
SI.com: Way-too-early Top 25
If you must demand a tiebreaker, it's easy. This is Michigan, not a Sun Belt cellar dweller, a Pac-10 also-ran or some faded power in the Big 12 North. In addition to everything else, Rodriguez has lost the AD who hired him, Bill Martin. Multimillion-dollar renovations to Michigan Stadium aren't going to play to losing football for long. Safe to say, then, that it's win or else for the West Virginia native who was a game away from playing for the national championship in 2007. Now he's one season away, perhaps, from losing one of the most prestigious jobs in the sport.
A bowl would be nice, but it might not be enough. Considering the strikes against him, the over-under on Rodriguez might start at 8-4.
"Just because you wear the winged helmet it doesn't automatically mean you're going to win," Rodriguez said recently. "It does mean you have a certain standard that you have to live up to."
The standard has not been met. One misstep has followed another to the point that Rodriguez doesn't have much leash left. Before he reached the Big House sideline, he had to extricate himself from a messy buyout at West Virginia. When he got there his offense's square pegs did not fit into the round holes left by Lloyd Carr.
In his sixth game he lost to Toledo. The 3-9 record in 2008 was the worst in school history. Last season he won one conference game. Last August came the allegations that Rodriguez violated NCAA players' maximum work-week rules (20 hours per week). In April, several outlets reported that the NCAA is looking into Rodriguez's days at West Virginia for other potential violations. Meanwhile, Ohio State has added to its ongoing six-game winning streak in what used to be a rivalry, a stretch of 2,376 days (as of Tuesday) since Michigan beat the Buckeyes.
For the Wolverines, who wanted someone fresh and new, well, you got it. Let's not forget that Carr wasn't (perceived to be) good enough despite a national championship and six bowl wins in 13 seasons. Caught in the middle is a decent man and a good coach who hasn't done the transition thing well. It's hard to make excuses, so Rodriguez will make none.
"We cannot have a sense of entitlement," he said. "We have to earn it. We have to earn that Michigan degree. We have to earn championships and BCS bowls. As coaches we kind of know that, but it was a hard lesson for some players. That's almost society today."
That can't be Michigan much longer.