This is awkward, because Rich Rodriguez works for CBS Sports and I work for CBSSports.com. But after not liking him all that much at Michigan, I've decided I like him now. And it's not because of where he works.
It's because of what he said.
You know the background. Rodriguez was a favorite son at West Virginia, Icarus in a coal miner's hat, when he decided to see just how high he could fly and left for Michigan after the 2007 season. Didn't work out so well. Wrong offense, wrong defense, wrong background, wrong guy, wrong job. Brutal mistake. Career meltdown. Everyone can see that.
Everyone, including Rich Rodriguez.
|Head coach at West Virginia from 2001 till his departure for Michigan in '07, Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to a 60-26 record. (US Presswire)|
I'd do it again, because I don't make mistakes.
That's what coaches say.
But it's not what Rich Rodriguez said. Not when he was asked by CBSSports.com the other day if he had any regrets about his decision to leave West Virginia for Michigan.
What follows is a rather long answer, and I'll print every word of it -- the full interview is here -- but pay close attention to the final few sentences. They're gold:
"You know, that's a fair question, and I've been asked that before," Rodriguez said. "I think it's easy to go back now and say, 'Gee, made a mistake.' And you can say that now because of hindsight. But at the time, some of the things I was looking to do and the opportunity that was there ... you kind of make the move. The frustrating part for us was that we thought we battled through the tougher times to get it to this point where we had a lot of the team coming back and we thought we were getting ready to take off.
"But you know, hindsight is always easier to look back and say, 'It was a mistake.' Because we did have a good thing going at West Virginia, and we really enjoyed it. As you look back at it, wasn't the best move. Easy to say now."
Wasn't the best move. Easy to say now.
Wrong, former coach Rodriguez. That's not easy to say now. Not for men like you, experts in your field, leaders of young men and masters of the universe. For men like you, an admission of fault is damn near impossible to say. I've rarely heard it said by a coach or manager, and I've never heard it said as plainly, as humbly, as Rodriguez said it the other day.
Wasn't the best move. Easy to say now.
It's possible I'm about to read too much into that comment, but here goes. I'm grabbing for my reading glasses -- my super-duper specs that allow me to look at a single comment like that one, and extrapolate much greater meaning -- and I'm going to tell you what that statement means.
It means he gets it. He's not bulletproof. He's not perfect or infallible. It means Rodriguez knows he's as full of (deleted) as the next guy, and believe me, that's a charismatic trait to have. It's also an encouraging trait to see, if you're an athletics director somewhere, in a fallen coach who just might look attractive for an opening at your school in a few months.
If I'm the AD at a mid-level BCS school, or an upper-level school in a league like Conference USA, an offensive innovator like Rich Rodriguez would be a guy I'd want to look at after the 2011 season ... assuming he gets it. Assuming he emerged from that Michigan debacle with a dash of humility, because there's nothing more powerful in a coach or athlete than humility. The confidence has to be there, yes, but without humility it's garbage. Coaches and athletes who think they've arrived, well, they never get there. The same can be said of teachers and computer programmers and, I suppose, sportswriters. Show me someone who doesn't think he makes mistakes, and I'll show you someone who's going to make nothing but mistakes.
Rich Rodriguez isn't that guy. He made a mistake leaving West Virginia, and he knows it. Then he did something really crazy: He admitted it.