Michigan held its annual banquet tonight, and while we were all tragically spared the awkwardness of Stanford coach (and potential next Michigan coach) Jim Harbaugh attending to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Rose Bowl win at Michigan, the banquet provided its own special memories all the same.
As one might imagine, the chief headline-maker tonight was Rich Rodriguez, who was forced to speak on behalf of the team without knowing if he'd oversee another season at the helm of the Wolverines. Yes, he's at least got one more game with the team, as Michigan's headed to a bowl and AD Dave Brandon has insisted that RichRod's job will not be evaluated until the end of the year. But past that, who knows? Not even Brandon knows, in all likelihood, so it's certainly not worth listening to anybody who claims to have the answers already.
So it was up to Rodriguez to make his case for staying in Ann Arbor one last (socially acceptable) time, and while his decision to hold hands with his wife during a Josh Groban song probably came off as more awkward than anything else, his commitment to the program was never left unsaid.
"My name is Rich Rodriguez," he said at the end of the banquet. "I'm honored to be the head football coach at the University of Michigan. I hope you realize that I truly want to be a Michigan man. Thank you."
Now, a pedant would make hay out of the fact that Rodriguez said that he merely wants to be a "Michigan man" and not that he already is one, but rather than using that as proof that RichRod's not a good fit in Ann Arbor, we'll just point out that it's nice to see that he at least acknowledges that the title of "Michigan man" isn't self-appointed -- especially by someone who's spent three seasons with the program. Is that provincialism? Sure, but that's what just about every major college football program thrives on already, so at least RichRod's heart is ostensibly in the right place.
At the same time, whether Rodriguez plays inspirational songs in front of reporters or feels it necessary to deem himself a "Michigan man" or not probably pales in comparison to whether he fires Greg Robinson as defensive coordinator or not. PR campaigns matter only so much, especially when any regular Michigan fan can see RichRod's 15-21 record at Ann Arbor. The wins need to happen soon, and if the Wolverines can't win their bowl game this year, "next September" might not be soon enough for Michigan brass -- regardless of how much emotion Rodriguez showed at a team function tonight.