rich rodriguez

There's money to be made around the passion for Michigan football at Michigan Stadium.
Anthony Gattine / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Sports Commentator John U. Bacon has a new book out. It premiered at number six on The New York Times non-fiction best seller list this week. Bacon was already well-known at the University of Michigan for the book he co-wrote with Bo Schembechler. So, it wasn’t difficult for him to get access to the Wolverine football program in 2008 when the team got a new head coach Rich Rodriguez, or Rich-Rod.

Bacon's plan was to write a story on the spread offense that Rich-Rod had used so successfully at West Virginia. But Bacon quickly found himself in the middle of a new, more complex story.

"It started out being a very simple story... and, now you realize, of course, three years later, the real story is off the field: it's what it's really like to be a player, what it's really like to be a coach, NCAA investigations, pressure, losing, ultimately getting fired... I don't think you have to be much of a football fan to follow this," says Bacon.

Michigan Radio's Christina Shockley spoke with Bacon about his new book, Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football.

In the summer of 2008, Rich Rodriguez granted me unfettered access to the Michigan football program so I could write a book.

Three years later the book is finished, and not with a happy ending.

Similar to just about everybody else connected to Michigan football these past three years, I had no idea what I was getting into. 

During my three years following the Michigan football team, the working title of the book changed from “All or Nothing,” to “All In,” to “Third and Long,” before Rodriguez’s last season, and after he was fired, to “Three and Out.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The search for the next University of Michigan head football coach will apparently not end in the Louisiana swamps.    U of M Athletic Director David Brandon met Monday with Louisiana State University head coach Les Miles.  But flew home empty handed.  

Former Michigan head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, just issued this statement:

"I am proud of the dedication and commitment exhibited by the coaching staff and student-athletes who have represented the University of Michigan football program over the last three seasons.  While I am disappointed to depart Ann Arbor before we were able to reach the level of success we had in our sights, I am confident that the players who remain have the potential to do great things and to return the Wolverines to greatness.  I would like to thank our fans and our student body for their tremendous support. There is great passion for Michigan football and I have made lifelong friends through this experience."

For the past three years I’ve had unfettered access to the Michigan football program, from the film room to the locker room, to write a book about what I’ve seen.

Before I walked into that first staff meeting, I thought I knew Michigan football as well as anyone.  But after three years of seeing everything up close, I can tell you this unequivocally: I had no idea.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Now that University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez has been fired, David Brandon says he'll work fast to find a replacement.

Brandon was hired one year ago as the University of Michigan's Athletic Director. During the past twelve months the U of M football program has been his primary concern.   

The football team has struggled on the field and violated NCAA rules off the field.  

Now, the once premier football program faces years on probation and an uphill climb to become truly competitive. 

Brandon says whoever he hires as head coach needs to be more than an average football coach:

 “This individual has to be able to compete at the highest level.  The expectations here are extraordinarily high.  The passion for this football program is unbelievable.  If you don’t believe me, you should see the email traffic. There are people out there who care.  And it’s beyond just sport for them.  It’s part of their life.  That’s put a coach in a position where they have to have the ability.  To stand up to that pressure and perform against it.

Every time I turned on any radio station yesterday -- other than this one -- almost all I heard was discussion and speculation as to whether University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired, should be fired or deserved to be fired.

Michigan television stations were just as bad. They seem to have descended on Ann Arbor en masse, leaving me to wonder what real stories they were missing across the rest of our state.

However, I tend to wonder about that every day as it is. Lacking any real information, reporters opted for the famous man-or-woman-on the street interview approach. To their credit, those I saw being interviewed said mostly well-informed and nuanced things.

Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

UPDATE 1:00 p.m.:

The press conference has concluded. Brandon entertained a lot of questions about potential replacements for Rich Rodriguez, but said he has yet to talk with potential candidates and plans to do so soon.

It appears Brandon plans to increase the amount of pay the next head football coach at the University of Michigan will receive. Rich Rodriguez had a six-year $15 million contract. Brandon feels Michigan has been in the "middle of the pack" in terms of coaching pay for top tier college football programs.

Rich Rodriguez in 2007 accepting the coaching position at UM
Detroit News / Creative Commons

Lots of media outlets in Southeast Michigan reported yesterday that University of Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez had been fired. It wasn’t a surprise and everyone has been waiting for it to happen, and some listeners thought it was odd they didn’t hear about it on Michigan Radio. 


Want to know why? Well, couldn’t nail the rumors down as true, so we didn’t report it. Turns out that was the right decision.

Rich Rodriguez coaches UM football team
user NHN_2009 / creative commons

UPDATE: 7:30 p.m.:

The University of Michigan is calling the reports that head football coach Rich Rodriguez has been fired "speculation." TheWolverine.com reports that the University released this statement:

"Everything that is being reported is media speculation at this point," Dave Ablauf, U-M associate athletic director said in a statement. "The definitive voice on this matter is Dave Brandon and he has not and will not speak publicly until a final decision has been made. I will let you know when Dave is prepared to comment."

The website reports that the players meeting that had been scheduled for 7 p.m. tonight was moved to 4 p.m. tomorrow.

UPDATE: 4:24 p.m.: ESPN analysts talk about the Rich Rodriguez firing. Say it was a "marriage [that] never started out on the right foot." Analyst Craig James says Rodriguez told him that people were not on the same page when he came to Ann Arbor.

2:41 p.m.:

Fox News in Detroit and the Detroit Free Press are reporting that the University of Michigan's head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, has been fired.

According to the Fox report:

Sources tell Fox 2 that Rich Rodriguez was fired as head coach of the University of Michigan football team Tuesday.

The University of Michigan might have to pay Rodriguez $2.5 million to buy out the final three years of his contract.

UM's David Brandon and Rich Rodriguez
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The head coach of the University of Michigan's football team might learn about his future today.

AnnArbor.com is reporting that University of Michigan Athletic Director, David Brandon, will meet with the university's head football coach, Rich Rodriguez, this afternoon:

Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon will meet with embattled coach Rich Rodriguez early this afternoon to discuss his future with the Wolverines football program, according to two people with knowledge of the meetings.

Rich Rodriguez coacing UM football players
Rich Dinges - creative commons

It's not just sitting president's who have to worry about their poll numbers, apparently head football coaches do to.

Public Policy Polling gathered information on a subject that really doesn't have much to do with the general public or policy.

Their robot callers ("we can reduce interviewer bias to zero by eliminating the live human interviewer") got responses from 1,224 Michiganders on the subject of Rich Rodriguez.