“Winning fixes everything.” That was a common refrain this summer and into the season as Rodriguez and the program absorbed a variety of hits (3-9, Feagin, practicegate, mortgages, GPA, etc.). It’s true for the part, maybe never seemingly moreso when Michigan reentered the top 25 a few
years weeks ago. Most probably didn’t give much thought to the other side of that equation especially after September. Not only losing, but losing badly apparently regressing.
It’s so hard to classify the Michigan fan base (it’s something I think about all the time), but simplifying things a ton, let’s says there are two groups– those that are with Rodriguez and those that aren’t. The result of this loss is that Rodriguez has lost many more than he picked up after the Notre Dame game.
What comes next are the vocal critics taking over, crushing Rodriguez for his actions on and off the field. On Sunday, frequent WTKA caller ‘Mark from Lansing’ likened RR’s situation to that of Gary Moeller in the wake of his bad night at Excalibur, suggesting that Mo wouldn’t have been fired if those 8-4s were 10-2s. You’ve heard (and you’ll hear more) folks saying that Michigan use the NCAA practicegate investigation to push Rodriguez away. There is a clause in his contract allowing Michigan to do so if there is a major violation.
Also keep in mind that there’s more folks than just the athletic department and the fans involved here. You might be familiar with Mike Rosenberg of the Free Press, who made this point when we spoke early last season:
A lot of those people [at U-M] are already concerned about Rich. All he’s done in my opinion is given himself a thinner margin of error. Lloyd gave himself a wider margin of error than almost any coach because everybody knew he had an affection for this school, everybody knew he was trying to win but also have a program that would represent the school in a certain way. No one could question his love for it. Rich has done a number of things that have made his margin of error slimmer. That doesn’t mean he can’t win, that doesn’t mean he can’t be here for 20 years.
While I’m probably in the minority on my concern about the NCAA investigation, the idea of looking for outs right now with the coach is pointless and silly. While the “it’ll never happen” argument doesn’t seem to quiet anyone, it’ll never happen, barring the NCAA finding something much more serious. Bill Martin isn’t going to spend his last winter at the helm looking for a new coach, and getting a new coach (and 4th defensive coordinator in four seasons!) is pointless.
What does this mean from here? I have no clue, but I know that Saturday is huge and I’m looking forward to see how everyone—fans, team, coaches, media, etc., respond.