It has been just over a month since Michigan announced the hiring of Rich Rodriguez as the 18th Head Football Coach in Michigan history. In the past month, Coach Rod fired the entire coaching staff save one (Fred Jackson); Coach Rod became embroiled in a very bitter and public spat with his former school WVU over his $4 million buy-out clause and allegations of "shredded files"; players with eligibility have left the program in droves including Ryan Mallett, Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington and Alex Mitchell; and Coach Rod's recruiting season has been uneven thus far. Uh, is it too late to return Coach Rod to West Virginia University? I think I must have my receipt around here somewhere.
The coaching search was a debacle from the moment A.D. Bill Martin botched the courtship of LSU's Les Miles. Personally, I did not want Miles to be the next coach but I did not like how Miles' candidacy was (mis)handled. The coaching "search" only went downhill from there. It was nothing short of a disaster. Michigan was a laughingstock. President Mary Sue Coleman had to step in and assist A.D. Martin in landing a big name (i.e., Rodriguez) to staunch the bleeding as Michigan was getting killed. The problem is that in the rush to bring in a hot, young coach (Rodriguez is only 44 years old), Michigan sacrificed bringing in the right guy for the program. Michigan was so desperate to "stop the bleeding" it was willing to overpay for a coach (any coach) who was considered a young, hot commodity. In bringing in Rodriguez, we got a young, innovative coach. We also have a person of questionable integrity and character now leading the football program. It did not have to be this way.
Michigan had the perfect internal candidate in Ron English. Young (39 years old) and highly respected, Coach English had been with the program for five years serving as the Defensive Coordinator for the past two seasons. Coach "E" is a man of great integrity and high character as he demonstrated during his tenure at Michigan. Coach English would have made changes but likely would have kept many of the prior members of the Michigan coaching staff. Coach English would have blended the old with the new. He would have been able to move the football program forward while building on the strength of the traditions of the past. The wholesale changes made by Coach Rodriguez means things will be very different next year but it does not mean they will be better. In fact, they will likely be worse. However, under Coach English, the program would be in better shape now and in the future. A.D. Bill Martin did a great disservice by creating an environment where the hiring of an internal candidate would be viewed as "settling" and not in the best interests of the program. In fact, staying inside (as it turns out) would have been far preferable to the outside hire that was made. It's all water under the bridge but sometimes as I watch Coach Rod's soap opera I wistfully wonder what might have been if Michigan had hired Coach English instead. Go Blue!