The world woke up to "scandal in Ann Arbor" today, and in my life, there has never been anything more blown out of proportion than the allegations from the now-dead-to-me Free Press. And wow, was it picked up everywhere. It filled the airways of local and national talk radio, and took up the first 15 minutes of the 30 minute College Football Live. It lead Sportscenter. It came up in my RSS reader from CNN, Yahoo Sports, EDSBS, Deadspin, and literally every football blog large and small. Sure, there were a few cheap shots taken, and that's fine. There was also some signs of support, and a few comments about how the amount of workout time cited in the allegations seems to be in line with the rest of the college football world. In the end, all the negatives will be dwelled upon, and all the evidence that shows Michigan did no wrong will be forgotten. All that will remain is the stigma that has been created, even fabricated, that Rich Rodriguez is a bad person.
The press conference commenced at 11am, and it seemed all eyes were transfixed on Ann Arbor, and on the eyes of our coach. He took to the podium, and choked up during his opening statement. Welled up just short of streaming tears, he looked, on a day where he should be game-planning for the most important contest of his Michigan career, like a broken man. A man that came here from West Virginia...a man that came HERE from West Virginia. Somehow fault is found by Michigan fans in the fact that he left his alma mater...to come HERE. It's held against him, against his character. He's shady, they say, without recognizing that he sacrificed everything, his friends, his reputation in his hometown, and the affiliation with the University that he attended and played football for. And he did it all, not for the money, as his raise was minuscule in comparison to most school to school transfers, but for MICHIGAN. He fought the lawsuit for breach of contract not to save himself $4 million, but to save MICHIGAN $4 million.
We've lived in a box for far too long. 40 years of the same regime. 40 years of the same type of athletes. 40 years of establishing the run. 40 years of Big Ten dominance and Big Bowl losses. 40 years of the quiet band and quieter crowds, waiting around for something really special to happen before they utter anything but "down in front," waiting as if the team owed them something. 40 years of calling plays from the stands, and praying that the next play was going to be that signature trick play, the double-reverse. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: You asked for it to end.
Rich Rodriguez brought in a new system. Well, new to Michigan. And somehow we were all surprised when it failed the first year. Really? You thought that the athletes recruited to play in Lloyd Carr's offense would be able to run Florida's offense? When's the last time Michigan stopped a mobile quarterback? That's the type of player that played for Michigan...tough, slow, deliberate. We had all the talent in the world when it came to stopping Ron Dayne, but Donavon McNabb...not so much. We had the men in place to jam it down your throat 50 times with Chris Perry, but ask John Navarre to dodge a rush or throw on the run? Forget about it. So we had 100+ square pegs slated to perform in their round holes. Not surprising, many of those players did not like their round holes, so they transferred. With every dissention, the world laughed and mocked us. The dissenters cited family values and coach's character, because leaving and saying "I'm a complete pussy" doesn't read well in the paper. They left because either they were not made for this system (Ryan Mallet), or they were not willing to make the sacrafice to change their bodies and their regimen to become a contributor in the new system (Benedict Boren). Conclusion: THE RICH RODRIGUEZ SYSTEM IS MORE DIFFICULT THAN THE OLD SYSTEM. In my world, that equates to THE RICH RODRIGUEZ SYSTEM IS BETTER FOR WINNING FOOTBALL GAMES THAN THE OLD SYSTEM. And yet, with every transfer, you felt like we were losing something, that Coach was doing something wrong. The truth is, he was doing something right.
They are saying we are working too much. Personally, I don´t think we´re working hard enough. - Mark Ortman
So when the Freep article cited their anonymous sources that included some "current players," you would be wise to conclude that either they were naive Freshmen that had their words twisted, or that they were current players, "square pegs," that have found themselves usurped on the depth chart by a younger player or find themselves without the wherewithal or balls to transfer themselves. In short, on the Michigan roster right now, there are players that are cowards, and perhaps a few that are cowards with an agenda. And yes, I'm probably bashing them a little too much. They are student athletes. They are young men that were put into a difficult situation, an odd transition. Perhaps it's not all their fault. But I am absolutely certain of one thing....it's not Rich Rodriguez's fault either.
What I saw today at that podium was a man that has tried to do everything to appease the fanbase. He is a man that believes in his system and is trying to make the right decisions on how to mesh his youthful process with very old traditions. He has taken his family and uprooted them from all that they've ever known, transplanted them here, and engulfed them in maize and blue. And what has he found? What is his reward? A fanbase that doesn't believe in him, and a local media that treats him worse than the alma mater he left behind. He might be better off back in West Virginia. WE, however, will not be. How much more of this can Rich Rodriguez take? How much pressure can be put on him? This is not Philadelphia. This is not New York. We are not assholes. So why are we acting like assholes?
When Michigan takes the field on Saturday, they will be going up against so much more than just Western Michigan. They will be facing a mass media that is ready to pounce on them if they lose, and ready to talk about workout schedules if they win. They will be facing a fan base more ready to boo an offensive three-and-out than cheer a defensive one. They will be facing the internal fight between those who believe in the system and those who don't. With all of that, it's hard to believe that they are expected to win on Saturday. But that's what I expect. Because I believe. In Michigan. In Rich Rodriguez.
Because I'm FUCKING ALL IN, and if you're not, then stay out of my way.
You're next Clausen, you little bitch.