Up Close With Rich Rod (Part 1)

Part I of the transcription of Rich Rodriguez's 90 minute informal meeting with the press. Michigan's headman discusses the #1 jersey, the gentleman's agreement, the perception that he ran a shady program at West Virginia, and more.

Question: On recently being deposed.

Coach Rodriguez:  “The 7 1/2 hour deposition wasn’t fun.  But it wasn’t difficult.  Like I said, it is easy to tell the truth, you don’t have to remember.  If you lie, you got to remember what you lie about.  If you tell the truth, all you do is sit there and tell the truth.  So it wasn’t difficult but it was time consuming.”

Question:  Have there been points Rich where you just thought to yourself, ‘ just can't believe where I’m at’?

Coach Rodriguez:  “No not really.  I have never been one to.  When I first got the job at West Virginia or when I first got the job at Salem College when I was 24 years old.  I have never been one, like ‘oh geez, what do I do next.’  I guess just on personality, I am always just, ‘what’s next.’  What is next for me today?  What do I got to do today to make the program better?  When you work a job… and I am not the only person, but when you work a job, particularly as a head coach, you don’t work it, you live the job.  I live it 24/7.  I don’t ever go to bed without thinking about what I got to do for Michigan football.  Maybe it is obsessive, but that is the way I have always been.  Even before I got into coaching and I was an athlete, I laid in bed and said, ‘okay, what do I have to tomorrow to make me a better player?’  What do I got to do tomorrow to make sure that I graduate?  I think that probably helps with all this stuff going on.  Again, it is not because of you all, but I don’t read the (papers) as much.  It is not because I am not interested, it is simply because I am more worried about, ‘I got to watch this film’ or ‘got to make this call’ or something like that.  For me, life is too short to reflect too much.  Not that it is not bad to reflect, but I choose not to too much.”

Question:  Have you had to answer any questions from parents or recruits pertaining to what is going on?

Coach Rodriguez:  “A little bit, but not nearly what you think.  People have asked why I left, some of them, but a lot of them haven't.  They are more interested I think in what is going on now, what is going on at Michigan, what is going on with the program and a lot of things in the past have benefited us.  I have found that in the last three to four months, they have seen our teams play in the past, they recognize some of the style of the systems that we run.  So it has been overwhelmingly positive.  When I say, not to belabor the point, when I say it has been tough from West Virginia standpoint on some of the things that I have had to deal with,.. (the parents and recruits) are like me, they kind of roll their eyes and like ‘geez why are they being that way.’ And I tell them, ‘that is a good question.’”

Question:  Is there any one thing that has come out that was either so untrue or…

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah I think I have addressed it early.  Normally they would throw something out there and you are better off letting it go, but when they came out with that shredding thing and those mysterious phone calls…  112 mysterious phone calls that we found out was to my voice mail, and then the shredding, the so-called shredding incident that still baffles me on what they were talking about there.  I shredded some old game plans, which as a ball coach, I think you would do that.  Some of them were as old as 12 years in an unlocked closest that wasn’t even in my office.  That is the one where I thought, ‘geez, what is going on here?’  As you all know, I have chosen to take the high road, or what I think is the high road… I guess maybe just to me, because you just respond to something every day. But that bothered me in particular because it was things that wasn’t true.  Eventually the truth comes out, but sometimes that is on page six instead of page one.”

Question:  What has been your biggest surprise so far, either the program or the players or the alumni?

Coach Rodriguez:  “There hasn’t been one.  That kind of sounds, I guess different, but I haven't been overly surprised in any regard.  There is the pride and passion, I expected all that.  The players, the inexperience, I expected that.  You knew that there was going to be a lot of seniors that were leaving and some young guys that haven't played much.  Was it going to be difficult in the transition, that doesn’t surprise and there has been, but I think that has probably been overplayed.  I think probably most coaches have been through a similar transition at division I that had the same number attrition, maybe we had a little bit more.  Everybody talks about the one that left and not the 99 that stayed.  I know there was a lot more attrition my first year at West Virginia than there was here.  Do I care? Sure I care.  When people say, ‘do you care when kids leave,’ yeah I care when they leave, but I care more about the ones who stayed for sure.  There hasn’t been a lot of bothersome surprises.  You know everybody wants to compare. I don’t think you can compare too much, but at West Virginia, you got to the point where all the games were sold out, great crowd, 60 some thousand, not 110,000, great passion.  Here it is pretty neat, because there is great passion for athletic programs and for football, but they also have other things that they are interested in.  It is not like it is the only thing that they focus on.  So the pride in the academics, in music, and art and all those other things, it is pretty neat.  I have not really been surprised by a whole lot.”

Question: What were people most interested in talking to you about at the alumni events that you went to?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Everybody wants to know who’s your quarterback going to be?  What is your offense going to be?  I tell them that you can send me tape.  A lot of people send me plays, I said make sure you got 11 people in and not 12 (laughing).  I get a lot of plays with 12 people and we can't run them.  I think they more or less want – not all --people have asked about the past at West Virginia or anything like that.  They are probably like me, they try to move on then focus on that.  I think there is a little bit of anxiety because I am a new guy and whether I was a new guy that had been here before or a new guy that has never been here before, but I think just being a new guy is different, because Lloyd (Carr) had been here for how many years?  13 years as a head coach.  So it didn’t matter who the head coach was.  At our level you all know every year counts like, I call them dog years.  Every one should count like five or six.  10 years at one place is a long time.  Even seven years, I was seven years at West Virginia, is probably longer than the average for sure.  They just wanted to see the new guy.”

Question:  Did you guys talk about the #1 (jersey number)?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I will plead ignorant on that.  I talked to our people about it, informing me about the situation.  I was getting ready to go on the road and I was given Big John Falk on the roster and I had a skill number open and that kid didn’t even ask for #1.  I said that #1 is open.  So I plead ignorance in that.  I am educated better now.  I talked to Braylon (Edwards) about it a little bit, but geez it is not a situation…if I could fix all problems as easy as I fixed that, we are all in a good place.  I just decide the numbers.  I know we got several that are retired.  We couldn’t use them.  I knew which ones were retired, because they weren’t on the list.  The other ones, I just assigned them and moved on, but now I know a little bit about that situation and our guys will help me with that.  All tried to take the blame.  I said, heck I am the one that put it out there without knowing all the whole details.”

Question:  Is someone going to get it this fall, the #1?

Coach Rodriguez:  “It is a big story I guess.  No not this fall.  Nobody will have it this fall.”

Question: What area is making the most progress with your team?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Probably just understanding our training methods.  There is a lot made of what we are doing in our conditioning program and all that, but there is more than one way of doing things and our way is not the only solution, the (only) right way to do things.  These guys have trained well before.  It is just our way is a little different, but it is different then a lot of (them).  Everybody has different ways of doing things.  I think guys now understand how we are training and why we are training a certain way and I think eventually, again they will have to go through August, understand our schemes and why we do certain drills and why we run certain plays a certain way.  I think that is the thing, I think that these guys have adapted to this quicker in that regard than other places I have been.  We still got a long way to go.  At least I think they understand, I see them getting confident.  Like right now, most of the guys are here for summer workouts and Coach Barwis has said that their attitude has been super and they are getting some confidence because they are getting stronger in areas where they haven't been strong before.  Again, let’s not make too big of a deal out of it. They have trained… it is not like they laid around last year or the year before.  They still trained, it is just different now that they understand those different methods better.”

Question:  Perception around here of Ohio State and Coach Tressel, great coach, people always say they are dirty… they had Clarett there..all that kind of stuff..  Your perception is, great coach, I don’t know Pacman Jones, Chris Henry kind of shady.

Coach Rodriguez:  “That is unfair.”

Question:  I know, I know, but how do you get rid of that perception?

Coach Rodriguez:  “If that perception is out there that is really unfair.  I mean this is two guys and I have been head coach for 16 years now.  This is my 16th year and those two guys had one incident each in college, which I suspended (them) for and other than that, they were fine.  Pacman wasn’t getting arrested when he was at West Virginia other than the first time and he got suspended for (it).  Chris Henry never got arrested when he was at West Virginia.  So when they leave the program, it is kind of hard for me.  You worry about all the stories, the Pat White’s, Rasheed Marhshall, Owen Schmidt and all those other guys.  I think if you look back at the players that graduated, the graduation rates and the guys that have gone on and done well, I think that is very unfair. I mean as a coach you want all of your players to succeed after they leave and I am proud of most of them that have.  If somebody has that perception then that is their own problem not mine.”

Question:  Tiller made the comment earlier, Charlie Weis recently said “the hell with Michigan”, who is next to take shots?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah and you want to take shots, stand in line, right?  It’s one of them kind of deals.  It seems like, I don’t know, kind of a popular thing to do.  He jumped on there.  If you think I stayed up late at night worrying about Charlie Weis comments, I am not worried about Notre Dame.  I am worried about Michigan.  When we get ready to play Notre Dame, I will be worried about Notre Dame, but I don’t, I know everything gets blown up a good bit.  Whether he said it at a function and it got played up, I had a great talk with Joe Tiller at the Big Ten meetings and we got a big chuckle out of that we talked about it.  All the coaches talked about that and the other things, so I didn’t take it personal at the time.  I don’t take Charlie’s comments personable, but your competitive juices get flowing a little bit.”

Question:  What was the resolution of that conversation?  You said you all talked about that, the coaches.  Was there a discussion about the commitments and stuff?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Oh yeah, we discussed all that.”

Question:  Was there a resolution?

Coach Rodriguez:  “We didn’t write no agreement down (laughing).  There wasn’t like any signed resolution, gentleman’s agreement, all that kind of stuff.  That is why I got a kick out of it.  I didn’t see any memos cross the desk and nobody could recollect anything.”

Question:  Did Tiller seem to understand your point of view when you talked to him?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah.  I think so.  Maybe some frustration, but listen we have all, everyone of us has lost recruits in the last hour.  It is frustrating when it happens and we talked more about are there methods to maybe decrease the chances of those frustrations, having an early signing period in December.  That was the bulk of the discussion as opposed to what the comments were. There is going to be, like I said there are a lot of people who have said some things and there will be a lot more in the future, both friendly and unfriendly.  I don’t get hung on that stuff too much.”

Question:  How is it different to recruit here?  Do you look at different kids?  Are you having different conversations with kids?

Coach Rodriguez:  “It is different, because I think you are more of a national university that is the biggest difference.  Academically, people say you know you got to recruit a different, I don’t think you do.  Everybody wants to have that recruit, that quality student athlete that is sincere about getting a degree and can play at a high level, whether you are Clemson, West Virginia, Michigan, Texas, USC, whoever.  So from that regard, it is really not different at all.  I have taken pride in that we have done that.  People bring up Pacman and Chris Henry, played what four to five years ago for me.  I don’t think that that is a big difference.  I think the biggest thing here is that obviously you can sell the great tradition, you can sell the 110,000.  You can sell for us the facility improvements, the indoor building, what is going on with the Big House, the passion, the guys in the NFL, the academic reputation.  All of those things are probably enhanced here compared to just about any school in division I.  So in that regard you have more things to sell than at any place I have been to.”

Question:  What do you think of the BCS and do you want a playoff?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I like where we are at.  The only one that I thought had some merit was the +1, but I do agree when you start down that road, you may be into +2 or +3 and I don’t know if you can stop it.  I go back, the popularity of division I football has never been higher than it is right now.  From the TV standpoint, the radio standpoint, probably from your subscription standpoint, from crowd attendance.  So what is broke?  I mean there is a little controversy every year, sure there is, but it is better than it was 10 years ago.  It was better than it was 20 years ago when you could have two undefeated teams and that is it and they are both playing in opposite bowel games.  In a sense, we have got a lot better situation than we have ever had.  Division I football, the regular season games probably carry more importance, as you all know than any sport on any level.  To me that is a pretty good thing.  I don’t think that it is that broke.”

Question:  Did (Jim) Delany defend his position?  I mean he has taken a lot of national shots for being one of the outliers in this situation?

Coach Rodriguez:  “He talked about it a little bit but none of us asked.  I don’t think most of the coaches, it is usually not part of our discussion.  There may be some of them that may want it, but that was the one thing that we didn’t talk about.  We had a lot of conversation about Big Ten officials and all that kind of stuff.  I didn’t even comment about the officials, I haven't been in the league, so I don’t know much about the officials.  I was the easiest one for those guys to talk about officials.  Like I said, we are in a pretty good place right now at least in division I football.”

Question:  One of the things that was striking reading your deposition was, there seemed to be a lot of cooks in the kitchen at West Virginia?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Did you read it, I didn’t read it.  That was a lot of pages wasn’t it?  7 1/2 hours.”

Question:  It was a hard read.  I couldn’t imagine what it was like to go through it.  If it wasn’t the president, it was the governor.  A lot of seemed to have opinions on how you should do the job, is it different here?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Oh no question.  In that regard it is.  I think as a coach you manage your environment the best you can.  So I managed in different places, I have had difference in schools, you learn that each situation is a little bit different, you learn to manage it.  It became to that point where there were involvement from a lot of levels and as a coach you learn to manage it, but then there comes a certain point, like geez wait a minute.  Like I said, Bill Martin has been extremely supportive.  He is doing a lot of things.  Mary Sue Coleman, I have had a couple of conversations with her.  I interviewed with them before I took the job and by the way, she is a terrific recruiting coordinating, if she ever decided to do that.  Outside of that, they are not in the middle of your business sort of speak.  I don’t want to give the perception that when I was at West Virginia, we had all these people telling me how to run the program and what plays to run, who to hire or anything like that, because I was I guess stubborn enough, I kept things that arm’s length.  There were times, as I probably mentioned in that thing where, wait a minute.  I am in charge of running the program and there is a lot of meddling factors that in our program that shouldn’t be in there.  Then you know, you got promises to make.  I will never apologize and I have said this before, for asking and requesting for things that help your program to grow.  Whether it is at Michigan, whether it is at Glennville State or whether it is at West Virginia.  I think part of my job, job as a head coach is to continue to grow your program as good as it can be.  That is one of the charges that I have as a head coach.  To me the same thing is true here and I have been fortunate that Bill and the University of Michigan have done things that I have asked for.  They have come through, with the weight room, the staffing wise and all that.  There are things that I needed for exposure of the program and Bruce and David know about that.  Those things have had great, great cooperation.  Everything that they have said they were going to, they have done that is a pretty good deal.”

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