Up Close With Rich Rod (Part 3)

Part 3 of the transcription of Rich Rodriguez's 90 minute informal meeting with the press. Michigan's headman discusses his start in coaching, the dispute over his buyout, and more.

***For those that missed part 1, click here.
***For those that missed part 2, click here.

Question: On his start in coaching and working with Don Nehlen:

Coach Rodriguez:  “I grew up in a small town and so my best opportunity to go to a big school was a local school and walk on.  My dad was a laid off coal miner at the time, so I got Pell grant money, academic money.  I had one year to make it and thankfully it happened.  Anyways I got in there and I was in a great high school program.  Lloyd Michael was my high school coach and we won a state championship and it was structured and tough and all that, but when it got to division I football and a new stadium and all that, you could just see the number of people involved in the program.  To me it was remarkable… division I and Coach Nehlen staff and strength coaches and the organization of all that.  It is funny, played there for four years, was a student assistant for a year and so there was a lot of those who stay will be champions and all that kind of stuff.  He talked about Michigan quite a bit while we were there, but you didn’t think much about it until later, you got into coaching like I did, to realize where he got a lot of his ideas and his methods.  I took, not all of it, but some of it and the organizational part of it when I became a coach.  I was a head coach at 24, so I was kind of, I don’t want to say swinging in the wind, but I was formulating a lot of my own ideas at the time, but I always visited Morgantown.  I would always go up there.  I wanted to get their recruiting list.  So the guys that they weren’t getting or weren’t trying to get (laughing). I was going after that group.  So I always went up there for the camp, the recruiting.  I always went up there to get the recruiting list and I always hung around their spring practices in case guys would leave, I would be the first one to pick them up (laughter).  They saw me a good bit doing that deal.  I had to learn from them and got close with the Bowden family and then working the camps.  Working the Bowden camps, they wouldn’t pay anybody.  They were looking for cheap labor and I was cheap because I was free.  I worked there for like six years for free before they finally wanted to pay me like 100 bucks for four days, so I was tickled to death.  The experiences that I gained and obviously I had a relationship with Tommy (Bowden) when he hired me.  Those were probably, Don Nehlen and Bowden family were the only people that I worked for as an assistant really and then the other 16 of my 25 years of coaching has been as a head coach.  Coaching at a small college, I wouldn’t hire a guy if he has not coached at either high school or a smaller college level because I think if all you have been is division I you get spoiled.  You get all these things and all these people doing everything.  You don’t get an appreciation of the big picture and all the things that you have to go into it.  I think my staff has a great appreciation for all the stuff that you have.”

Question:  Do you know when you are going to do your coaches show yet?

Coach Rodriguez:  “We are working on it.  Dave (Ablauf), Bruce (Madej) and Joe Park and all those guys.  It will be a different format because one thing I am not, Lloyd (Carr) bless his heart, I guess after every game home or away, he would come and do the interview for the TV show right after the game.  I am not one to do that.  Because if we lose, there any nobody that wants to talk to me, my wife, my kids, nobody.  If we win, I am going to be celebratory with the recruits and the family, whatever enjoying it.  They won't find me after the games.  The format is going to change a little bit and the time that it airs will be changed, but I am excited about it.  A lot of great ideas, there is a lot of good things that come together with that.”

Question:  Can you talk about the ideas that Don Nehlen brought over under Bo, did you ever get a chance to meet Bo?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah one time.  This was a few years ago.  I wanted to say it was in New York, the annual hall of fame thing, very briefly just said hello, said a few words, but I have gotten some great compliments, I guess from Coach Schemblecher.  I guess Coach Schemblecher had mentioned my name a few times to some folks around here and to Coach Nehlen about me and all that.  For a guy that I didn’t know or didn’t know me, I thought that was probably one of the best compliments that I have ever gotten in my profession.”

Question:  Other than football what sports do you like?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Basketball.  I thought I was a division I basketball player and actually had a couple of mid major offers but didn’t go that route.  I love all all college athletics, but I love basketball and baseball.  I had never been to a college hockey game until that one over here and I screwed up that Score-O thing.  The worst thing about it is that I actually went earlier that day and practiced and made them okay.  I sucked that night.”

Question:  They gave you another stick remember?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah they gave me another stick.  Should of went with the one.”

Question:  You folded under pressure?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah.  Well I was more worried about falling on the ice than I was about the puck.  Then my son had never been to a game and he went to the one where we beat Notre Dame with 20 seconds to go and so he was hooked.  It was pretty exciting.  I haven't gotten around as much to the other events, but I got to a few basketball games and I am a John Beilein fan.  I am excited.”

Question:  Rich you actually sounded like about teams being on the field for the national anthem?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah I am.  It is kind of neat.”

Question:  What kind of decorum do you expect from your players?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I think that our players will obviously get preached to quite a bit about how they are supposed to act.  You will see when we run the ball, if they do a lot of demonstrative things, you won't see them do a lot of demonstrative things.  They are going to hand the ball to the official every time they carry the ball whether they score or not.  Every player that touches the ball will hand the ball to the official.  One, so we can get the ball spotted quicker and two, because I think it is the proper thing to do.  When they score they may go chest bump.  I like celebrating with their teammates but you won’t see any crazy demonstrative acting silly kind of stuff.  Not when they are in the program.  When they leave the program I can't control them, but not when they are in the program.  Now the national anthem, I think is a great idea.”

Question:  If when this is all said and done and they make you pay (the 4 million dollar buyout), will you be sorry that you fought it?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I am not even going to go there.  There comes a point that you got to make a decision that you got to do that you feel is right and the wife and I have talked about this numerous times. We have to do what we feel is right.  It has been more painful doing it that way but a lot of times if you go back to your base of why you are doing it, it helps ease the pain a little bit.  We got to do what is right and we feel for us; it would have been a heck of a lot easier not to go through with this, wouldn’t it?  I mean nobody wants to be disposed.  I don’t want my wife, she has to go through a deposition.  It is distracting, but I can assure anybody that is a Michigan fan that nothing will happen to ever take me away from doing my job as a football coach at the University of Michigan.  Nothing with the exception of maybe something happened to your family, family health problem.  So it is not going to be distracting, but it is certainly not easy on the family, but we are doing what we think is right.”

Question:  I don’t think I have ever heard you speak with that much conviction about it.  So you really look at this as a right and wrong thing?

Coach Rodriguez:  “In certain respects of it, yeah.  I think if you read through everything and be objective about the whole situation.  I am telling the truth.  I am telling the truth.  A lot of stuff that has been out there, whether certain or this or this, is not the truth.  I was outspoken about that, responded to that, responded about the fundraiser.  His affidavit is full of lies.  It is unbelievable to read it and believe somebody would say that under oath and for me just to not to just say that is okay.  It aint okay.  It is not okay to lie.  It is certainly not okay to lie under oath.   Not only did it affect me, lie about me, but lie about guys on my staff and I do take it very personal when somebody tries to ruin the reputation of my staff and myself.  It is not right, particularly when he is lying.   That will be case from now until the say I am no longer sitting on this good earth.”

Question:  You know what is amazing Rich, nobody ever complained about you when you were there.

Coach Rodriguez:  “No.  Things were all going well.”

Question:  They thought you were a pretty good guy there.

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah I had a lot of friends, I thought.  I still got a lot of friends.  I don’t want anybody and you all too, because this is great people here, and I know this, but there is great people in West Virginia too.  I don’t want people to ever think that I am giving the perception that West Virginia is a bad place.  It is a great state.  It is a great university.  There is a lot of great people.  The far majority are still great friends of mine.  There is a small part of it to me that aren’t above board that aren’t telling the truth, that aren’t I guess being the type of people that I thought they were or thought that they should do.  That is small, you go a lot of places and find that small part that aren’t good people, but I don’t want this to ever be an indictment, because there are a lot of great people and I have a lot of great friends still there.  A lot of them aren’t speaking up though and you can understand why.  You are in a small state and that they still got to do business there.  So this is going to hurt them to come out and it has been popular to be anti-Rich Rodriguez in some circles there.  It wasn’t that case a year ago Frank, but what are you going to do.”

Question:  When you talked to a couple of months ago you said that you talked to your players after spring evaluation, what kind of relationship do you have with players?

Coach Rodriguez:  “You know I feel better with them.  I am glad you brought that up.  When you coach and I told the team, I don’t know you individually really well yet.  I knew some of them but didn’t know a lot of them, so until I know you, I have got to coach you all the same way.  Some guys you get on them a little bit and they respond well and some guys you get on them a little bit and they lose all confidence and they kind of melt.  Until I know you, I don’t know which buttons to push.  Now I am know and the new staff members know them a lot better, so we kind of got a better feel for that and as we go along it is easier and easier to know which buttons to push and so it is easier to coach.  Not everybody gets motivated the same way.  Now the demands are the same as before, but you always push a guys buttons different ways and as we get to know them.  I felt really good at the end of spring.  Us getting to know them, I say us, the new guys and then also I felt good at the end of spring, all my conversations with the guys, they were excited about looking forward to summer workouts.  I think they were apprehensive in February and they were excited in April.  To me that is a good thing.”

Question:  A lot coaches are so locked in on what they are doing, the game that they don’t care about anything that is around them, but are you looking forward to any of the first, the first time coming out of that tunnel into that stadium, those kinds of things.

Coach Rodriguez:  “I think that it is exciting.  A lot of recruits have been to more games than I have, because I haven't been to any here.  I think it is exciting.  As far as a landmark or a first, I don’t think I guess in those terms.  It is going to be exciting simply because it is the Big House and a 100+ thousand, but as far as it being the first time, I am worried about getting the first 1st down.  That is kind of what I am thinking about.”

Question:  The stadium and practice facility projects were both in motion before you got here, did you ask for any changes or tweaks or anything?

Coach Rodriguez:  “No not really and it was fortunate that I was coming here in the timing of all those battles to get those done were always accomplished. A few new things in the indoor practice facility, minor things with the locker room.  Obviously the weight room changes was something that we had a plan in and the athletic department agreed to do, but outside of that, really I think there is a great plan already put into motion and I just happened to be the fortunate one to come in and enjoy the benefits of it.”

Question:  With all those grounds under construction, what are you guys going to do for the summer camp, because they usually use all those fields?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah we will have less fields.  The biggest thing about the thing, which every coach would love to go through that.  There is a little it of, I guess logistical problems at times in practicing, getting outside, not having the spring game in the stadium, not being able to practice in the stadium at all this fall and all that.  You would gladly go through that to get the renovations done, but I think we are going to have, hopefully, we have three weeks before camp, we will have our outside practice fields done for the most part and then we have to be really organized, which Brad ____ will do a great job in our camps, organizing the fields that we have to get all of our campers through the deal.”

Question:  Sorry to go back a little bit, but Coach Nehlen said in December that when you are the coach at West Virginia you walk on water in West Virginia and when you are the head coach at Michigan you walk on water period.  I was just wondering have you noticed that your stature has changed when you walk into a kid’s house?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I am not walking on water.”

Question:  I am not saying that you are Jesus Christ, but I am just…?

Coach Rodriguez:  “The biggest change I think from the coaches when they recruit is, again the brand name.  I guess, I don’t know if that is the right word to say it, but the brand Michigan, I think opens up a few doors to some guys in different parts of the country that maybe I hadn’t seen before in any place that I have coached at and some of the places my coaches have coached at. That has helped in a large part.  I think it is pretty neat to go to LA and San Diego and asked how many people have season tickets and there will be 150 people in the crowd that will raise their hands and you know that they are 1000s and 100s of miles away and to go to Chicago and New York and have sold out crowds, 500-600 people at an event.  In that regard, you sense I get the nationalness of the program and that is pretty exciting.  It don’t help you get a first down in the fall, but it certainly going to help you in recruiting.”

Question: Rich does Justin Feagin have any of the plays, is he preparing for anything?

Coach Rodriguez:  “He doesn’t yet.  Those guys will all be here this summer for summer school and workouts and when they get up here, they will get with the upper classman and learn the things.  We don’t want to add too much.  I want all the guys to make sure that they graduate high school with as good as grades as they can get.  Get focused on their orientation when they come up here and get ready for that.  We got time for it.  I think you can give a freshman too much too soon and lose them and we don’t want to do that.”

Question:  Ideally would you like to see him be able to contribute on the field this fall?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Normally sometimes as freshman you can.  I really wouldn’t be able to tell you that even until probably the first three or four practices and see how quickly he grasps it and how ready he is physically.  Some positions, running back, wide receiver, those kinds of positions they can usually transition earlier.  Quarterback is tough, but I never say never.”

Question:  You said that you talked to Braylon Edwards, what did he say to you?

Coach Rodriguez:  “We just talked real briefly about it.  I told Braylon that I wasn’t aware of the situation with the jersey and we will get all that fixed and time to move on.”

Question:  What did it mean for this program for you when (Jake) Long went #1 overall.  Is that something that you guys can use in recruiting?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Oh yeah. You talk about one and I think that it is great.  Here is a guy that came back for his 5th year.  I mean, he would have gotten drafted highly last year.  He came back for his 5th year for his teammates, for himself, for the school and increased his stock and became the #1 pick.  So obviously financially it was a great thing for him too.  It is a great example for you to show that here is a guy that came back for all the right reasons and it worked out great for him.  In that respect, I will use that in the future and the fact that a Michigan guy goes first is a great selling point for your program.”

Question: I know you said that you can't until a week before Utah before you see where guys are going to be, but the line you pretty much know who is going to be on your offensive line.  You see some things, you think those guys can be…?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I think they will be okay.  Again, they haven't played a lot.  We are not going to be really deep.  We are going to have freshman on two deep as soon as they get here simply because of numbers.”

Question:  What do you see from them?  Have you seen some things where they can…?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I think we have got a level of toughness.  It starts with their attitude.  I really like their attitude up front.  I think Coach Frey has been pleased with the way they are coming together.  They hang out, they like each other.  They have had a great off season.  Just see, look at Steve Schilling, he is a 295 pound guy right now and you don’t seen ounce of fat on him.  I mean Steve looks great and he had an outstanding spring.  I really like the way they are coming along.  Some of these guys have been around for two to three years and I think that they see this as their opportunity and hopefully they will make the most of it.”

Question:  Is it odd to have a guy like Steve, who is a red shirt sophomore and he is the leader, the most experienced guy?

Coach Rodriguez:  “He is.  Yeah, your leadership, I don’t need leadership in practices, spring practice and even in the fall, because that is what coaches are for, but you need leadership in the summer workouts.  You need leadership in the locker room.  You need leadership when you are around campus and I think we have the makings of some good leaders but most of them have not been in that role and so I am anxious to see how they embrace that this summer and during the fall in the locker room.  I think that a lot of them are excited about that.  Steve has taken good pride in that.  You don’t have to be a rah-rah guy, I don’t think Jake and those guys were, but if you lead the right way by example, you get what you want as a coach.”

Question:  When you talk to the alumni groups and even fans around here, do you get any sense of their expectations?  How do you plan to deal with all that?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah they expect to win every game.  I told them and I have told this a bunch, I am not worried about excepting to win, I am worried about deserving to win.  That is a big difference.  The expectations here will always be high and they should be, but our players won't be talked as much about that as you need to deserve everything and earn everything you get. The fans I think understand that.  I have tried to explain to them, we are going through a little bit of transition.  You can say what you want about it being excuses, I am just telling the facts.  We lost a lot of good players, we lost a lot of good players, we are going through a transition, but we are not going to forfeit either.  We are going to go out there.  I like winning too much not to do everything we can to try to have success.  But there is a process that we are going through and the players are going through and the first year is the toughest.  It always is and always will be.”

Question:  Is there any maybe added pressure to win just because the first four months have been so difficult?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I don’t think so in my regard.  It would be unfair if it is.  It has been difficult because I have had to deal with some other stuff but the other things, one player leaving, what was the other thing, oh a jersey number thing.  I mean are you kidding me. Does that make it tough, I don’t see anything there.”

Question:  You mentioned that you had some basketball offers?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah I had some small schools.  I don’t want to say who they are now, because they will get embarrassed that I called them a mid major, but they are division I.”

Question:  Were they scholarship offers?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Yeah.”

Question:  Why go football?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I wanted to play in the biggest arena that I could be in.  I don’t know competitive or what, but I wanted to prove that I could play and the one that I could afford because of the Pell grant academic scholarship money and all that was West Virginia.  It was close by too and it was instate tuition.  You know how you are as a walk on, a chip on your shoulder.  Say okay where is the biggest place I an go and prove that I can play there and that was West Virginia.”

Question:  Was there a moment that you knew you wanted to become a football coach?

Coach Rodriguez:  “After my freshman year in college.  I knew that I wanted to be involved in athletics, whether it was coaching, management, media, oh gosh (laughter), what was I thinking, right.  I wanted to stay involved in athletics somehow.  I mean I had really good grades.  I only made one B in high school.  There was a thought I would to go to school and then go to law school, but three or four more years of extra school and reading all those books didn’t appeal to me.  But after my first year I thought, I want to get into coaching and I enjoyed the experience so much that I thought well college coaching seemed like it would be really appealing to me.  I am blessed as all can be now, but I was a student assistant the first year, then I was a graduate school, made 2500 dollars a semester and then my first full time job was 16,000 dollars a year at Salem and then I got up 20,000 dollars a year as a head coach and then I made 25,000 dollars a year as a head coach at Glenville and then got increased every year and I became the AD.  I was on one year contracts for the first 17-18 years of my coaching career.  So you don’t make, you live month to month and all that but I like I tell the players and I am sure you all feel the same way, I hope you do in your profession, is pick a profession that you don’t look at the clock to wait until a certain time gets there and go home.  That is just my opinion, get something where you don’t mind putting the time and the hours in and you enjoy what you are doing and if you are lucky and any good at it, the financial success may follow.  When people say coaches, it really bothers me particularly, it is just me, when they say coaches are in it to be greedy.  Nobody got into it, I think in this profession to make money.  Are you going to apologize for making, are you happy for making it, heck yeah.  But like I said I didn’t have a job when they dropped football at Salem and my wife still said yes.  I knew she was in it for the long haul.  I do think that you got to love what you are doing and have to have passion for what you are doing, just like in your job.  You better have passion and enjoy what you are doing and then you hit bumps in the road, but this little last 4 months or whatever it is, I don’t see the bump in the road as it has been another chapter in a book.  It might have been a long chapter but it has been a chapter in a book.”

Question:  How was your offense born?  Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do before you started coaching?

Coach Rodriguez:  “Not when I started coaching, but when I became head coach at Glenville and got over to offense and had an idea.  What is the hardest thing to win against as a defensive coach or player and it was the two minute offense.   Teams spread you out and run the two minute offense.  I thought with that in mind let’s try to devise an offense and in 1990 that is what it was born out of.  Then the last 18 years it has been slowly tweaked I guess.”

Question:  We have already talked to several coaches that have met with you to learn your offense.  Would you say that you teach a lot of people?

Coach Rodriguez:  “A lot of people got on me about that.  Said why you share, you don’t ever share everything.  You don’t ever tell why you do certain things, but the stuff that we talk about are things that they have watched on film close enough that they could probably pick it up, but there is no patent on schemes.  There is no one set way of doing things.  So I have probably met in just the last four years, really the Sugar Bowl year, after they started to come on a lot, but probably over 50 division I coaches and staff have come by and we have traded ideas and talked, but very time they come to visit us, we would get information from them as well.  So it has enhanced our own professional development, to me that is not a bad thing.”

Question: Is that Clemson playbook of yours online is that still your playbook?

Coach Rodriguez:  “I hope it still is not; well there was a West Virginia playbook online.  That is why you don’t every put your playbook, everything you are going to do and that still is not going to tell you what you are going to do when you are going to do it.  But yeah they get out there.  That is why we have to be a little bit careful.  We changed our signals from last year to this year.  We will change signals from spring until the fall, because you never know who is out there or who leaves.  So yeah, you change things up.”

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