Rodriguez never faced the West Virginia media after leaving WVU, unlike former Mountaineer basketball coach John Beilein, who left for Michigan at the end of the 2006-07 season. When he finally did, after being spotted Sunday night with WVU assistant coaches Calvin Magee and Tony Gibson and Rita, son Rhett and daughter Raquel leaving the Morgantown airport again, the coach again refused to make any kind of informative comments.
"I don't think there is a need to talk about the past process," Rodriguez said at his Michigan introduction. "Everything was first class, and I am appreciate of the opportunity to be here. I do want to praise Bill Martin, athletic director, and President (Mary Sue) Coleman as well. They dealt directly and quickly. This all happened very quickly, so I am still in the process of getting this together. There will obviously be several WVU staff here, some that will be rehired and some that will come from outside. There are so many things in place that the transition will be relatively smooth because of the things you have in place here."
Rodriguez dodged numerous questions about why he left West Virginia and offered very few specifics, a similar pattern to most of his other press conferences. He noted that hoped "people will not try to compare the two universities. West Virginia University is a great place, as is Michigan. It's simply that I decided to change jobs, and to one that's a tremendous opportunity. I would hope and pray that the folks back there, and I know there are some that are upset and will stay so, but I hope they will look at what we have done over the last seven years there and realize that we have left it in a pretty good situation with good players and good (team) coming back. We are going to do (at Michigan) what we have done. It's the only thing we know.
"It was the most difficult decision I have made in my entire career. My family is still there and those great young men on my team. We recruited every one of them. It was hard. It was the hardest day in my coaching career. What swayed it was the opportunity and it was time. I have taken every job as if it was the last job you ever had. We want to set our roots here. You have to commit passion and work ethic. The opportunity was here and it was just time for me to leave. … All coaches want things, and like most, I am not patient. Whatever I suggested they said they would do, then I said some other things, and they said they could do that. It was music to a coach's ears. I am studying the tradition here, following it and following a legend (UM head coach Lloyd Carr). I followed a legend at West Virginia University with Don Nehlen."
Rodriguez said that his lawyers were working on the buyout clause on his contract. WVU must be paid a $4 million buyout because Rodriguez left the program before September of 2008, when his contract buyout would have reduced significantly. Sources at Michigan state that the Wolverines' athletic department will pay $3 million, with Rodriguez individually responsible for $1 million. The current WVU contract also states a timetable for paying the monies, unlike that signed by Beilein, who had an open-ended date for payment, and thus could have strung payments out for years. Rodriguez has no such out in his contract, and West Virginia officials have made very clear they do intend for force Rodriguez to honor the contract.
"We have lawyers working on that," Rodriguez said. "The money thing was not an issue in this decision. I will tell you that. … I don't want to go through the whole process. It was a very quick process. Everybody wants to talk about the past."
Rodriguez then went into his comment about the Lion King with the scene where the monkey hits the lion over the head, then says it doesn't matter because it is in the past. It was essentially the same stand-up routine Rodriguez has done 30-plus times in seven years at West Virginia. He went on to use another of the same catchy, yet empty, line that wore thin at West Virginia: "This is my son, Rhett, nine-years-old, most highly recruited quarterback in the class of 2017, already committed to the University of Michigan. I am proud of that."
It was as transparent for WVU and West Virginians as it ever was. It was essentially another punch to the gut, with an exclamation point coming when Rodriguez said he would "do things the right way. I will be available to the media, but I will be busy, too. I will ask that you are patient with some of my answers."
West Virginia began looking for its, though no immediate timetable has been set. The athletic department has a short list of candidates. Rodriguez will not coach the bowl game, but WVU cannot make a move to name the bowl coach before Rodriguez and the University reach an agreement on his resignation letter which states Rodriguez will not resign until Jan. 3. To do so could forfiet the $4 million buyout. Rodriguez, however, would be in breach of contract if he signs at Michigan.