Here We Go Again

Yesterday, it was Stewart Mandel, senior writer for Sports Illustrated.com. A month ago it was Ivan Maisel, of ESPN.com fame. Tomorrow it will be someone from the Detroit media.

What is their message? It's time for West Virginia to stop picking on poor old Richie Rodriguez. He just wants to take the high road and move on with his life. West Virginia just looks like the scorned psycho girlfriend.

Yep, that is what they say. You can do that when you work for the national media and nobody ever challenges what you say. Rodriguez wants to take the high road, even said so himself in a press conference.

Contrast the high road, however, with this quote from ESPN's Joe Schad after Rodriguez' initial Michigan presser: "A source close to Rodriguez confirmed for ESPN's Joe Schad late Monday that the coach had been seeking raises for his assistants and assurances about improvements in practice facilities when he made the decision to leave for Michigan."

"The same source said due to "promises unkept" and some other contractual issues, Rodriguez expects the $4 million buyout due West Virginia will be challenged by his attorneys."

Now, correct me if I'm wrong, and it won't be the first time, but this isn't exactly leaving with your eyes on the high road.

Your first presser Rich. First one. A source close to Rich Rodriguez? Is anyone here in serious belief that Rich Rodriguez's handlers were not fully aware of the angst such comments like that would cause? And does anyone have doubts as to who the source is?

Does it even matter that the extra pay for his assistant coaches not only was set to be paid by WVU as per the signed contract, but that WVU's new assistant coaching staff pay seems to seriously debunk that claim?

Does it matter that the facility upgrades that Rodriguez contends are not being made are either already completed, like the brand spanking new academic center, or the new Hall of Traditions, or the new coaches offices, meeting rooms and south end luxury suites? Does it matter that WVU was unable to renovate the locker rooms because of that pesky football team that was so rude to use them during, shockingly, football season? Or that those renovations are now underway?

Nope, Rich speaks, so he must be telling the truth.

Evidently ESPN bought into his holiness when he claimed to Mike Patrick during Michigan's bowl victory over Florida that he was "totally shocked" at the fact that there was a $4 million buyout in his contract and that WVU might actually expect that to be paid. And was it really taking the high road when he stated, once again on national television, that "the truth will come out eventually", again insinuating that he was somehow screwed out of his $2 million per year job as the West Virginia coach?

And, of course, West Virginia should just sit back when boosters like Ken Kendrick, fiercely loyal to Rodriguez, starts spouting off to the national media about Rich getting screwed by WVU. It seems, while taking the high road, that Rich was quite open with Mr. Kendrick, the epitome of what is wrong with big boosters nation-wide in college football.

Memo to Rich Rodriguez: You couldn't find the high road with a map and a guide. Pay the buyout. You've done enough damage.

Called Terrelle Pryor before you even told your own team.

Called recruits with your WVU-issued cell phone before you'd even notified your boss you were leaving. And while the national media hacks paint this as a penny ante issue, the issue is the principle.

Rodriguez was supposed to be on the road recruiting the day he met with Michigan. Rodriguez had an in-home visit with a receiver from Florida the day before he met with Michigan officials. Rodriguez had a visit scheduled in Pittsburgh the day he was in Toledo meeting with Michigan officials. The Pittsburgh visit never took place.

Rodriguez was supposed to be coaching his team for its upcoming bowl game the day after his first meeting with Michigan. WVU was to have its first two practices after Christmas break, with two weeks to prepare for third-ranked Big XII Champion Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. Instead, he stonewalled reporters and cancelled an afternoon practice so that coaches could go recruit.

The question remains, just who was the coaching staff recruiting for on Saturday December 15th? Records received by the Charleston Daily Mail in a Freedom Of Information Act request appear to show that Rodriguez contacted Michigan recruits to reaffirm their commitments to the maize and blue during that period.

Conveniently left out of this discussion is the tirade thrown by the same Rich Rodriguez a year ago. In that rant, he trashed recently departed offensive line coach Rick Trickett, who was talking to the kids he was recruiting to West Virginia and trying to get them to follow him to Florida State. Rodriguez said, "We don't do that kind of thing here." Apparently, the same is not true for Rodriguez at Michigan. Pot, meet kettle.

Another comment from Rich Rodriguez' initial press conference: "My focus is going to be on the University of Michigan," he said. "I don't think it best serves West Virginia if I'm thinking about the Big House." Yep, making a graduate assistant pass a note to your boss telling him you're leaving, and then coming out and telling him in the national media that he's got to find a coach for the bowl game is sure taking the high road.

And then there's Shreddergate. Who knows what to make of this story? I don't. But one always has to ask, why did these personal files need to be shredded? Did you expect that the big dumpster outside the Puskar Center would be too small to hold a bunch of files that were kept "in an unlocked closet"? Did you really expect people with any sense to believe that you shredded and ripped up papers to save space when there are enough dumpsters outside your office to hold trash for 60,000 people? And if they were personal, why not take them with you?

Does anyone here know anyone who shreds old birthday cards and notes from friends? Seriously?

I am not a firm believer that what he shredded will be of any consequence, especially given the sheer lack of intelligence shown by the man in his haste. I am not accusing him of anything illegal. I just question the need to shred documents. These kinds of issues always make an unbiased observer ask, "Why?"

So here we are, the day that Rich Rodriguez was supposed to cut his first check to WVU for the buyout. He received an extension with his first legal play, which amounted to a change of venue, but the clock is still ticking. Write the check, wire the money, send a money order. Make the payment.

One always has to wonder how a man who took so much pride on putting his old football program into the upper echelon of college football would be doing so much to put it right back where it was before he arrived.


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