|Rich Rodriguez goes back to school, learning about Michigan's rich tradition|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 14 February 2008 11:10|
Behind his desk, Michigan football helmets rest atop wooden shelves just above some pictures of his wife and their two kids along with playbooks from his years at West Virginia.
Sun pours through the glass-filled wall facing the south, where earth-moving equipment is paving the way for a 100,000-plus square foot football facility.
Not far away, a massive construction project is also under way at Michigan Stadium.
``I guess you could say change is in the air,'' Rodriguez said Thursday morning at Schembechler Hall.
Rodriguez has gone back to school at Michigan, welcoming the 1969 team to speak to the team last week and more than 200 former players this weekend.
ng coach Lloyd Carr. ``I've read one book, ``Bo's Lasting Lessons,'' by John Bacon, and several other books have been sent to me by fans.
``I'm having fun with it.''
Rodriguez was hired to lead college football's winningest program two months ago and it was a rare day when he and his former employer were not in the news.
``Too much drama,'' Rodriguez said with a sigh.
A lawsuit regarding a $4 million buyout clause in Rodriguez's contract at West Virginia has contributed to a continuing feud.
The latest development came Monday, when a U.S. District Judge said West Virginia University is essentially an arm of state government and any lawsuit involving it can be heard only in the state court system.
The case was sent back to Monongalia County Circuit Court in Morgantown, where it was filed Dec. 27 after Rodriguez resigned to take the job at Michigan.
The school wants the $4 million because Rodriguez broke his contract early, but he has repeatedly claimed it broke the terms of his contract first by failing to honor a variety of verbal promises, including one to reduce or eliminate the buyout.
Rodriguez is living in an Ann Arbor hotel, hoping his wife along with their son and daughter will move into a house with him next month.
``My kids are texting me, saying they're ready to move,'' he said.
join their father in Michigan.
``Where my kids go to school, it's been pretty good,'' Rodriguez said. ``But outside of school, they see T-shirts and signs with derogatory messages about their dad and that's not fun for them to see.
``But at the end of the day, you just want the truth to be out there.''
Rodriguez acknowledged a $4 million check could make some of the West Virginia-related problems go away, but said it's not that simple.
``Well, there were some things that were not right about that situation,'' he said. ``I would think everybody on both sides wants to move forward, but when you're integrity and character was attacked - particularly like mine has wrongly - it makes more sense to go through this process.''
Rodriguez has tried to focus on his future with the Wolverines as best he can, and has asked for help from the past to assist.
About 30 players from the 1969 team, Schembechler's first in Ann Arbor, spoke to the team last Tuesday.
``We wanted to really send the message that we know what they're going through more than any other team because we were there when a non-Michigan man - Bo Schembechler - came to town,'' Jim Brandstatter said. ``Reggie McKenzie gave an outstanding and fiery talk. Dan Dierdorf was spectacular, too.''
Athletic director Bill Martin said it was a necessary gathering for Rodriguez and his program.
``It was important to bridge the gap because it has been 39 years since we've had a transition like this,'' Martin said. ``The day after the guys from '69 spoke to the team, Rich was right here in my office and I could tell he was really moved by the whole experience and how connected those guys could be to the current players.''
This weekend, 220 former Wolverines from all classes are expected to come to town for meet-and-greet sessions with the new staff and current players.
``I want everyone who played here to know he is welcomed back any time,'' Rodriguez said. ``Hopefully, this will be one of the first steps toward getting that message out.''
And if any player wants to chat with Rodriguez in his office, he can help himself to a piece of candy. Jars filled with sweet treats and a box of chocolate are within a foot of his door inside his office.
``That's how I get people to come in here and talk to me,'' Rodriguez joked.