CHICAGO (AP) -Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez stepped to the podium Thursday for his first appearance at the Big Ten preseason media event and promised to clear up what he called ``a little bit of drama going on in the last seven months.''
That's putting it mildly. Rodriguez's departure from his alma mater West Virginia was messy and acrimonious and ended up in court.
``It was like I was afraid to open up a paper to see what's next and what do I have to refute. There were some tough lessons learned,'' Rodriguez said.
``I always tell my coaches that you give your life and soul to the place you're working at and I probably did that. It certainly didn't end the way we wanted it to. But there were a lot of great people there, a lot of great young men on the football team, a lot of great fans in the state of West Virginia and I know they're going to have great success in the future.''
A lot of those fans were livid when Rodriguez left for Michigan and the way it unfolded. He'd helped shape West Virginia into a perennial national contender and they figured he was staying put.
Rodriguez said wading into his new and demanding job has been a way to shut out all the clamor. For his family, it wasn't that easy.
``Unfortunately for my wife and my family, at times it was a little frustrating and disappointing at how that played out. The folks at the University of Michigan have been terrific and the fans have been terrific. The players, none of them have asked about it. It does not seem like it has been an issue at all in my current job and that's the way I want it.''
Rodriguez and Michigan agreed earlier this month to pay a $4 million buyout to the West Virginia with $1.5 million of that coming from Rodriguez in three annual payments beginning in 2010.
``There's a lot of things that I would like to talk about, but I want to move on. That's one of the biggest reasons that everything got settled because I think everybody wanted to move on,'' Rodriguez said.
``Am I disappointed with certain things? Sure I am, disappointed in that maybe not all of the things that I thought were truthful had an opportunity to come out to set the record straight on certain situations,'' he said without elaborating.
His transition at Michigan has not been without problems, either.
Offensive lineman Justin Boren left the program, saying the family values had eroded and then he did the unthinkable. He transferred to Ohio State.
Rodriguez is installing his vaunted spread offense, which was so successful at West Virginia. The Wolverines said goodbye to most of the offensive stars on last year's team, including top overall NFL draft pick Jake Long, quarterback Chad Henne, running back Mike Hart and receivers Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington.
The players that remain are being jammed into on offense nothing like they were recruited to play in.
``We lost a lot of talent offensively,'' Rodriguez said. ``When you're young, you're hungry. A hungry player is fun to watch.''
Ohio State, losers in the last two BCS championship games, was chosen in a media poll to win the Big Ten again. And Buckeyes running back Chris ``Beanie'' Wells and Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis were chosen preseason offensive and defensive players of the year.
Ohio State has 20 returning starters - nine on defense, nine on offense, including quarterback Todd Boeckman, and two on special teams.
Wells rushed for 1,609 yards last season and Laurinaitis won the Butkus Award.
``At Ohio State, among the Ohio State faithful, we're expected to win the conference every year,'' coach Jim Tressel said.
Wisconsin was tabbed to finish second in the league and Illinois, which played in the Rose Bowl after a remarkable turnaround under Ron Zook, picked for third. But the Illini will have to make up for the departure of star running back Rashard Mendenhall.
The 2008 season will mark Joe Tiller's 12th and final one at Purdue. He's directed the Boilermakers to 10 bowl games.
And perhaps it's the last season for 81-year-old Joe Paterno, who's been coaching at Penn State since 1950 and been the head coach in State College since 1966.
As usual, Paterno was asked if might be ready to retire.
``I don't know, I don't know,'' he answered. ``How many times can I say it? I'm having fun, I'm enjoying it.''

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