A new era begins today for the University of Michigan's Men's Football team as the school has hired Lloyd Carr's replacement. As ESPN reports (and unlike the last time ESPN reported a coach is coming to Michigan, they have it cold this time, West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez has agreed to replace Lloyd Carr as Michigan's head football coach. This all came together really quickly after Rodriguez met with University President Mary Sue Coleman and Athletic Director Bill Martin on Friday and after a few days of consideration (and rumblings that Rodriguez was going to stay at WVU) Rodriguez told his team at a Sunday team meeting that he was headed to Ann Arbor.
In an early afternoon meeting with his football team, Rodriguez announced he was leaving to become the head coach at Michigan.
Rodriguez walked into a scheduled 1:30 p.m. meeting with his team and emerged 10 minutes later without comment and walked briskly back to his office. Shortly thereafter the players began to file out of the meeting room, somber-faced and generally without comment.
After it looked very bleak, and after Les Miles turned us down (in fact, perhaps, turned us down twice) and Rutgers' Greg Schiano did the same it looked like Michigan was going to be caught without a top-tier head coach. Reports had the school contacting Sean Payton of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, but he wasn't interested either. But then the Rodriguez story broke on Friday and everyone in Ann Arbor got excited again.
As I wrote on Friday, Rodriguez may not be Les Miles, and may not have the connections to Michigan Miles did, but he may be every bit the coach. He turned a West Virginia team that was 3-8 in his first season into a national power, with a 32-5 record the past three seasons (11-1, 11-2, and 10-2 going into this year's BCS Fiesta Bowl) with two BCS Bowl births. He's known was an incredibly hard worker, and as an offensive mastermind, who helped turn Shaun King and Tulane into household names while guiding them to a 12-0 record in 1998 as the team's offensive coordinator.
It will surely be a change for Michigan, which may ditch it's usual pro-style attack for the spread offense Rodriguez has helped make famous. Whether current quarterback Ryan Mallett, who has a gun for an arm, but isn't nearly as mobile or athletic as Rodriguez' former quarterbacks, will be able to run Rodriguez complex offense is certainly a question mark. Rodriguez, though, is such a talented offensive mind, that one would think he would be able to adjust his offense to suit Mallett's strengths, while recruiting a quarterback who is better suited to run his offense. Mallett has so much potential, especially given his incredible arm-strength, so hopefully Rodriguez can design a system which gets the most out of a very talented sophomore quarterback. Michigan's defense will be interesting too, with that side of the ball never being a strong-suit for the WVU Mountaineers. Whether the team keeps current defensive coordinator Ron English, or Rodriguez brings in someone new, that will be an issue to keep an eye on.
Today is a great day for the future of the Michigan Wolverines. At only 44-years-old, Rodriguez has already amassed an impressive resume, and if successful, he could be the Michigan coach for the next 15-years (though, that may be getting a bit ahead of ourselves). We certainly will see a change from the traditional and conservative offense which has defined Michigan for decades, but it's a change Michigan needs to make if they will continue to be an elite program in college football. This coaching search may not have started on the right note, but it certainly finished on one.