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…And the Award for Comedy Goes to: Rich Rodriguez

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Generally speaking, watching a grown man resort to begging is one of the sadder things in life. In the case of University of Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez, not only was it sad, but it was also embarrassing, bizarre, desperate and in a twisted way, hilarious.

Michigan had their end of season football banquet last night. These types of things go on everywhere from Pop Warner through Division I college football. The coach recaps the season, addresses and recognizes the seniors, discusses what lies ahead for the program and overall keeps it pretty light and upbeat. Rich-Rod must’ve missed that memo because his performance yesterday was legendary.

Rodriguez has brought a lot of criticism onto himself since taking over a proud Michigan football program three years ago. Having a 15-21 record and being 0-3 against arch-rival Ohio State will do that, but it’s much deeper than that. He has been altruistically flippant and dismissive to Wolverine tradition. This angered not only former players, but also boosters, who responded by tightening up their purse strings. In the Big 10 tradition aids to the aura of the conference, and by dismissing it, he seemingly slapped everyone that came before him squarely in the face. It got so bad that some former players won’t refer to their school as simply Michigan as is the case with Braylon Edwards, who proudly announces himself as being from “Lloyd Carr’s University of Michigan.”

All of that notwithstanding, and even disregarding rampant rumors that he will be dismissed shortly after the season ends, what happened last night is nothing short of shocking. Rich-Rod looked like a man who had firmly lost control of his faculties. He acted like a drunken uncle giving a toast at a wedding, and the reverberations from this will be brought up in Columbus, East Lansing, and all across the Big 10 for years to come.

He fought back his emotions enough to share that he finds wisdom and inspiration in Josh Groban’s music. Groban is a very talented musician, and if you like his music, more power to you, but if you are a head football coach of 18, 19, and 20 year old men, you might want to save ol’ Grobes for when you are alone, in your car, with the windows rolled up, and headphones on. At this point, those in the room started looking around and wondering if this guy was serious. That was Rich-Rods warm-up act, and he was about to show just how serious he was.

He then started reciting lines from the Groban song, “You Raise Me Up.” As music started to fill the room, he asked everyone in the crowd to listen to the words. As the song was winding down, he grasped the hands of his wife and the emcee Frank Beckmann and raised them over his head. He motioned for everyone, including AD David Brandon and the others on the dais to do the same thing. He started swaying back and forth like a ‘shroomed out hippie at Bonnaroo. Rodriguez couldn’t fight back the tears any longer in his final statement, he introduced himself: “My name is Rich Rodriguez” he then pleaded like a 16 year old boy who had just been dumped: “I truly want to be a Michigan Man” with tears streaming down his face.

With what went on, it’s not at all surprising that reports are flying around this morning that Wolverines’ top recruit Dee Hart is on the verge of decommitting and heading to Alabama. After the Rich-Rod show, I can hardly blame him. If I were an 18 year old 4-star prospect and watched a man that is supposed to shape my future have a mental breakdown on stage, I would be blocking any phone calls from Ann Arbor area codes.

This is Michigan. This is the Big House. This is 100,000 strong. This is Bo Schembechler. This is 3 yards and cloud of dust, punch you in the face and kick you in the teeth football. How has it come to this? Your head coach leading the crowd in a hand-holding operatic kumbaya session. For some reason I don’t think Bo Schembechler was listening to “The Rose” in his office. Nor do I think Bret Bielema or the Sweater Vest blast “Wind Beneath My Wings” in the weight room. And I certainly know that Woody Hayes didn’t serenade his linemen with “You Are So Beautiful.” Even Josh Groban got into the fun, remarking on twitter (@joshgroban): “Coach Rodriguez, I’m very flattered, but crying to You Raise Me Up is SO five years ago. #playwelcometothejungle”

From a writer’s perspective, I selfishly hope that Michigan keeps Rodriguez. Comedy gold like this doesn’t come around too often. Unfortunately I think I hear a phone ringing in Palo Alto… “Mr. Harbaugh, there is a David Brandon on the phone for you…line 1.”


One Response to “…And the Award for Comedy Goes to: Rich Rodriguez”

  1. I am a huge Michigan fan and from day one have absolutely hated the Rich Rod hire. As we have seen, he may bring a “fun to watch” offense but that is about it. We could find 11 random guys on the street and put up a better defense than the Wolverines had this year. Great article Marlo and keep them coming.

    Posted by Steve Antoniotti | December 8, 2010, 9:36 pm

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