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Posted on Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:54 p.m.

A vote of confidence: Fans chant 'Rich-Rod-Ri-Guez!' as Michigan football team wins

By Pete Bigelow

The chant began with a low murmur in the student section. It intensified, and then spread from the northwest corner of the end zone and across the entire stadium. “Rich-Rod-Ri-Guez.” “Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap.” “Rich-Rod-Ri-Guez.” “Clap. Clap. Clap, clap, clap.” In that moment late in the second quarter, the verdict arrived. The Michigan football team had been busy making its statement on the field, shedding the sour memories of last year’s wretched season by demolishing Western Michigan.

Now the fans made a statement about their coach.

“Rich-Rod-Ri-Guez.” The name reverberated around Michigan Stadium, newly constructed luxury boxes perhaps bottling some of the sound that may have escaped in the past, and the players picked up on the momentum and waved their hands, inciting the crowd. Until that point, Rich Rodriguez stirred uneasiness that divided the program’s supporters into two camps: those that welcomed change and those that bristled at it. He had been the guy hired in a shotgun ceremony, an outsider honing in on turf long held by mythical Michigan men, a guy who clumsily gave away the No. 1 jersey. But there was no doubt Saturday, in a game that came nearly 20 months into his tenure as coach, that Rodriguez had been officially embraced. It took allegations that surfaced last week of possible NCAA rules violations and a lawsuit that exposed Rodriguez’s ties to a twice-banned Clemson booster to rally the fans behind a common cause, but hey, whatever works. And it didn’t hurt that his team turned in its most dominating performance of Rodriguez’s tenure. Two true freshmen playing quarterback, Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson, looked poised beyond their years. A defense pock-marked with problems last year appeared impenetrable for most of the game. A week Rodriguez had called the most “miserable” of his coaching career ended with a thunderous exclamation point, a 31-7 win that started the healing after last year’s blooper-reel badness. But this, ultimately, was not about the final score. This was about confidence, in the coach and in his future here. Even though athletic director Bill Martin bestowed a vote of confidence amid the turmoil last week with his “I’m all in for Rich Rodriguez” statement, the spontaneous eruption of cheers and chants Saturday seemed to matter so much more. “Oh man, yeah, we were hungry,” said wide receiver Junior Hemingway, who caught two touchdown passes. “Hungry for him. Not just him, but us. It was all that. … We know he’s been down, and he came to us and (we wanted to) fight, fight, fight for him.” At the end of the game, another chant emerged from the student section: “Keep united.” That chant acknowledged the reality of the situation. That no one is Pollyanna, and Saturday wasn’t a fairy tale. Questions on the field may have been answered; the off-field ones remain. There’s still more to learn about the alleged NCAA violations, which came from 10 current and former players telling Detroit Free Press reporters that the team exceeded allowed practice times. Michigan has hired an outside firm to help in that investigation. There’s still more to learn about Rodriguez’s relationship with Clegg Lamar Greene, a twice-banned Clemson booster who was partners with Rodriguez in a failed real-estate investment. Those are legitimate questions that must be pursued. But for a few hours on Saturday, the weight lifted off Rodriguez’s shoulders. For the first time, public support swung behind him. And the fans are sticking with him, for better or worse.

Pete Bigelow covers sports for Ann He can be reached at or 734-623-2556.



Tue, Sep 8, 2009 : 9:01 a.m.

It is unfortunate that this Clemson thing keeps getting mentioned as if it significant. Nobody seems to care except people writing the "overcoming controversy" story. I think it's time to drop it.


Mon, Sep 7, 2009 : 9:03 a.m.

I must admit I was initially a bit concerned over the alligations printed in the Free-Press. No one wants to hear reports that the team they support has ethics issues, especially when you grew up watching Bo who always had a clear cut vision of right and wrong. More and More it is looking like the "reputable" free-press was using tabloid tactics instead of digging deeper into the accusations. I guess the word investigation has been removed from being an investigative reporter and the editors at the free-press want their paper sitting next to National Enquirer at the news stand. Does Saturdays win mean we are going to have a steller season? No, but it does show signs of why Rich Rod was hired to be the coach. He may not be a "Michigan Man", but neither was Bo when he 1st came to take over the program. Given the chance, I believe Rich can be the Michigan Man we all want him to be.


Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 8:24 p.m.

When RR brings a national championship to Ann Arbor within two more seasons, I will be crowing "I told ya so". RR has a bumper crop of raw, hungry talent that wants desperately to make Michigan shine again, and they will! Michigan will be the talk of college football this season and the surprise of the year. May I be so bold as to proclaim we may be seeing them in a BCS bowl in Jan. 2010. RR, we have faith in you, I said at the end of last season, "Those who stay will be champions and those who stay will be champions"......


Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 5:39 p.m.

Hey tru2blue, those "All in for Michigan" shirts are the shirt that came with the student tickets this year. They really didn't have much of a choice on what the shirt says


Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 11:55 a.m.

It is amazing what a fan will sacrifice for a win. The most important things you can take to your grave is your integrity and creditability.

Man in the Mirror

Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 10:56 a.m.

Rod won this game so all is right with UM world and that's what matters....Rod IS above the law after all IN ROD WE TRUST! The NCAA should see all the happy happy fans and let this all go. Rod does no wrong he's an upstanding guy that is teaching good values that all his players should emulate. Rod has NEVER done anything wrong or illegal! Keep doing what you do RICH Rod....GO BLUE!


Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 8:46 a.m.

Give it a rest Debbie all will be fine with the program you get 1 piece of garbage from a detroit newspaper who has a personal vendetta against RR or the program and some players who got their pantties tugged tight that werent going to play that decided to create some problems HAVE FAITH GO BLUE OR GO AWAY


Sun, Sep 6, 2009 : 7:46 a.m.

What if we lost would we be down with Rod??? We still have investigations incomplete that need to be answered.Is Rod gonna be above the Law if he wins???This is reality.Commit a crime at the big time and you are free.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 10:01 p.m.

Where are all you Michigan haters now? Watch out America We look for real


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 9:04 p.m.

It feels great to get this season off on the right foot. Michigan has a ton of weapons on offense and a defense that is far better than last year's version. I don't know which side of the ball I was more impressed with. As the TV announcers said, this year's team doesn't even remotely resemble last year's. Next week against ND should be an outstanding matchup, I'm glad it's in the Big House. With the way some of the "top" teams looked in the Big 10 today (Iowa, Illinois), Michigan just may surprise this season.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:56 p.m.

FYI, the chant at the end of the game was "beat the irish" not "keep united"


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:49 p.m.

Yes, I like the story overall, and agree that the chant was a nice sign of support for RichRod, but the 10 players claim is still in doubt. Only six were quoted, and there was no indication about the other four.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:37 p.m.

As for the more positive news, it's great to hear that not only the students, but most of the crowd, are more intelligent than the malcontents and detractors who are trying to sabotage RR and the football program. And the people who make employment decisions at UM all know what happened at the Big House today, both in the crowd and on the field. It's a great day to be a Wolverine.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:34 p.m.

"Theres still more to learn about the alleged NCAA violations," The crew at ESPN pretty much said all there is to know: it was some disgunltled former players who didn't want to work and chose to complain. Players work voluntarily; there are no violations here, only a lazy reporter in Detroit with an axe to grind and no integrity to back it up. "which came from 10 current and former players" The telecast today said six players. That works out to the two freshmen who were lied to by the reporter and four disgruntled players who didn't want to be leaders or best.


Sat, Sep 5, 2009 : 8:30 p.m.

"Theres still more to learn about Rodriguezs relationship with Clegg Lamar Greene, a twice-banned Clemson booster who was partners with Rodriguez in a failed real-estate investment." What does an ALLEGED relationship with a Clemson booster have to do with UM?