Opinion: A West Virginia investigation is more of a problem for Rich Rodriguez than for Michigan
For those keeping count at home, Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez now has the NCAA investigating almost as many schools (two) as he has Big Ten wins (three).
As if his overall win-loss record at Michigan - 8-16 in two years and 3-13 in the Big Ten - wasn’t enough. As if one NCAA investigation into his coaching and practice practices wasn’t enough, now there’s this.
It is worth noting this has more to do with Rodriguez than it does with Michigan. Any penalties against Michigan shouldn’t change based on what the NCAA finds in West Virginia. All it proves from that standpoint is if Rodriguez is accused of committing violations in Morgantown, Rodriguez is the one who needs to be concerned.
At best, this is the NCAA doing its diligence and piling more bad public relations on a string of incidents since Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor two-and-a-half years ago. It seems as if almost every month has had some sort of negativity for Rodriguez and Michigan.
One of those snafus was the allegations of massive document shredding by the Charleston (W. Va.) Gazette as Rodriguez left Morgantown - something that could come back to bite him as the NCAA digs into yet another program. Rodriguez, through his agent, denied in January 2008 shredding player personnel files and strength-and-conditioning files.
At least he’s doing one smart thing now - something Rodriguez likely would have been better to follow the last time around.
He’s staying silent, which is a departure from the last time NCAA allegations were levied against Rodriguez. That resulted in an emotional August press conference where Rodriguez defended himself and strength and conditioning coach Mike Barwis.
Back then, it looked like an emotional plea from a man who felt he was wronged. Which brings us back to Tuesday. There was no emotional plea, only silence.
Michigan spokesman Dave Ablauf wouldn’t let a question about the newest revelations get fully asked before cutting it off, citing Michigan’s media policy about the current NCAA investigation.
When pressed a little further and asked if Rodriguez’ silence was meant as a “no comment,” Rodriguez did nothing. He said nothing.
Right now, that's probably the best approach. There isn’t much more Rodriguez - or Michigan - can say or do. Defending any sort of point publicly will do nothing positive for the Wolverines, at least until after the August meeting in front of the Committee on Infractions in Seattle.
Then comes the Michigan football season - one where Rodriguez must win to have any chance of keeping his job.
To that end, Rodriguez is doing all he can to stem the losing. Rodriguez knows his football. And he’s used that to try and keep himself from being distracted by the never-ending off-field drama he brought on himself.
“It’s just been that, just focusing what we’ve come here to do,” Rodriguez said. “I think our players and staff have done a good job staying focused on the things that we need to do to take this program where we want to take it.
“If I ask that of our staff and ask that of our players, I certainly have to do that myself.”
Yet you have to get the feeling that with each thing that goes wrong, the water mark for Rodriguez keeps getting higher and higher to the point that it may be a foregone conclusion what happens to the man during or after this season.
While winning would certainly help, it feels more and more that it’ll be everything else that could do Rodriguez in at Michigan.