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Posted on Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9 a.m.

Roy Roundtree remains at the center of renewed Purdue-Michigan football rivalry

By Pete Bigelow


Former Purdue football coach Joe Tiller referred to Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez as “a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil” after Roy Roundtree changed his commitment from the Boilermakers to the Wolverines.

Illustration by Rich Rezler

Choosing a college should have been a simple process for Roy Roundtree.

A standout wide receiver in high school, he set two criteria for selecting a school. He wanted to play in a powerhouse conference, and he wanted to play close to home so his mother, Sheila, could attend his games.

A smattering of smaller schools offered him scholarships, but through that filter, his list narrowed to Nebraska and Purdue. Lincoln sat 746 miles away from his home in Trotwood, Ohio.

By default, Purdue was his choice.

The problem, of course, with such a neat and tidy selection process is that it could not account for one small consideration - Roundtree didn’t really like Purdue.

“It was kind of boring to me when I took my visit there,” he said. “But I didn’t have nowhere else to go. So it was like, ‘this is where I’m going to be for the next four or five years.”

That changed when Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez.

As West Virginia’s coach, Rodriguez showed a lot of interest in the talented receiver from Trotwood-Madison High School. Roundtree liked the coach, but had zero interest in playing in Morgantown. Ann Arbor was a different story. He liked Rodriguez. He liked the town and the school’s academic options. Last but not least, his mom was a longtime Michigan fan.

“I couldn’t pass up the Big House, man,” Roundtree said. One day before national letter of intent signing day, he changed his commitment, unwittingly rekindling a dormant rivalry between Michigan and Purdue, one that continues Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium (12:01 p.m., Big Ten Network).

Purdue coach Joe Tiller had spent more than a year wooing Roundtree, a perfect fit for his spread offense. Livid at the last-minute switch, he fired a verbal salvo that still has legs nearly three years later. “If we had an early-signing date, you wouldn’t have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute, but that’s what happened,” Tiller said.

With one catchy quote, Roundtree’s simple college selection process morphed into one of the more compelling stories in the history of a rivalry that began in 1890.

Two hats on signing day The comment took Roundtree by surprise.

Not so much the well-known part, the words that painted his new coach as a nefarious dealer of exaggerated promises, but the second part that often gets clipped in the sound byte.

“It makes you wonder about the guy, the people surrounding him, the people in that building who would let that happen,” Tiller said. “I can say this: We won’t go back in that building again.”

That building: Trotwood-Madison High School.

Initially, Roundtree worried about the prospect of the Boilermakers spurning kids that followed him. In time, he couldn’t be accountable for whatever vengeance Purdue leveled.

“Coach Tiller, he came at me hard and felt like I disappointed him,” Roundtree said. “But I had to plan for my future and where I wanted to spend those years.”

Today, he just shakes his head at the thought of the recruiting process.

Months of monotony followed by one week of indecision - that’s how it played out. Roundtree did not take an official visit to Michigan until the week before signing day.

“It was a big decision, and we wanted him to make that decision,” his mom, Sheila, said. “He knew his mom was a Michigan fan, but I had to keep my mouth closed. This was about what was best for him.” By the time he walked into Trotwood-Madison High School that February morning, he knew.

Wearing a Purdue tie into a ceremony to announce his decision, Roundtree curiously brought two hats to a podium.

Only one of his closest friends, fellow Trotwood and Michigan teammate Brandon Moore, knew what would transpire. The night before, Roundtree called him with a favor to ask.

“I was like, ‘Brandon, you got an extra hat?’ And he was like, ‘For what?’ And I told him, I said, ‘I’m going to Michigan,’” Roundtree said. “So when it was time to make my call and I said I’m going to Michigan, everyone was like, ‘Wow, are you serious?’”

A rivalry that's alive Friction between the two schools has only escalated.

Current Purdue coach Danny Hope and Rodriguez exchanged heated words last year during a prickly post-game handshake, in which Hope accused Rodriguez of making comments that resulted in the one-game suspension of lineman Zach Reckman.

“Thanks, Coach, we appreciate what you did,” Hope said.

Michigan had just lost a game it should have won, 38-36, on its home field. In Rodriguez eyes, the comment added insult to injury.

“I usually go over and shake hands and tell you good luck in the next game,” Rodriguez said after the game. “To come over and say something about that? Whatever.”

Both coaches declared the feud over this week.

Michigan can’t truly move forward until Rodriguez beats Purdue, a school that has beaten the Wolverines in consecutive seasons for the first time since the mid-1960s.

Given his history with Purdue and the sniping between coaches, Roundtree would prefer to stay low-key. But as if on cue, all eyes are centered on him this week.

He’s coming off the best game of his career, a nine-catch performance against Illinois last week that led to a school-record 246 yards and two touchdowns.

Roundtree had surpassed the previous record, a 197-yard performance from Jack Clancy on Sept. 17, 1966 versus Oregon State, by halftime.

It was a breakout performance from a receiver who seems destined to succeed in the spread offense. Low key? Everyone noticed.

“At work, it was crazy when I got back,” Sheila Roundtree said. “I told him after Saturday, he almost had me feeling like a star. I think I’m going to have to start signing autographs.

“Everyone was like ‘Oh, he had an awesome game,’ and I was like, ‘I know. I was there.’ To be honest, I’m just glad everyone gets a chance to see him play like we knew he could all along.”

For Roundtree, the performance validated his college decision.

“They made it a big deal, but it’s OK now. I know where I’m at,” he said. “Coming here just changed my whole life. … Ain’t nobody bring me down just because I went to Michigan.”

Pete Bigelow can be reached at (734) 623-2556 or e-mailed at Follow him on Twitter @PeterCBigelow.



Sat, Nov 13, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

As far as academics and athletes at Michigan, many football athletes major in "sports" (kinesiology, sports management, etc). Some major in other areas of the university, but based on my experience working in one of the LSA departments, athletes carry low GPAs (in general) and are not particularly academic stand-outs. They are admitted with questionable high school grades and test scores to begin with, and therefore not starting out with strong academic credentials for a school such as UM. There are also a lot of resources devoted to "academic support" for athletes in the kinesiology division, as well as the athletic department.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 7:48 p.m.

I also just mainly read the posts on here but after reading Doug's post I felt I needed to add my two cents. You make the comment that the B10 has a gentleman's agreement not to go after another teams recruit and then make it sound like RR is the only coach to do that. The Vest did the exact same thing RR did with a recruit that year AND the following year. It wasn't made such a big deal but it happened none the less. Don't try to make it sound like RR/Michigan is the only coach/team that does things like this


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 6:06 p.m.

I normally just read the comments, maybe because I was to lazy to open an account on, but when I saw Doug diminishing the academic capabilities of Roundtree, decided to join the discussion. I think is totally a lack of respect and out of the topic at hand to judge someone doing the best for his team and school.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 5:07 p.m.

Consider all of Michigan's rankings(Purdue has a few as well) then consider the curriculum available at Purdue. Would Roundtree aspire to be an astrophysicist. Really, I don't see Roundtree holding a Michigan diploma either. If he does, I would be as surprised as, well....just call me Jim Harbaugh.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 3:59 p.m.

@Doug, I agree that Roundtree's interviews aren't exactly sparkling examples of The King's English, but the claim that he couldn't handle the academics at Purdue is fairly entertaining. I'm not sure if you're aware of this, but Michigan is generally considered to be a much better school than Purdue. U of M is a top tier University, ranked among the top 5 public universities in the country and 2nd only to Northwestern in the Big Ten. According to USNews, Purdue is in a 6th place tie in the conference with Ohio State. I don't want to disparage Purdue, because it is a fine school, and the Big Ten is a solid academic conference. I just think that if Roy can cut it at Michigan, perhaps you shouldn't make assumptions about the intelligence of a 21yo college kid.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 9:29 a.m.

There was a gentlemans agreement between Big Ten athletic directors for a hands off policy in recruiting a player that verbally committed to another Big Ten school. The player could certainly change his/her mind, but on their accord and not through another Big Ten school overly recruiting the player to de-commit. This agreement came about after a basketball recruiting incident between Indiana and Illinois, a year prior. RR was probably not aware of the agreement, but Michigans A.D. certainly was. On top of that Roundtree never told Purdue he was changing his commitment. Im not sure why Tiller would have recruited Roundtree in the first place. I recently observed one of Roundtrees interviews and I dont believe he was or is capable of 4-5 years at Purdue. I do wish him the best though. Now you know the rest of the story.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 7:57 a.m.

Purdue has won the past two meetings with U-M and this is fast becoming a rivalry game. It's time to right the ship. I think U-M will win this one in a close defensive battle (for U-M, that is) Michigan 44 Purdue 39

Jim Pryce

Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 7:02 a.m.

I agree with Sean T., Roundtree is good, but he still drops alot of passes. Don't put him in the NFL yet.


Fri, Nov 12, 2010 : 6:38 a.m.

Roundtree needs to work on his English: It was kind of boring to me when I took my visit there, he said. But I didnt have nowhere else to go. So it was like, this is where Im going to be for the next four or five years.

Sean T.

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 8:26 p.m.

I think Roundtree is pretty good, I mean he did what he was supposed to do when he got the ball. He had a great day but he isn't consistent enough to say that he will play on Sunday's. I'd like to see him in his senior season before I 'd anoint him.

3 And Out

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 4:58 p.m.

Round is a good receiver...runs precise routes, knows how to get open and has good hands. He lacks dynamic speed, but is a good enough player that he will play on Sundays, and not just with his kids. The NFL always has spots for guys like him who can make the play and get the first down when needed.

Macabre Sunset

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 4:36 p.m.

The guy really showed up to his announcement conference (itself a classless move) wearing a Purdue hat, then switched it? And now he wants the 1 jersey based on one game? He's talented, but I suspect he's getting the dreaded red flag next to his name on NFL scouting charts. Meanwhile, knowing how the word illustration is used in journalism, I knew that was a photoshop. But that's not kosher. It's still a fabricated image, and has no place in a news organization. Reuters finally put a kibosh on that years ago, after its reputation was trashed to the point where people were dropping them.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 4:02 p.m.

@jameslucas, nice brookie. We need a D that far above average. LMAO about your comment about signaling from the sidelines.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 3:58 p.m.

@lorrain steelman..good post, i like you could care less about the wizard hat(though funny)the snakeskin oil or mr danny hope...just go out, smash purdue in the chops and win the game, and win the game big, make sure purdue knows that there will be no winning this game..the kids though should have fun with the pic with rr in practice,, nothing but humor in it, there is no other way to look at..


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 3:01 p.m.

outstanding photoshop! if it's a photoshop. +1 Mr. Bigelow thank you for the laugh.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 1:57 p.m.

Tiller is just frustrated for being a loser. I agree completely with UMguy, the receivers are fantastic. They catch the ball and drop fewer than previous years, run well, and maybe the most important, they block well down field. They do a great job blocking down field to assist the runs. Bigelow! Call Tiller and get a nasty comment about the Michigan defense. Let's get those guys fired up some, because defense wins ballgames.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

@Forever27 great post, I think we should use players in wizard hats to signal in plays from the side line for the Purdue game.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 1:28 p.m.

RR is sleazy coach but in this case he had no fault. Any kid (Roundtree in this case) should be given the benefit of going to the program that he fancies even at the last minute. Those are the kids' future. Danny Hope was a classless hip hopper to take things personally. His player committed a foul, he should be sport enough to accept punishment. RR is 0-3 against Michigan State and 0-2 against Ohio State in three years. lol!


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 1:20 p.m.

the 'wizard hat' photo is superior. kudos to the illustrious illustrator. make the boilers disappear, wizard of ours.

Lorain Steelmen

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:55 p.m.

Note to file.....WIN the game! Ignor all this other jiborish. I could care less about Danny Hope, or snake oil salesmen. Just win the darn game!

Sean T.

Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

I agree, Jim B. Roundtree was good coming out of high school but he wasn't a monster. Most recruting sites had him listed at a 3star rating so I doubt that a recruit of his caliber is the reason for discourse. Plus, Tiller was the head coach then anyway.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 12:45 p.m.

I've liked receivers Roundtree and Stonum from the minute they stepped onto the field. You haven't heard any complaining or seen any finger pointing from them the last two down years. They just let their actions on the field speak for themselves. Same for Odums and Hemingway. Good receivers, good kids. They've only begun to show what they can do in this spread offense.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 11:46 a.m.

I agree with "forever27"my guess is that the players will have a ball with this one with the coach. They,as well as all of us,should take this in the most light hearted way. This just adds to the fun until we become serious monsters next year if not saturday.go blue!PS:2 wins more this year and all the BS about coach rod will be dead.It could happen.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 11:27 a.m.

Who really thinks that the intensity of the "rivalry" between the two teams is based on a recruiting decision?


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

I had to laugh when I saw that picture. Is it doctored? It looks legit. People, with all the bitterness that is spewed back and forth on these boards, this was FUNNY. Have a sense of humor.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 10:58 a.m.

Am I the only one who thinks the picture of RR is fine? It pretty clever if you ask me. It fits the story.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 10:43 a.m.

The article is interesting, but we don't need the doctored picture of RR with the wizard hat. Not appropriate Mr. Bigelow.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:51 a.m.

There is no point of the picture, but to make Michigan look foolish. Thanks! By the way, Purdue is acting like a jilted ex-girlfriend. Jealousy is not the answer, Danny Hope.


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:48 a.m.

@saginaw, read the article. It's because Tiller called RR a, " wouldnt have another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil..."


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

RR in a wizard's hat? What is the point of publishing this picture?


Thu, Nov 11, 2010 : 9:23 a.m.

"The Wizard" should be Rich Rod's new moniker. Wear the insult as a badge of honor. Plus, it's reminiscent of the "Mad Magician"