First it was Ferentz, but it never really was. Then it was Miles. Then it wasn't. Then it was secretly Ferentz again. Then it wasn't. Then it was Schiano. Then it wasn't. Just when it looked like Michigan was running out of coaches in American to turn them down Rich Rodriguez comes out of nowhere to get an offer and take the job.
Of course when big news like this happens to a conference rival our first instinct is to ask ourselves "What does this mean for us?" Will our nine game losing streak against the Wolverines come to an end soon? Or are we doomed to another nine years of playing the fat bride's maid hooking up with the groom's second cousin in the coat closet while Michigan and Ohio State continue to dance in the spotlight as the center of attention.
Rich Rodriguez teams are known for utilizing the spread option offense that has become so popular these days. This will no doubt make Michigan fans happy as they have been clamoring for a more wide open offense than they were accustomed to under Lloyd Carr. They'll get it...eventually...but it may not look pretty the first few years. Ryan Mallet is the heir apparent to Chad Henne. He's a fantastic talent, but he's not a spread option type quarterback like Pat White. So how will Rodriguez do without Pat White and Steve Slaton? It will take Michigan a few years to recruit the players and implement the playbook. So in that regard with the loss of Hart, Long, and possibly Manningham after this season the odds of us ending the streak in 2008 are the best they have been in probably a decade. Beyond that who knows.
West Virginia utilizes a 3-3-5 defense. It's unclear if Rodriguez will try to bring this style of defense to the Big Ten. It's a good defense for the Big East where you have teams that spread you out and try to pick you apart through the air. Try that in the Big Ten and you get mowed over by 320 lb offensive linemen and 220 lb running backs.
As far as Michigan goes, I think they will regret this decision in a few years. He has a history of being an opportunist. While at West Virginia he strung along secret negotiations with Alabama and was even rumored to have an agreement in principle. But he decided to stay in West Virginia anyway, but his wandering eye turned off a lot of the West Virginia faithful. Now it's reasonable to assume that Rodriguez won't be looking at other college head coaching jobs. He's at Michigan now. There aren't many other more attractive jobs out there that would warrant another move. But what if he has some success and the NFL comes calling? Is he committed to Michigan for life? Or is he going to be persuaded to listen to every offer that comes along?
One thing that Rodriguez has going against him is he lacks the "Michigan Man" moniker that the fans and boosters put a lot of emphasis on. He has no sense of the Michigan tradition. He's never even been part of any prestigious program, unless you count West Virginia who was laughable during his playing days there in the 1980's. The fans are hoping for change, but they better be careful what they wish for. They just might get it.
What happens if Rodriguez starts ignoring cherished time-honored traditions? What happens if he fails speak of Bo Schembechler and Fielding Yost as if they were saints? What happens when he loses to Ohio State and says "Win some. Lose some" in his post game press conference? These are the things at which the Michigan faithful will be looking. Because like Penn State and Notre Dame and Ohio State and every other historically rich program, tradition is the thread that holds the program together during the four loss seasons. 8-4 without tradition is mediocre, and Michigan will never stand for that.