It’s been said that you may not be married for life, but you are divorced for life, meaning that people once bound together will always have some commonality, even if they go their separate ways.
And so it goes with WVU, the state of West Virginia and Rich Rodriguez.
The native son and once-beloved Mountaineer coach has talked at length to Seth Davis with Campusinsiders.com about his caustic departure from WVU in 2007 to become head coach of Michigan. Click here to watch the video.
Rodriguez, who is in his second year as the head coach of Arizona after being fired at Michigan, says he wishes he had handled his exit from Morgantown differently.
“If I could do one thing over again I would have a press conference at West Virginia,” Rodriguez said. “I was kind of told (by Michigan) not to do that, to move on, but I owed that to West Virginia and I think it would have cleared a lot of things up.”
Yes, that would have helped. Many Mountaineer fans would still have been angry, but at least it would not have appeared as though Rodriguez was sneaking out of town while his team prepared for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.
However, there remains a dichotomy between Rodriguez and WVU over the events that contributed to his decision to leave.
“I still wasn’t going to take the job if I thought the administration at the time at West Virginia had the same vision that I did as far as growing the program,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to keep growing it… I wasn’t convinced in my talks with them (the administration) that they wanted to keep doing that.”
In fact, Rodriguez says his perception was that he was being pushed out the door. That may be how the coach felt, but that was clearly not the intent of then-WVU President Mike Garrison and then-Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.
Depositions taken in the legal battle over Rodriguez’ buyout (Rodriguez and Michigan ended up paying $4 million to WVU) show University leaders accommodated Rodriguez, except when they believed his requests could violate NCAA rules or remove institutional oversight from the program.
Ultimately, the division between Rodriguez and the University was about control; the coach wanted more than WVU was willing to give. It’s unfortunate that the dispute devolved into a painful breakup, but the college athletics landscape is populated by examples of what can happen when college and university leaders cede too much authority to coaches.
WVU did the right thing in 2007 by not allowing Rodriguez to have his way.
Still, it’s peculiar, even after six years, to see Rich Rod wearing anything other than the Gold and Blue. Once he was right where he should have been, coaching the Mountaineers to great success.
That counts for something.
Even divorced couples sometimes find a way to get along. You can’t pretend as though there was no shared history. And sometimes, after an appropriate amount of time has passed, they can even be on friendly terms again.