MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Rich Rodriguez has been treated as a pariah in his home state since he left West Virginia to become Michigan’s head coach in December 2007.
For some, time may not have healed that wound yet. But Rodriguez finally appears ready to move on. Appearing on the Three Guys Before the Game podcast, Rodriguez provided his most lengthy interview with a West Virginia media outlet since his chaotic departure.
Among other subjects, Rodriguez discussed his regrets over his coaching in WVU’s infamous 13-9 loss to Pitt and how he handled his exit to Michigan.
“There’s always regrets,” he said. “The worst football memory I’ve had is the Pitt game. You wish you’d have a couple calls back.”
The loss cost West Virginia a spot in the national championship game. It also ended up being Rodriguez’s last game at WVU before departing for Michigan.
Rodriguez said he has only watched tape of the game once.
“I can’t. It makes me want to throw up,” he said. “I think I did watch it one time. I was so bad in calling that game. Pat [White] got hurt. We made some mistakes we never made. I played it too close to the vest. There’s a lot of things I would do over. I try not to think about that as much. But I try to think of the good things as opposed to that one terrible night.”
Rodriguez would change how he left West Virginia, though he doesn’t regret going to Michigan itself.
“Not digging into the whole exit, but I was advised not to have a press conference,” Rodriguez said. “Looking back, I should have had a press conference and stood before the great folks in West Virginia and explained why. People would have still been mad, and I understand that. But I could have told them a little bit what was going on. Even if they wouldn’t have understood it, there wouldn’t be as many crazy things floating around about that.”
Rodriguez said the departure was based on his thought that Michigan would have easier access to the financial resources needed to win a national championship than WVU.
“I don’t think I was unhappy,” he said. “I just thought it was a situation where I thought – I don’t want to say it would be easier to win a national championship at Michigan, but I thought there would be more of the resources.
“We were getting as much support in the state of West Virginia as you possibly could. I felt like we couldn’t keep asking for more, and to win a national championship we were going to need more. At Michigan you were going to have unlimited resources.”
Instead, his three-year tenure was possibly the most disastrous stretch in Michigan annals. The Wolverines went 15-22 and Rodriguez was fired after compiling the worst winning percentage in program history.
While it may be a different story for fans, Rodriguez wants to remember his tenure with the Mountaineers fondly.
“Looking back, I have regrets. You could live life looking at your regrets, which I certainly do have a lot of regrets,” he said. “But I also have more fond memories and joyous times when you look back. A great group of guys, great group of players and tremendous support in West Virginia.”
Rodriguez is entering his first season as offensive coordinator at Ole Miss. He spent 2018 out of football after getting fired by Arizona after the school’s internal investigation into allegations of a “hostile workplace environment.” It is his first assistant coaching assignment since he was Clemson’s offensive coordinator in 2000.