After bungled search, UM gets the right man, but will they give him time?

Hondo S. Carpenter

After bungled search, UM gets the right man, but will they give him time?

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Watching the UM search for a new football coach over the last four weeks has been entertaining and fun. It was especially fun if you are a Spartan. Watching them hobble through this process gave us an extra pep in our step, as we get ready to celebrate the Christmas holiday.Â

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As bad as this search was, they got it right!

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As a Spartan you hate to admit it. As a Spartan we prayed and hoped for a Mike DeBord or a Ron English hire. We even had thought Lloyd Carr’s pushing of Brady Hoke may have given the Wolverines their next coach: it didn’t. There is an old saying, “Even a broken clock is right twice a day,” and this was the Wolverines day.

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When my producer and I last year traveled to Morgantown to interview Coach Rodriguez, herein referred to a M-Rod on Spartan Nation, it was because of the personal and professional respect I have for the man. *NOTE: you can see that interview by clicking on the Hondo’s House ICON on the right and scrolling nearly to the bottom.

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I confess it was easier to call Rodriguez a great coach and compliment him on being such a good man before he coached those who don the winged helmet. Rodriguez is a great guy and a good coach. I have had the opportunity to get to know him as a football coach and a person.

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I have fun with this rivalry. I certainly don’t like Michigan, but I like Coach Beilein and Tommy Amaker was my friend. We can detest a rival when it comes to sports, but I don’t get the vilification of them? When John L. Smith’s wife was at her most serious with her health battles, it was Lloyd Carr that reached out to them and got them hooked up with the best medical care that the UM Hospital could provide. It was Carr that offered his home to them should she not be able to travel after treatments. Vilify villains! Coaches that cheat and break rules deserve that, but not those that coach our rival and do it the right way.

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Every night on the news I give the countdown to the MSU vs. UM game and I have done it for three years, on the field I loathe them when they go against MSU. What bothers me is some of the e-mail I have gotten goes beyond funny and is mean spirited, cruel and simply not what I expect from the Spartan Nation.

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Attacking someone’s wife? Is comparing a coach’s wife’s appearance to a stripper or degrading her by calling her a “typical trailer park ho,” anywhere close to civil? NO WAY! Appropriate? I THINK NOT! These are good people that coach at our hated rival, but some of this is way over the top, especially when you step over the line and attack a man’s family.

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Will he succeed at UM? I don’t know. Here is why. Many around the University of Michigan, especially around the football program are beyond arrogant. Now I confess that I do loathe that as much as anyone, but it is truly the “X-factor” in M-Rod’s success.  Will they accept him? Will they allow him to be himself?

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I would describe this hire as eerily similar to the MSU hiring of JLS and here is why. Just like JLS M-Rod is not going to allow the Michigan Mentality to make him be who he isn’t. M-Rod is stepping into a situation that may not be a winnable fight. He has a large group of former players and big time participants that don’t like him, nor want him at the helm in Ann Arbor. Les Miles is going to continue to succeed. M-Rod and his crew will struggle through some tough times as he molds the roster to fit his system. Every loss will bring cries for Les, and every adverse event will bring forth those who whisper quietly behind closed doors. John L. Smith made some of his own problems, but it didn’t help him that large groups of powerful people were against him from day one. M-Rod’s group is bigger and even more powerful then JLS’s adversaries.

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M-Rod will not bow. He will not stop being himself. He made that point abundantly clear to the UM leadership of Coleman and Martin. He will run things his way and he will make his choices. When the pressure comes, (and oh boy it will) Martin will try to get involved and M-Rod will have none of it. Like it or not Wolverine fan, this is now his program and NO ONE will tell him how to run it. JLS anyone?

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If M-Rod gets the time to get his recruits to Ann Arbor, he will succeed and UM football will be a force. The question is will he get the time? I have talked exhaustively with former players and donors and I simply don’t see how this will happen. Coleman and Martin are ultimately politicians. When the pressure from the board and the Michigan alum starts rolling downhill, I would expect them to do what politicians do. They will cut M-Rod free. With the millions of dollars being spent on suites and expansion at the Big Hole, economically they will have to do something if the tide turns against mighty Michigan.

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The bungled search could be the seed of what may be two to three years of self- implosion. This is a window of time when MSU will have the opportunity to close the gap. It takes four years to change to a spread system. M-Rod doesn’t get four years. At the most he will get three. MSU will have to close the gap and I expect that they will. UM’s biggest opponent over the next three years will be themselves.

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The infighting isn’t over. Things are not rosy in Ann Arbor. Mark Dantonio’s prophetic utterance of, “Pride comes before the fall,” is still out there and we very well may see it happen before our eyes. I will enjoy watching MSU close the gap, but not because I hate M-Rod or find it necessary to attack his family.

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Yesterday at the press conference, M-Rod’s mother-in-law (according to a friend that witnessed it) walked over to Mitch Albom and told him how much she has enjoyed his books and how she owns them all. Albom appeared visibly uncomfortable. M-Rod’s family is warm, honest and straightforward. Although it may have taken Albom off guard, it is the kind of people they are. Just good folks.

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The media will love M-Rod. The people of Michigan will like his honest approach. He will say what he means, and mean what he says. It is the people inside the blue wall that may not. It is the people behind the closed doors that may undermine him and lead to failure. It won’t be Coach Rodriguez…err…M-Rod!

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One former and very visible UM player told me this morning, “I don’t care about what he is like or anything. This isn’t about him at all. He is not one of us. It was like good God, here come the Beverly Hillbillies. He won’t last. He is simply keeping Les’s seat warm until he comes home to fix this.”

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I chuckled when I hung up the phone. I feel bad for M-Rod, but you have to remember that he got $14 million dollars to deal with this. The fun from a Spartan’s perspective is far from done. I just hope people keep it in context. M-Rod’s family is wonderful and warm people. Nobody’s families deserve to be ridiculed. That is simply over the top, childish and ignorant. There will be plenty of funny moments ahead for the UM football program. Let’s bask and enjoy those without lowering ourselves as the Spartan Nation.

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Can M-Rod do it? He sure can. Will he get too? I doubt it.

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