Get Over Rich Rodriguez Already

Cincinnati at West Virginia 11/11/06 (Photo by George Gojkovich)

While the season is still up for grabs and could ultimately become a positive in Neal Brown’s tenure at the school, most believe that we will land somewhere in the middle of the pack or lower, a split only in whether we make a bowl game. In a program desperately needing success and positives for this season and the years to come, it is worthwhile to seriously contemplate a suitable coach replacement.

Enter (again) Rich Rodriguez.

This coach has been around the horn, had massive success in his time at West Virginia, and had to rebuild his brand of football at lower levels to reach recent strides. This might be the best opportunity for the university to capture a talent that can give the field product a new identity, play to the strengths of our successful campaigns in the past, and relinquish the program to someone who still cares a lot about the state.

In his time as the head coach of the Mountaineers, Rodriguez would accrue a record of 60-26. While one could argue that the competition can be stiffer in the Big 12 than the former Big East was, the talented team destroyed a seasoned Oklahoma University at the Tostitos Bowl game that year 48-28. If that does not indicate a well-coached team with an explosive on-field product, I don’t know what does.

So, let’s fast forward to today. West Virginia is in its 12th season in the Big 12 and has yet to reach the conference championship game, nor has the team even graced the AP poll since welcoming Coach Brown to take over the program. Dana Holgorsen at least created a product that reached a bowl game in 7 of his 8 seasons leading the team. We are at the point now where getting over .500 on the year is discernible progress. Something must give.

I’m going to just rip the Band-Aid off – we got to get over how 2007-2008 went. The players of that time have been incredibly vocal about how they love the coach, and no one holds this ill will for him except some of the fandom. We need to shake it loose and decide to trust in something other than the climb – trust in Rich Rod. Here’s why:

Turns 2–4-Star Recruits into Sunday Athletes

Let’s look at a few of the most recognizable names from the final season of Rich Rod in Morgantown. Pat White was, by most accounts, a 3-star prospect that turned the success into an NFL draft pick. As far as you can research, you can’t find a recruiting class ranking for Owen Schmitt, who also went on to have NFL success. Steve Slaton, a 3-star who had a post-college NFL career. Pat McAfee – went on to be a punter in the NFL for the Colts. The list goes on. The point is to utilize skill sets completely and maximize potential.

Does Not See WVU as a Steppingstone

Let’s be honest. Rich Rodriguez left West Virginia at the end of the 2007 regular season to begin coaching for the Michigan Wolverines, and after failing to achieve their expectations, was hired by the Arizona Wildcats, where things did not improve. While Michigan might be a step above the size and caliber of West Virginia University, Arizona is a fairly lateral move. Rebuilding to find success in the FCS with Jacksonville State has put Rodriguez back on a path of potential success at a next-level school. Jacksonville State is entering the FBS for the first time this year, and Rodriguez is already off to a substantial start and turning heads. We will not be the only school potentially interested in snagging him if we need to make a coaching change. What makes Rich Rod stick out from other competitors that we have also named is that he is unlikely to use West Virginia as another step to ascend the rungs of coaching again. His greatest successes occurred at West Virginia University, and it stands to reason that this would be a school where he could build a foundation of winning, win the fans over again, and retire one day.

Fans Already Know the Offense is Fast and Exciting

One of the troublesome things about the current years of Mountaineer football is that, for the most part, we seem to have no real identity. While this year seems promising with the running game, we have yet to say THIS is the type of team we are. It’s as though we got the default playbook from an old Madden game and chose the most vanilla and arguably expected choices. The result is unexciting and unproductive. Rich Rod’s teams are built for speed and controlling the contest’s momentum. It’s never dull. Smash-mouth football with lightning backs and talented receivers.

Cobwebs Are Growing on the Climbing Wall

I was undoubtedly one of the people excited to see what Brown could do when he took over as the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers. What I got was a point in which I was excited when the seasons at least ended in a bowl game appearance. Even when the bowl game was something like the Liberty Bowl against Army, where we barely survived. Or worse yet, facing the Minnesota Golden Gophers and being entirely outmatched. What it comes down to now is money. You cannot afford another season with dismal attendance when this goes sideways. We are so far from the climb after last year someone needs to point me in the direction of what hill we were supposed to use. Act fast and secure a name that fans already know, even if they grumble about it.

Let me say that I hope that looking back on this article after several weeks makes the content seem foolish. Hopefully, we have discernibly and definitively settled the Backyard Brawl and overcome the hump of never beating Texas Tech for as long as Neal Brown has been coaching for the Mountaineers. However, if this does not happen, and West Virginia loses even the Backyard Brawl in Morgantown, I think Wren Baker owes the fans to start making phone calls. The first one should be headed out to Jacksonville, Alabama.

(photo by WVU Athletics)

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Benjamin Gilbert
Benjamin Gilbert here - panhandle resident and enjoyer of Pitt losses. First and foremost, I am a lifelong West Virginia Mountaineer fan and do my best to inspire that passion in my beautiful wife and talented kids. Unfortunately, fandom doesn't always pay the bills. I have been writing for a decade and a half for various professions and multi-faceted franchises, so writing is what I do. Combining my skills with my passion for the WVU teams, I always seek to provide fair and honest takes on our path to finding the top of college athletics. Let's Go.