Morgantown, West Virginia – Long before “Three Guys” with Tony Caridi and no name local radio hosts interviewed Rich Rodriguez, I picked up my phone and called him while he was the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss. My goal was simple: I wanted to ask every difficult question of him that West Virginians have wondered for the past 15 years.
To his absolute credit, Rodriguez did not ask for any question restrictions for the interview and everything was fair game. What quickly became abundantly clear was Rodriguez was completely unaware of how disliked he is in the state of West Virginia. West Virginia fans don’t just hate him, they despise him. The mere mention of his name brings about anger and bitterness unlike anything else in West Virginia sports history.
Rich Rodriguez loves West Virginia and its people. The pain in his voice when he still discusses the 13-9 loss in 2007 against Pitt tells it all. He’s still tortured by that game to this day. If you are one of the few people that still believe that he somehow overlooked the biggest game of his life because he was focused on leaving WVU for another job, you will know how ridiculous that is when you hear the emotions he still feels about that loss.
This is not to say that West Virginia is not as capable of winning big as Michigan. Rather, Michigan’s administration’s vision was more in line with Coach Rodriguez’s vision for success at that time. Rodriguez wanted a “culture change” at WVU.
He wanted more operational control over money that was raised through a booster organization he founded. He wanted to use this money to make improvements. He didn’t want the program to remain stagnant. He wanted to keep pushing the program to be bigger and better. He had many other simple requests: free game passes for high school coaches, seats at WVU basketball games for football recruits, things that would help the program and not cost the university a thing.
Rich Rod shouldn’t be remembered for his departure from Morgantown; rather, we should look back on the beautiful story of Rich Rodriguez. The story of Rich Rodriguez should be a celebration of one of our own and his dazzling, magnificent time at West Virginia University. Rich Rodriguez brought us some of the best memories in West Virginia sports history. His final three seasons at WVU: 11-1 and a Sugar Bowl win against Georgia, 11-2 and a Gator Bowl win against Georgia Tech and, finally, a 10-2 record, one game away from the National Championship. Pat White. Steve Slaton. Owen Schmitt. The pregame speeches. The revolutionary, trailblazing Zone Read Spread offense. The unprecedented success. Thank you for all of the wonderful memories, Coach Rod.