Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rich Rodriguez: Where and When Will the Former Michigan Head Coach Surface?

Ever since the Rich Rodriguez era came to an end in Ann Arbor, I've wondered where he could land next. Where will his next head coaching job be and who he might open to?

After coaching at two BCS schools, Michigan and West Virginia, it would only seem logical he would return to coach another BCS school. But what if a non-BCS came calling?

Let's assume for a minute a coach like Chris Petersen at Boise State, Gary Patterson at TCU, or Kyle Whittingham at Utah were to get offers they couldn't turn down. And let's assume all three of these schools were to have interest in bringing Rodriguez in as their new head coach. Which job would he take? Would he take any of them?

Of course his name is going to bring with him the stigma of failing at Michigan. There are going to be fans who want no part of having him be the next head coach of a team they root for, especially teams who are so used to success year in and year out.

As for me, I would give Rodriguez a chance at a school that needs a shot in the arm. A school who's been desperate to become what the three aforementioned schools have become.

Since we're looking at this as a debate how about I mention a school I grew up rooting for. A team who needs that shot in the arm I talked about before. A team who seems to be stuck in neutral and a school who's university seems to be ok with it.

I'm talking about Fresno State.

The Bulldogs are finishing their final season in the Western Athletic Conference before they move to the Mountain West Conference to join former rival Boise State along with Nevada and Hawaii who are also making the jump.

Since the Bulldogs hired Pat Hill prior to the 1999 season, the football program is still yet to win an outright conference championship. Not only that, but in the 11 seasons under Hill, Fresno State has won just four of their 11 bowl appearances.

While a losing record got their head basketball coach, Steve Cleveland, fired it landed Hill a three-year contract extension.

If you talk to some of the media who cover the team and they'll tell you that while it seems mediocrity has become a habit in the central valley, the fans will continue to come out because of the hype surrounding quarterback Derek Carr. He's the younger brother of another former Fresno State star, David Carr.

But there's one thing the Bulldogs are missing. It's the one thing that will keep them from even being in the middle of the pack once they move to their new conference.

That one thing is recruiting.

There's a change that needs to be made and the program needs a name players can relate to and a name they recognize.

For the last few years the Bulldogs haven't been able to recruit the players they need to be able to turn their football team into a conference champion and BCS buster year in and year out.

Before we mention money, let's not forget Boise State has a smaller recruiting budget and has somehow been able to to bring players in who have kept them not only at the top of the WAC, but also on the national scene.

They've been a team who have been talked about before, during, and after each college football season. They're hated by just about every BCS fan because they continue to hang around.

There's no doubt Petersen has been the right head coach to bring out the best in his players, but Rich Rodriguez is a guy who can do the exact same thing to a school who desperately needs his experience.

Fresno State won't have the luxury of playing conference cupcakes like San Jose State and New Mexico State. They'll have to face off against not only Boise State, Nevada, and Hawaii, but they'll deal with an upstart San Diego State program along with Air Force and a Colorado State team that can never be taken lightly.

Why not bring in a name that automatically makes recruits think twice about signing with rival schools?

Michigan fans couldn't wait to ship him out of town and West Virginia fans couldn't have celebrated more when he failed in Ann Arbor. Miserably.

But when Rodriguez comes up for air and he makes it known he's ready to get back into coaching, there won't be a shortage of teams willing to pay him what he wants to be their next head coach.

For Fresno State, they need to be on that bandwagon. If for no other reason than to let their fans know they're committed to doing more than they've done to this point.

Put the rules violations and things said about Rodriguez aside. He's still a name that attracts attention and a name that brings instant notoriety.

Say what you want about his coaching styles or the way he handled himself at Michigan, but with that kind of pressure from not only the athletic department but the boosters as well, it tends to change people and not for the better.

Given another opportunity could turn this coach from a villain to a success story.

All it takes is the right program and the right players. Whether it's Fresno State or another school who could be looking for a new head coach, the name Rich Rodriguez is going to be mentioned more than once.

When he finally does return, all eyes will be on him and the program he takes over.

Follow Todd Kaufmann @T_Kaufmann and National Football Authority @NFAuthority on Twitter

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