- Associated Press - Monday, December 6, 2010

ANN ARBOR, MICH. (AP) - Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon says he is very comfortable waiting until after the bowl season to evaluate his coaches.

Rich Rodriguez is not.

The embattled coach has to get the Wolverines ready to play Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day without knowing if he’ll coach them next season.

“It is a unique situation and you do with it the best you can,” Rodriguez said. “I’m excited about coming to work every day.”

On Monday, Rodriguez and his boss walked by each other at least twice without making eye contact. Brandon insisted he’s not worried about Rodriguez feeling unsettled about his future with college football’s winningest program.

“Rich and I communicate really, really well and spend a lot of time together,” Brandon said. “I’m not the least bit concerned about our relationship or the focus that Rich has on this game.”

The Wolverines (7-5) will begin practice Friday for their game against the 21st-ranked Bulldogs (8-4).

While the coach and athletic director politely answered questions about the speculation swirling around Rodriguez, neither were interested in saying much about last Thursday’s buzz-creating banquet in which Rodriguez quoted the Bible and Josh Groban, and then played a song from the musician.

“I appreciate everybody’s interest,” Rodriguez said. “I would rather talk about the bowl game.”

Did Brandon think it was odd?

“It was different,” he said after a chuckle. “The coach elected to do what he did. The banquet is now behind us, and it’s time to focus on a bowl game.”

Brandon said he doesn’t have a date on his calendar to look back and ahead with Rodriguez, but plans to do it soon after the Gator Bowl.

That doesn’t mean Brandon’s evaluation of Rodriguez will be idle for a few weeks.

“There’s a lot of work being done,” Brandon said. “One of the things we do, for instance, is our senior interviews. We try to get those done this time of year because after the bowl game, often times some of the seniors scatter.”

The Rodriguez-led coaching staff is trying to persuade high school seniors to commit, or stick with their commitment, to Michigan even though there’s uncertainty about who will be coaching at the school next season.

Rodriguez said his status at the school has created an obstacle in recruiting, but he has an answer for recruits and their parents when they ask a question he can’t really answer.

“I tell them we’re planning on being here and being their coach,” he said.

Defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said he hopes Rodriguez is his coach next year for his senior season, adding it may be in some players’ minds that they might be playing for his job in the Gator Bowl.

“Personally, I’m all in for coach Rodriguez and everything he does,” Van Bergen said. “All people see is the stuff that goes on camera. You can’t understand what happens at Schembechler Hall. He cares about his players as much as any other coach in college football. That’s what we like about him and why we embrace him.”

Rodriguez said he understands Brandon’s position of sticking with his after-the-season evaluation process for all the coaches on campus and he’s trying to not let it overwhelm him as he tries to lead the program on a day-to-day basis.

“I can’t sit around and fret about everything because I have a job to do,” he said.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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