From Day 1 at Michigan, Rodriguez seemed almost doomed to fail. He came to Ann Arbor from West Virginia, where he nearly coached his alma mater to the national title game, to replace the retiring Lloyd Carr.
But his divorce from West Virginia was messy and his reputation took a serious hit in the court of public opinion. When he got to Michigan, there were plenty of Wolverines supporters who were skeptical of their new coach.
“Are there regrets or second thoughts? If I didn’t say that it wouldn’t be true,” Rodriguez said.
“But it’s still a great place. It’s a really good job. It can be a great job if everyone is supporting you and pulling in the right direction. Maybe that’s what (new coach) Brady (Hoke) is going to get because he was at Michigan before.
“Everybody’s got their own theory of it. My personal theory _ and this is talking to people that were there before I got there _ is that when Bo Schembechler passed away that driving force to get everybody pulling in the same direction may have gone with him.
“I think there were some battles that were being fought even before I took the job.”
Schembechler, who coached Michigan from 1969-89 and was the patriarch of the program for years after that, died in 2006 the day before the Ohio State game.
This past season was Rodriguez’s best at Michigan. Led by Big Ten player of the year Denard Robinson, the Wolverines’ offense was one of the most prolific in school history. But the defense was the worst in the Big Ten, hampered by inexperienced players and injuries.
“We had gotten better, not defensively, we had gotten better as a program each of the three years,” he said. “We were going to be exponentially better the fourth and the fifth year.”
Rodriguez is still living just outside of Ann Arbor. With a 12-year-old son and a 14-year-old daughter, he’s not in a rush to move. Though he did say his wife, Rita, is getting the house ready to be sold.
Who knows where he will move next, but he made it perfectly clear _ at the start and the end of the interview _ that he wants to be a college head coach again.
“I’m hungry as I’ve ever been to coach,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my confidence. We have a formula that can take a team to BCS bowls and compete for national championships. If I’m at the right school that gives you total support and is pulling in the right direction, I think we’ll do that.”
AP Sports Writer Larry Lage in Ann Arbor, Mich., contributed to this report.