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It’s Said That Fame Can be Fleeting

January 30, 2008
MORGANTOWN — It’s said that fame can be fleeting.

So can gratitude and, yes, even friendship.

It is with these thoughts that I firmly believe Rich Rodriguez, in his angry and abrupt departure for Michigan, had forgotten who were chiefly responsible for handing him the opportunity to serve as West Virginia University’s head football coach.

That sad day in 2000 that Don Nehlen announced he was retiring, after a tough loss to Syracuse, Athletic Director Ed Pastilong and his longtime friend Gov. Joe Manchin III, then West Virginia secretary of state, knew Rodriguez would be Nehlen’s successor.

Yes, there probably were others who had some input on the selection, but those two were chiefly responsible for it.

It was a matter that had been at least discussed previously, if not knowingly promised. And WVU officials lost no time in getting the word to Rodriguez, then an assistant to Tommy Bowden at Clemson.

At about 10:30 p.m. that same day, I received a telephone call from a well-known coach who happened to be interested in the job himself. He said, “I understand it’s a done deal. I heard that Rich Rodriguez told wife Rita, ‘We’re going home.’”

In retrospect, that gentleman’s information obviously was accurate. It wasn’t long thereafter that the official announcement was made.

But all reports indicate that Rodriguez turned on Pastilong and Manchin like a bent pin in ignoring their urgings that he remain at his alma mater. Having a graduate assistant deliver his letter of resignation to Pastilong and not returning Manchin’s phone call certainly don’t speak well for one’s behavior.

Those two — and others — deserved better treatment as he headed to take over the Wolverines’ football reins, a position he obviously was bent on adding to his resume if not to satisfy his growing ego.

This apparently wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment move. Bill Miller, U-M’s athletic director, was quoted in a Detroit newspaper a month or so ago that Rodriguez was contacting the Big Ten school while Miller was talking to other candidates.

Make no mistake, Rodriguez did a great job in taking the Mountaineer program to another level after his team went 3-8 in his first season here. But I keep wondering how he could have had his mind on the regular-season finale against old rival Pitt, a 28-point underdog.

Considering what was riding on the game’s outcome, that 13-9 shocker has to be the worst defeat in West Virginia’s football history.

Unfortunately, many Mountaineer fans might remember Rodriguez more for that debacle than for the tremendous 38-35 triumph over No. 8 Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2, 2006 in Atlanta or his other achievements.

Perhaps there is justification for some of Rodriguez’s complaints, though the $4 million buyout was in his signed contract (as it reportedly is in his Michigan pact).

But I believe WVU administrators bent over backward in meeting his demands for improved facilities.

I can’t remember any coach who ever got more than he did.



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