Reports swirl about coach Rodriguez
ANN ARBOR, Mich.
Rich Rodriguez is still the Michigan football coach — at least until Wednesday.
Rodriguez's meeting with athletic director Dave Brandon on Tuesday afternoon ended with no official word from Brandon on Rodriguez's status.
"The definitive voice on this matter is Dave Brandon, and he has not and will not speak publicly until a final decision has been made," associate athletic director Dave Ablauf said in a statement Tuesday night.
Earlier Tuesday, FOX 2 News and the Detroit Free Press reported that Brandon would fire Rodriguez in that meeting.
The Associated Press, citing an unnamed source, reported that Rodriguez and Brandon will meet again Wednesday.
Matt Shepard, the Michigan basketball radio play-by-play man, said a players meeting scheduled for Tuesday night was postponed until possibly Wednesday.
"No decision (on Rodriguez) yet," Shepard told FOXSportsDetroit.com after speaking with an official in the U-M football department.
Just after 3:30 p.m. ET, Rodriguez's wife, Rita, and their two children showed up at the Michigan football offices, where Rita Rodriguez told reporters she had heard nothing of her husband's fate yet. She said the same thing when she left about 5 p.m.
Rodriguez, who went 15-22 in three years with the Wolverines, came to Michigan from West Virginia with a reputation as a great offensive mind. But an inept defense could still lead to his downfall.
If Rodriguez does lose his job, what's next?
From the viewpoint of Michigan's fan base, this has turned into a pass or fail for Brandon: Hire Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback, or fail.
And, according to some reports, hiring Harbaugh has become an unlikely scenario.
Instead, Harbaugh could be headed to the NFL, possibly the San Francisco 49ers, although this is one of those roller-coaster stories that still needs to play out.
So, if it's not Harbaugh, the next most logical replacement appears to be San Diego State's Brady Hoke, a former Michigan assistant.
That's going to be a huge letdown for the Wolverines faithful, who desperately wanted the favorite son, Harbaugh.
Harbaugh is the home run to them. Hoke will seem like little more than a single to left field.
Harbaugh, 47, has risen rapidly, taking Stanford from 1-11 to 12-1 in four years, to become the hottest coaching candidate around.
Stanford desperately wants to keep him. The 49ers aren't the only NFL team reportedly interested. So are Denver and perhaps Miami.
And, of course, Michigan has been an obvious option. Harbaugh is widely viewed as the Wolverines' savior.
It really is amazing what a difference one year can make in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of sports. Go back 12 months. Stanford's defense looked a lot like Michigan's defense at the time. Seriously.
The Wolverines gave up 27.5 points and 393 yards per game in 2009; Stanford allowed 26.5 points and 403 yards.
Harbaugh went out and hired Vic Fangio as his defensive coordinator. Fangio was the Baltimore Ravens' linebacker coach and a special assistant to the head coach, who happens to be John Harbaugh, Jim's brother. Fangio previously had been a defensive coordinator in the NFL with the Texans, Colts and Panthers.
Fangio completely transformed Stanford's defense in just a season. The Cardinal ranked No. 22 in total defense and No. 11 in points allowed (17.8 points per game) entering its 40-12 Orange Bowl rout of Virginia Tech.
Fangio helped turn Harbaugh into the finished product who's now in such high demand.
Meanwhile, over in Ann Arbor, Rodriguez remained under fire because his defense continued to regress under Greg Robinson, in his second year as the defensive coordinator.
The Wolverines, statistically, ranked among the 10-20 worst defenses in the nation this season. Michigan gave up an alarming 137 points while losing its final three games to Wisconsin, Ohio State and Mississippi State to finish 7-6 after a 5-0 start.