Don’t be fooled by Rodriguez’s crying game

OK, I finally saw the Rich Rodriguez video. And while I was impressed with his ability to mix metaphors while railing against “these roadblocks that go against the very fabric of how we establish our program,” the rest of the act — the wronged but virtuous coach-on-the-verge of tears — left me underwhelmed.

In an age as cynical as this, the standards for public bereavement and victimhood are impossibly high. You’ve seen Terrell Owens cry. And Brett Favre, too. More recently, there was Rick Pitino, the pious copulator, proclaiming his righteous indignation against the media.

Looking back, should you have believed any of them? Looking forward, why should you believe Rodriguez? Seriously, one good reason. This is the guy who said he’d stay at West Virginia for the rest of his career.

Sanctimonious Michigan is getting just the coach they hired. You don’t have to be acquainted with the intramural politics of Wolverine football to know something’s not quite right with this guy. This isn’t about Bo Schembechler’s legacy, or the spread offense. It’s not a vendetta, either. This is about a guy whose name keeps popping up in ways that it should not.

A few days ago, it was reported that Rodriguez was being sued in federal court for defaulting on a $3.9 million loan in a real estate deal. Rodriguez’s financial advisor claimed he was “the victim of a fraudulent real estate Ponzi Scheme.” With no details provided, the best case scenario has Rodriguez being a sucker. Problem is, at least for me, you don’t get to be coach of Michigan at the relatively tender age of 44 by playing the sucker.

Then, the next day, it was learned that one of Rodriguez’s partners in the ill-fated deal was Glegg Lamar Greene, now facing five felony counts of fraud in a separate case. Greene, once convicted of operating a business without a license, was a Clemson booster banned from the program for lavishing gifts and “loans” on recruits. That was 2001. Rodriguez finished a two-year stint as Clemson’s offensive coordinator the year before. How was he to know?

Just like he didn’t know that a kid named Justin Feagin, a quarterback Rodriguez signed for his first Michigan recruiting class was a drug dealer (twice arrested) in high school.

A lot of the reporting here comes from Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg, who’s suddenly public enemy No. 1 in Ann Arbor. That’s what you expect in these cases. Still, it’s too bad. I know Rosenberg. He’s a serious journalist type. He’s not throwing stuff out there to see what sticks. The big problem for Rodriguez was a piece by Rosenberg and Mark Snyder published last Sunday under the less than provocative headline, “A look inside Rodriguez’s rigorous program.” Contrary to what you may have heard, it wasn’t about a coaching staff trying to get a little extra out of its guys. It’s about players being worked in ways that clearly violate NCAA rules. Yes, the report uses unnamed sources. No one likes that, of course. Just the same, it’s not two or three sources. It’s six. Their stories are all consistent, and none yet disproved.

Rodriguez, in his coach-on-the-verge presser, denied any violations, saying, “this coaching staff cares very deeply about the young men of our program.”

Again, there wasn’t much in the way of proof. You’ll just have to take coach at his word. Kind of like West Virginia did.

downlevel description

This video requires the Adobe Flash Player. Download a free version of the player.

In June, 2006, Rodriguez signed a three-year extension with the university, a deal that gave him more than $1.2 million a year. Six months later, amid reports that he was going to Alabama, West Virginia renegotiated again. This time, for about $2 million per.

“When he told us, there were a lot of happy faces,” longsnapper Tim Lindsey told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Referring to the $4 million buyout clause that came with his new, new contract, Rodriguez said: “When the details of this deal finally come out, you’ll see I’m committed to West Virginia for a long, long time.”

A year later, he was gone, having surreptitiously negotiated his deal with Michigan while his team was practicing for the Fiesta Bowl. West Virginia would have to take Rodriguez to court to enforce the buyout clause. But even more damning was the way Rodriguez handled the matter with all those young men, like Lindsey, he cared so deeply about. He told a recruit before he told them.

On Dec. 16, 2007, Terrelle Pryor — then the most sought-after recruit in the nation — called to say he was considering the Wolverines. “I just spoke to Coach Rodriguez about ten minutes ago and he told me he is going to Michigan,” said Pryor. “He said they made him an offer (and) he can’t refuse it.”

An offer he couldn’t refuse.

Like the real estate deal, I’m sure.