The past few weeks have been some of the toughest to endure as a Mountaineer fan. To see one of our favorite sons leave our program without as much as a courtesy "see ya later" is a troubling thing to swallow. It will be years before Rodriguez is ever forgiven -- if ever. I know I will never look at the previous 7 years in the same light. I could go on, but someone has said everything a lot better (and a lot longer) than I ever could.
What follows is an open letter forwarded to me. The author is
unknown Jude from We Must Ignite This Couch and his points are dead-on. If you're a Mountaineer fan, do yourself a favor and read this letter.
Dear Rich Rodriguez,
We don't know each other. I've met you a couple of times at various fan events like the Spring Game and the Coaches' Carousel, but the same could be said for thousands of others. I just thought I'd drop you this letter to let you know specifically what residents of West Virginia and West Virginia University fans think about your decision to leave WVU to become the new head football coach at the University of Michigan.
See, we West Virginians are a prideful bunch. You probably know that, considering you're from here, as is most of your immediate family. And despite the running jokes and insults spewed by stereotyping windbags across the country, we know that what we have here in West Virginia, what we have here with West Virginia University, is special.
We don't expect outsiders to really understand. That's why when John Beilein fled for Michigan a year ago, people largely wrote the experience off to an outsider that was just climbing his own personal coaching ladder. He wasn't from here, he didn't have any intrinsic connection to the program other than as an employer, and he wanted to move on. Before long, a native son risked his career and reputation nationally to leave a great gig at a Big 12 school to take Beilein's place, and the program was made better for it in the long run. We had a guy who wanted to be here more than any other place in the world.
But you, Rich... you were our native son, coaching the most beloved team of them all.
As much as we dislike being spurned by outsiders, we really dislike one of our own sneaking out the back door and leaving our program, our state, in a state of disrepair. You said at your press conference this morning that hopefully we'd understand that you left our program in a better state than you found it. That might be true.
But you didn't mention the fact that you were actively taking steps to harm the program for your own personal benefit by contacting recruits and attempting to talk them out of their commitments already made to WVU. You didn't address the fact that according to Dave Poe of the Parkersburg News and Sentinel, you had your recruiting director contact Josh Jenkins to ask him to renege on his verbal commitment to WVU and follow you to Michigan. Who knows how many other recruits you've already talked to or turned away? That work you were doing recruiting for WVU really represents unearned salary if you're going to travel on the University's dime, get paid for the University's time, and then sabotage your loyal employer to help you win at the next level.
Those aren't your recruits. They don't belong to you.
You also didn't mention the fact that you stand to irreparably harm the program by placing the players in a state of disorder before the second BCS Bowl game in program history. Your former players were going to have a tough task in front of them anyway facing a team that might be playing the best football in the country in the Oklahoma Sooners. Now they get to do that without their head coach. They will have to answer endless questions about you in the weeks leading up to the game. And you have abandoned them.
Even after the debacle against Pitt (which, make no mistake, will be the defining moment of your career as the head coach of the Mountaineers), your former team, the players you recruited, the players you coached, stood a very good chance of starting next season in the Top 5 and poised to make another championship run if they could represent themselves well in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. And this isn't to say that they won't, because let's face it, the crop of players that will take the field on January 3 will probably have no problem running your offense even without you. (I mean, how hard can it be at this point for Pat White to run the halfback option and thirteen or fourteen bubble screens?) But there's no way they'll be as focused as they should be. There's no way they can approach this game in a business-like manner. And that's your fault.
You'll have to forgive us as fans for looking at you as a villain. It's certainly understandable, considering that the University gave you as much as it could after your flirtation with Alabama last year, pricing many true fans out of the stadium in the process. Many, like myself, paid for such a salary increase this year with a massive jump in ticket prices that was probably more than many could afford. In a roundabout way, the desire to keep you at West Virginia took money out of my pocket. And it shames me to realize that I thought it was worth it.
But it wasn't enough for you.
And you certainly didn't do yourself any favors by keeping your (now) former President and your former Athletic Director in the dark during your negotiations (which, by all accounts, weren't authorized) with Michigan. This included handing your resignation in to WVU Athletic Director Ed Pastilong after you'd already accepted the Michigan job. And according to this article from the Charleston Daily Mail, you didn't even do it yourself- you had a graduate assistant deliver it.
Maybe there were problems between yourself and the athletic department as has been rumored since your exit, and as reported here, in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Maybe giving you more than they could afford and giving you nearly every facility improvement you asked for wasn't enough for you. But why, then, did you sign a one-year contract extension earlier this year, signing on as the coach of the Mountaineers through 2013? What happened for you in that course of time? (Other than your colossal failure to prepare the team for the Pitt game. We know that happened to you.)
And what of your word?
Just last December, you stated that "When the details come out, you'll see that I'm committed to West Virginia University for a very, very long time." (Source- Previously linked article)
Three weeks ago, you told media outlets that there wouldn't be any coaching carousel in Morgantown this year, saying, "We're not done here ... you're stuck with me."
Fortunately, we in the Mountain State will be just fine, despite your best efforts.
The immediate future for the players of your former team should be solid, as there are plenty of galvanizing forces on the team that will allow them to represent themselves well in the Fiesta Bowl. Patrick White, Owen Schmitt, Eric Wicks, et. al. will see to that. They have too much pride to be defined by their coach's decision to sacrifice the welfare of his team in favor of his own ambitions. They'll play. They'll play hard. And they'll be a source of pride for all of us in Mountaineer Nation.
More generally, WVU football and its fans will be just fine, as well. (Again, not that you're worried about our future. If you were, you wouldn't have put yourself before the team by declaring your departure before a BCS bowl, and you wouldn't be presently trying to talk kids out of their previous commitments to WVU.)
Yes, Michigan is a prestigious program, but so is West Virginia. There will be another successful coach to follow you, and with success both on and off the field, he will be revered in all the ways you used to be. I can say this because WVU isn't the stepping stone to the big time. It is the big time. It was before you, and it will be after you, despite your best efforts to sabotage our immediate future in the process.
Unlike Michigan, there won't be 107,000 fans in the seats in Morgantown next year. We don't have the winningest program in the history of college football at WVU either, though 17th is certainly respectable.
But the 60,000 that will fill Mountaineer Field long after you are gone all understand that what we have at WVU is something special. Something to be very proud of. And we'll keep it that way.
Meanwhile, you're off to Michigan as a mercenary. A hired gun. Make sure to beat Ohio State every year, or they'll run your carpetbagging ass out on a rail after two seasons. You can play 6 degrees of Bo Schembechler all you want, but you won't be given credit for being a home-grown product if you go 28-21 in your first four seasons, as you did at WVU.
You'll be unemployed.
So while Michigan may be a step up the coaching ladder nationally and may be the winningest program of all time, it will never be home.
And now West Virginia won't be either.
Like I said, we West Virginians are a prideful bunch.
Very truly yours,
A Mountaineer Fan