Rich Rodriguez bears an uncanny resemblance to the man who sold me my first car. “Creampuff,” the man said. It was a ’62 Buick Electra, purple with zebra stripe seat covers and sawdust in the transmission. Many detractors think Rodriguez has a car salesman mentality — shifty, not-to-be trusted.
RichRod started his coaching career at his alma mater, West Virginia, in 1985 as a graduate assistant. He moved on to Glenville State and Tulane, and after a successful stint as the offensive coordinator at Clemson, he returned to West Virginia, this time as the head coach. He did well there, pushing the Mountaineers to the No. 2 ranking in the BCS. Alabama thought it had a live one and came calling, but he rejected the Tide, telling the media and his supporters that West Virginia was his dream job; he planned to stay there for a long time. A few months later, he left town for greener pastures in Michigan, leaving grumpy alums and numerous lawsuits in his wake.
Michigan and Richrod never seemed to mesh. He chased away several good players, including promising freshman quarterback Ryan Mallett who landed at Arkansas, and All-American lineman Justin Boren who transferred to Ohio State, citing Rodriguez’s lack of family values. Detroit Free Press columnist Michael Rosenberg supported Boren’s claims, stating, “Rodriguez’s staff uses some of the foulest, most degrading language imaginable. I know coaches curse, and I’m no prude, but this goes way beyond a few dirty words.” Michigan dismissed Rodriguez in 2011 after two disappointing seasons. He left a program in disarray. The University admitted to four major rules violations and was placed on three years probation. Richrod shuffled off to a juicy commentator deal with CBS.
Rodriguez spent a year on the shelf, then accepted an offer to coach at Arizona and to date, has been successful. For all his faults, he is a very good coach. Some credit him with being a founder of the spread offense. He’s one of the few coaches to beat Oregon in consecutive years. This year his main weapons are redshirt freshman Anu Solomon, a strong-armed quarterback with good wheels, and running back Nick Wilson, who ranks fifth in rushing in the conference. Arizona’s offense is more run-heavy that Oregon’s, but Solomon still ranks third in the conference in yards per game passing.
Now Oregon has another chance at RichRod, the man fans love to hate. He’s got his weapons, but so does Oregon. Marcus Mariota and the offensive line are finally healthy. Royce Freeman is having the best year of any freshman running back in Oregon history. Expect a shootout with the Ducks pulling away in the second half for the win. And hey, if you’re in the market for a Buick, I know where you can pick one up, cheap.
Top Photo by NY Daily News
Raised in the Central Oregon mill town of Prineville beneath deep blue skies and rim rock, I attended the University of Oregon and during my collegiate summers, I worked in a lumber mill and also fought range fires on the Oregon High Desert for the Bureau of Land Management. After graduating from college at the University of Oregon, I swung from being budding hippy to cop work. I’m still wondering about how that came about. I was a police officer with the Port of Portland and after leaving police work, I obtained an MFA degree in Creative Writing from Vermont College. I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife, my daughter and a spunky bichon frise named Pumpkin. I’ve had short stories publishing in two Main Street Press anthologies. Harkness is my first novel.
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