Maybe those who feel that Rich Rodriguez's "last year" at the University of Michigan is already etched in stone are being a bit hasty. Apparently, David Brandon is cleaning house of those who, by accident or on purpose, have sabotaged RR's tenure at Michigan.
The first "Domino:" Lloyd Carr. While I respect Carr for his accomplishments at Michigan and will forever be indebted to him as a fan for the National Championship that he delivered, I still think that Carr has been active behind the scenes and has played a major part in the dissension within the University of Michigan Athletic Department.
When Bo took over for Bump Eliott, under similar circumstances as RR taking over for Carr, Bump was sure to let anyone who complained about Bo's housecleaning that "Bo is the coach now" and encouraged them to support him 100 percent. Bump basically didn't tolerate anything that undermined Bo's position, even though he had been encouraged to "retire" and Bo was his replacement.
Fast forward to 2007. Carr was "encouraged to retire" and replaced by RR. RR immediately did exactly what Bo did: he turned the atmosphere around the football team from "Barton Hills Country Club South" to "Fort RR." Sadly, though, Carr never really showed support for RR, preferring to say he "doesn't want to get involved."
However, "someone" in the Athletic Department leaked info to Freep columnist Micheal Rosenberg, resulting in an embarassing wrist-slap for the team and compromising RR's tenure as coach. Am I saying that Carr was the leak? No. But I'm not saying that he wasn't, either. What is obvious to me, though, is that Carr has never supported RR like Bo would have if he were still alive.
The second "Domino:" Brad Labadie. As any UM fan knows, it was Labadie's negligence, along with that of Scott Draper, that is directly responsible for most of the confusion over CARA and countable practice hours. In other words, if Labadie and Draper had done their jobs correctly, there would have been nothing to "leak" to the Freep.
Were Labadie and Draper part of a conspiracy to undermine RR's tenure at UM? Was Carr involved? I don't really know, but I definitely subscribe to the opinion that there is a faction in the Athletic Department that is working against the interests of the head football coach and therefore the program.
This has been covered in a "nuts and bolts" fashion by Brian at mgoblog:
And in a more conspiratorial fashion by "The Other Brian" at Genuinely Sarcastic:
I think the "retirements" of both Carr and Labadie were the direct result of pressure from David Brandon to not allow their personal hatred of RR to keep them from working fully in the interests of the program. Brandon's time as Domino's CEO, along with his time playing for Bo, have made him more than capable of managing shark-infested, corporate waters, and was perfect training for handling petty power struggles from underlings in the Athletic Department.
I think that Scott Draper may be the next "Domino" to fall; I also think that RR is going to be given the benefit of an Athletic Department that is all on the same page and is working with the best interests of the football program in mind.
Rodriguez deserves a chance to succeed or fail without being undermined by those who are supposed to help him accomplish his goals. Thankfully, it looks like he is finally going to get it, at least for one season. Hopefully, one season will be enough to show what he is capable of doing.
Tinfoil hat rating: five out of five. There is definitely something going on here.