ASK CFN (4/18) - Letting Go Of The Past
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez
Posted Apr 17, 2008

Let's just say West Virginia fans are, well, angry at Rich Rodriguez. Why can't the Mountaineer fans move on? Will Nebraska be Nebraska again? How good are Todd McShay and Mel Kiper? These questions and more in a super-sized ASK CFN.

By Pete Fiutak
Fire over your questions to me at I might not be able to answer them all, but I promise they're all read. Any e-mails sent to this address may be published or edited unless requested otherwise. (Please put ASK CFN in the subject line, and PLEASE keep the questions short ... it makes my life easier.)

Past ASK CFNs ...
- Who's the team of the decade?
- Dump Mack Brown and JoePa?!
- Big East expansion
- Is Charlie Weis on a hot seat?
- The Reggie Bush situation

- Is Bob Stoops the new Lloyd Carr?
- Why LSU winning matters
- Bowl winners & losers
- Can a two-loss team play for the title?
- The five worst recent champions 
- The Flakiest Teams
- A little BCS history
- Should USC be in the title hunt?
- The best RB you don't know
- What's wrong with Texas A&M? 
- How bad is the Big Ten?
- Will Miles run to Michigan?
- Supersized Season Premier of ASK CFN
 The most loved & hated teams
- Is Miami still a power?
- CFN's West Virginia ranking
- Is Booty Heisman-worthy?
- The USC Schedule
- The Big Ten Network
- The most underrated head coach
- The Top Ten NFL receiver prospects 

- Why did Brady Quinn slide?
- The Virginia Tech situation

- Creating a MWest-WAC super-league
Mid-majors who should be in the bigs
The potential new superpower
The 5 best coaching jobs
March Madness for football?
Potential Bowl Shockers
Tim Brewster?
Fox's BCS broadcasts
- Is Brady really better than Russell?
Hot & Cold Bowl Programs
- How ineffective was Reggie Ball?
- A 2007 Top 10 Mock Draft
Can Michigan win a national title?
- BCS possibilities for several teams
- West Virginia schedule, BCS rules
- Toughest coaching jobs
- Hidden Heisman 5

- Is Temple worst ever?
- Oklahoma-Oregon fiasco
- Has Bob Stoops lost it?
- Is Colorado done?

I realize that the Big East isn’t the SEC, but why would you rank it among the bottom two of the BCS football conferences over the past 2 years? All the conference has accomplished is a sparkling 8-2 mark in bowl games over the past 2 years, and Big East schools have won 3 consecutive BCS games, dispatching of the SEC Champs in the 2006 Sugar Bowl, the ACC Champs in the 2007 Orange Bowl, and the Big 12 Champs in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. So, why would you put this conference last? The Big Ten is clearly sub-par to the Big East in its performances recently (Ohio State has been blown out in its 2 NC game losses, and the Big Ten also had BCS teams get blown out each of past 2 years in the Rose Bowl). The ACC has been, well, lousy. So, I ask again, why would you rank the Big East last? Personally, I would rank the Big East at #4, behind the SEC, Big 12, and PAC-10. Then I’d put the Big Ten and ACC in the bottom two. – JH

A:  You’re dogging the Big Ten for losing two national title games and to USC in the Rose Bowl?! Just like the Pac 10 isn’t great because USC is tremendous, you can’t say the Big East is good just because West Virginia has been terrific. Give me the third Big East team that’s been as good as Wisconsin, or the fourth Big East team that’s been as good as Penn State.

The Big East was supposed to win most of those bowl games over the last two seasons; the conference has lousy tie-ins and was the favorite in all the non-BCS bowls. Yeah, West Virginia has been great in the BCS games, and Louisville beat a decent Wake Forest team in the 2007 Orange Bowl, but give me the other really big Big East bowl win. Rutgers? Where’s the big win? South Florida? Good, but the Oregon bowl loss certainly wasn’t pretty. Cincinnati is up-and-coming, Connecticut has been fine, and Pitt will be better, but the league, overall, hasn’t been the Big Ten.

I can’t turn on my TV without getting Mel Kiper Jr. or Todd McShay or both at the same time. Just curious about what you think of them. – JA

A: They’re fine, but they get too techy in an attempt to constantly try to prove they know something. If you talk fast enough and you throw out terms like 3-technique and field corner and high cut, the eyes of 99.9% of the fans will gloss over, and if you’re wrong, no one will ever remember if a player doesn’t actually turn out to be fluid in the hips. That’s why I’ve always tried to write and analyze prospects in a can-play-can’t-play manner. Write technically, but explain generally. Either he can play or he can’t.

Did you read the Sports Illustrated article on Nebraska football? As a die-hard Husker fan, it got me all juiced up that the program really is back on track after the nightmare that was the Bill Callahan era. Please tell me it’s so. Please tell me everything is really back on track. – GM

A: Interesting choice of words about how you feel about the program because that’s the one part of the equation that was glaringly missing from the SI article. What’s completely forgotten is exactly how Nebraska used to make such great players out of the marginal in-state prospects. The program got these kids with average talent who saw Nebraska football as a religion and would do anything for it, stuck them in a weight-room for a few years, some of them pumped up with, uh, “supplements,” and then they were turned loose.

Of course, everyone in the ‘70s and ’80s was doing everything to gain an edge, and steroids weren’t even against NCAA rules until 1986, but Nebraska was far ahead of the curve, especially when it came to its linemen. The truly bizarre part about it all was that Tom Osborne was one of the pioneers against performance enhancing drugs. The point is that Nebraska might be able to become a powerhouse again, but it can’t rely on the exact same formula it did to get there in the first place.

I’ve said from the moment Frank Solich was fired that there was absolutely no reason to stop running one of the most consistently devastating offenses in the history of American sports. There is a place in today’s world of college football to run the ball and work the option, but for all the anger from Husker fans about the change of offense, that’s not really being tinkered with as much as you think. It’s the defense and the pandering to the idea of getting the Nebraska kids back into the fold that’s being changed, and it should work, but that’s because of the coach. Bo Pelini is going to make the defense a killer because he’s tremendous at what he does, and that’s what’s going to be what makes Nebraska football strong again. It’s not going to be because some mediocre talents are picked off the farm. Husker fans were just as happy when Florida’s Tommie Frazier, New Jersey’s Mike Rozier, and California’s Steve Taylor were leading their program.

It seems to me that college football players have lowered their standards.  Just a few seasons ago an underclassman wouldn’t leave college early unless he thought he would be a first-round pick (at least no lower than 50th overall).  Nowadays players are leaving early with expectations of being closer as low as the third or fourth round. What is your opinion on this? – Mike

A: There’s no reason an NFL-level prospect shouldn’t consult the NFL advisory board on what his draft projection is. If you’re projected to be drafted in the first four rounds, you leave. After that, you stay. If you’re a sure-thing first round pick, you don’t play one more down of college football than you have to. The money is just too ridiculous. Remember, it’s a game for all of us, but it’s all business for the top guys.

1.  What, specifically, do you think the rule should be regarding players receiving gifts from boosters?
2.  You've said that you thought allowing gifts from boosters would give certain programs, like Oklahoma State, a chance at competing with the nation's elite.  Do you think it would be fair to programs with smaller, less wealthy fan bases who may not have the capital to "pay" their players?
3.  Do you think players would play with more or less passion if they were receiving benefits from boosters?
4.  Could a change in the rule create resentment among the players, with stars receiving more benefits than lesser known players?
5.  Would fan behavior change if the rule were overturned?  Would there be more gambling, more point shaving scandals, and the like?
6.  Are there any major positive consequences that would come as a result of the rule being changed?
– RA

A: 1. Let the boosters give players anything they want to. Welcome to the free world.
2. As opposed to the current system? The big-time programs might not pay their players, but they’re hardly playing on the same field as the little guys. Georgia’s athletic department made about $25 million. Hawaii’s athletic budget was in the red about $2 million. The big-time programs have night-and-day different facilities from most of the little guys and far bigger, far better perks.
3. Do you work harder when you’re getting paid or when you’re doing something for free? BTW, many players are already getting the extra stuff. It’s just on the down-low.
4. Not any more than there already is.
5. Those are two completely different questions. Fan behavior would change at first, and then after about two years no one would care. Remember, back in the good old days, like the ’50s through the ‘80s, it was an open market. Boosters were out of control and fans didn’t seem to care. On part two, this is where the NCAA has it totally backwards. Most of these kids have no money whatsoever right now and are wide open targets for point shavers, gamblers and agents. Take the NFL draft. Several players leave before they’re ready because the have to try to play for a sick mom, help the family, etc. More players would stay if they were able to get outside coin.
6. Yeah, it would be totally fair. The players would finally get their cut of the billions of dollars they generate.

If Reggie Bush is found to be guilty of any NCAA violations, and USC is place on probation as a result, does Auburn has a legitimate claim to the 2004 national championship? – MM

A: No.

From a Die Hard Texas Tech Fan/Alum.  I am very excited about the upcoming season, but I am sick and tired of the big media not giving Tech its props and basing everything on the system.  Hawaii was loved last year by the media and the college football fan. I know this year will be one of the best years since I was in school 8 years ago.  Just how special will 2008 be for the Red Raiders and how do you seeing them fair against the rest of the Big 12?  Do you expect them in the Big 12 championship or a BCS bowl?  Will the media finally give Tech its props and not call them a system school?  Remember if it is totally the system, why doesn't everyone else do it. – Mark

A: Don’t blame us; we have Tech among the top ten teams in America this season. This is a real, live loaded team on both sides of the ball. Yes, it is a system school, but that’s not the knock you think it is. Are Kliff Kingsbury, B.J. Symons and Sonny Cumbie tearing up the NFL? No, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t great fits for the fantastic system, which, by the way, is basically what New England uses, only with a fullback. This is it. This is the team. If Mike Leach can’t take this year’s Red Raider team to the BCS, he never will.

And finally …

Last week I remarked that West Virginia fans need to just let it go about Rich Rodriguez leaving for West Virginia. The responses were, well, interesting.

Let it go? Let it go?! The guy owes us $4 million dollars and stabbed us in the back? Pay us our money and live up to your contract with YOU signed. He’s a weasel and he’s trying to get out of paying what’s rightly ours. Let me guess, if it was the other way around you’d be screaming the WVU owes him. – SL

You obviously don't know West Virginia and what it means to be a West Virginian. The way Rich left was horrible. He lied to all of us. He called Terrell Pryor and told him he was going to Michigan before he told his own players, his boss and the West Virginia fans. Many of us got together and scraped up a lot of money to keep him here and he said he was here for a long time. He signed a contract. He crapped on us. He turned his back on his own state. He could have been up front with everything. No. He decided to be a lying snake, secure another job, tell recruits and attempt to get them headed to Michigan on WVU's time, before he tells a soul here in West Virginia. The same West Virginia who ponied up and met his demands just a year prior. He cries about the buyout? If he had stayed, the buyout was scheduled to drop to 2 million in August of this year. Well, if he would just pay WVU what it is owed, then that would give me some personal satisfaction, knowing how bad that hurts him to part with that kind of cash. Let him feel that pain. If or when he does, he can multiply that by 10 and then he will know how this state felt when he did what he did to this state, our school, our players and the fans. - CC

You don’t get West Virginia and you obviously never will. It takes something special to live here. It’s a special place. We don't have much here, so the football program means everything. Of course, you’d never get that. You probably wouldn’t understand a tough life. Your a joke and so is your anti-Mountaineer bias.
– FK

You outsiders should just keep your thoughts about West Virginia to yourself. This is a hard place and our football program is our identity and our passion. We don’t have the lifestyle here other places have. So you better show West Virginia some respect or I wouldn’t show my face around here if I were you. And if you do, you’d better look both ways before crossing the street. - Anonymous
You have no idea of the pride of West Virginians and what it means to live in West Virginia. But that isn't what this is about. Unless you're a West Virginian, or you've lived here, you'll never get it anyway.
- KG

First of all, did I say anything about the state of West Virginia? Analyzing the football program and saying something about the place are two completely different things (yes, they are), even though fans like to tie the two together.

Second, don’t give me this line about it being West Virginia and somehow West Virginians have some sort of toughness and honor that no outsider could comprehend. Everyone from every state thinks that way. You’re proud of where you’re from. So are Iowans and New Yorkers and Hawaiians and Californians. The excitement is fine, but you can’t thump your chest with this “you wouldn’t understand it” state pride and then keep complaining that it’s a rough place to live. You can’t have it both ways.

And finally, I’m not saying whether or not Rich Rodriguez is right or wrong or whether he’s a good guy or bad. I’m not defending him and I’m not taking his side. He’s a terrific football coach. Period. That’s all he is. Everything else is just corporate legal BS and it really doesn’t matter in your world, even if you think it does.
This has nothing to do with the money. You can use that as something tangible for your anger, but that’s not why you’re having problems with this.

Rodriguez doesn’t owe you. It’s not your money, and spare me the self-righteous garbage about being a tax payer blah, blah, blah. You’d be dead from a stroke if you really cared this much about every bad government or university contract that eats away at your tax dollars. Even if Rodriguez paid back every cent with a smile, you’d still be upset that one of your own rejected you. If you’re angry at the snipping, that’s another story.

Here was a coach who took what Don Nehlen had started and made it better. I know, Mountaineer football had its moments under Nehlen and had chances to win national titles in 1988 and 1993, but that ’88 team beat one team with a pulse (Syracuse) before losing to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl, and the ’93 team barely got by its four good games before getting blasted by Florida in the Sugar Bowl. No one actually respected West Virginia football since it got rocked every time the bowls kicked in.

Rodriguez changed that.

With the 2006 Sugar Bowl win over Georgia, in Atlanta no less, the Mountaineers joined the world of the truly big-time programs. That wasn’t just any team WVU beat; that was the SEC champ in its own house. Now the program really was a national title contender and wasn’t just in the hunt based on a fat record against mediocre competition. The entire state had something to get really fired up about, and its fan base, who’s not used to the scrutiny that comes with the spotlight (ask me sometime about the time spent trying to keep Marshall fans in check when they thought their team was of national title stock) went crazy at anyone who dared speak in anything other than glowing terms when it came to their pride and joy.

Then Rodriguez, who had the program on the cusp of playing for the national championship before blowing it against Pitt, leaves for Michigan. It’s not like he pulled a Dennis Franchione and left Alabama for Texas A&M, at best a lateral move. Whether or not you believe it, the Michigan job is one of the biggest in all of sports and one of the crown jewels among coaches.

WVU fans, you have to understand that no coach ever, EVER leaves gracefully, and no coach ever, EVER knows how to handle it right. Sure, it would’ve been nice if Rodriguez was up front and honest about everything, but coaches can’t be … to a point. They can’t talk about another job and then be all smiles and happiness when it doesn’t work out (cough, Glen Mason at Minnesota when he wanted the Ohio State job, cough). That kills recruiting and becomes a mega-distraction and a ridiculous circus (cough, Les Miles, cough).

Had LSU not played for the national title, Miles would’ve ended up being the Michigan head football coach, Rodriguez would’ve stayed at West Virginia, and none of this would’ve happened. But it did, you have a new head man, and while the program might not be as good over the long haul, it’ll be fine for now.

Fine, so you wish Rodriguez handled everything better and showed more respect to the University and to West Virginia. Now be the better man, or fans, and take the high road. Instead of getting all hot and bothered, you should be happy Rodriguez made your program matter. You should be happy that West Virginia football is such a big deal. You should be happy at all the fun memories you had when he was the head man. You should realize that this is big business and that your company lost its CEO and replaced him with another good one who should be able to keep the train rolling. You should wish Rodriguez well at Michigan, because for better or worse, he still represents you. You should let it all go and enjoy what should be a fantastic 2008 season.  

Feel better? No? Fine, you may now commence with your usual barrage of grouchy and misguided “CFN hates West Virginia” e-mails.