Rich Rodriguez’s reputation may take a hit but it shouldn’t


By H. Jose Bosch

The Michigan football team officially began their season but no one really cares about football practice when a recently dismissed player is accused of trying to sell cocaine.

Welcome to the new Michigan football, where the drama isn’t just on the field!

OK, I had my Michigan fan moment.

All of us are just hoping that 2009 will wash off some (not all) of the stink from last season. I don’t think anyone but the biggest homers thinks this will be a nine or 10-win year but there is some hope that 2009 will be better because it really can’t get any worse in Ann Arbor.

Then the Detroit Free Press has to pee in the freshly fallen snow of our optimism by releasing a report about why Justin Feagin was really dismissed from the team. In case you missed it and are too lazy to click a link, Feagin is accused of taking $600 from someone he knew and promising cocaine in return.

Whether he actually knew someone who would ship cocaine or he planned on pocketing the money for himself is unknown and irrelevant. Both scenarios make him a grade-A jerk.

I would never condone illegal activity, but if you’re going to break the law, at least be competent about it. Did Feagin really think that he could be a cocaine middle man without anyone finding out? And even if he never intended to sell cocaine, did he really think that he could take $600 from someone and not be pursued by the guy?

But the actions and stupidity don’t really upset me. Feagin was an insignificant and whether Rodriguez kicked him off the team for allegedly peddling cocaine or for jay-walking, I wouldn’t really lose sleep.

What is upsetting is that an incident like this could hurt Rich Rodriguez’s reputation and undermine what he’s trying to do at Michigan. Rodriguez was painted as the anti-Lloyd Carr, a coach that was willing to win at all cost, even if it meant hurting the integrity of a program. At a school like Michigan, which replaces the concept of gentleman with “Michigan man,” integrity is a major pillar of the institution.

So when a player who was brought in by Rodriguez does something as stupid as this, it hurts Rodriguez, who was already walking on eggshells after a 3-9 season.

upset_rodriguezI don’t think this incident will lead to everyone getting the pitchforks out of the shed and running Rodriguez out of town right away, but each time something goes wrong within the program it’s another line drawn in the sand. And like the old Bugs Bunny cartoons, too many lines and Rodriguez is going to step out over the ledge and plummet off the map.

I will admit that while Rodriguez was at West Virginia, he probably had to take more risks on players than Carr ever did. He was late to the recruiting game when he was hired and probably stretched more than he would normally do at Michigan. But this mistake doesn’t mean there will be many more in the future. Sometimes coaches get it wrong. Souring on Rodriguez quickly could do more damage than good here.

Instead, we must forge ahead and be as optimistic as possible for the year. We can’t un-ring this bell but we shouldn’t let it ruin what will hopefully be a fun season.