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Saturday, August 11, 2012

SUMMER READING: 'Three And Out' -- Redemption for fans who liked Rich Rodriguez

I always felt sort of bad for Rich Rodriguez in his time at Michigan. That's probably why I picked this book off the shelf in the first place. And for anyone else that felt, the same, "Three And Out," the aptly named documentation of every flub in Rich Rod's tenure at Michigan, is a likely page-turner.
Admittedly, this book was released in the middle of Brady Hoke's first season at the helm of the Wolverines, when many had already forgotten about the three "lost" years delivered by his predecessor.
And yes. The book, more than 400 pages, addresses the "You Raise Me Up" moment at the season-ending Bust.
There's no guarantee that Rich Rod haters would even pick up this book. But if you consider that this is the ultimate manual for Rich Rod sympathizers, it's not likely that faction would bother.
"Three and Out," which has the very long subtitle: "Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football," labors over every instance of Rodriguez's seeming unprofessional demeanor and buffoonery. Every single reason Rodriguez is no longer the coach at Michigan is well documented. Here are some reasons given to support Rich Rod:
  • Bo Schembechler held the Michigan program together until his death on the eve of the "The Game" in 2006, pitting No. 1 vs. No. 2. Had Bo been around, while there's a good probability Rodriguez would have never become Michigan's coach, but if he had assumed the post, there never would have been the same in-fighting and dissonance among "Michigan Men." 
  • Former Michigan AD Bill Martin botched the coaching search following Lloyd Carr's well-known impending retirement. He and Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman also screwed Rodriguez publicly by instructing him not to address his $4 million buyout from West Virginia.
  • West Virginia, another well-established, football crazy community, ran the mother of all smear campaigns on Rodriguez. 
  • Rich Rod was slow to learn Michigan tradition, but didn't really have anyone (Martin) helping him learn. 
  • Rich Rodriguez was great when speaking to his team, but not a polished public speaker by any means. Ultimately, this would be his biggest deficiency. The book paints the Josh Groban incident as the overwhelming straw that broke David Brandon's back.
  • The book portrays the Detroit Free Press as if it were out to get Rodriguez from Day 1 (think practice scandal that the book explains piece by piece, person by person). That may be true, but the book maintains that fact as Gospel. (The author also points out Rodriguez nearly exhausted his life savings defending himself from the NCAA's subsequent investigation.)
  • Rich Rodriguez was as frustrated by his team's defense, or lack thereof, as was everyone else.
All the subplots are there, too. Lloyd Carr didn't recruit well late in his time at the helm, then helped his best former players transfer and never took a stand to help Rodriguez as he struggled through choppy waters. Rodriguez's well-publicized struggle to become a "Michigan Man" is belabored in the book, as it was in Rodriguez's real life.
But like many fans, I was intrigued by the long-supressed season-ending banquet where Rodriguez apparently sealed his fate. As expected, it doesn't come until the end of the book and consumes nearly as many pages as Brandon's prolonged firing of Rodriguez and subsequent coaching search.
Easily forgotten about the Bust was that Rodriguez began his closing speech very well with a brutally honest assessment of his program which had the audience seemingly in Rich Rod's hands. Then he began reciting Groban's lyrics. Then the music came on. Several people began holding hands, singing in chorus with Rodriguez. Except new Athletic Director Dave Brandon.
"It might have been the longest four minutes in the 94-year history of the Bust," author John U. Bacon writes."I'm Rich Rodriguez and I'm proud to be coach at the University of Michigan. And I hope you realize I truly want to be a Michigan Man."
Fox Sports apparently offered $50,000 and another outlet $100,000 for footage of the event, which Brandon reportedly ordered destroyed on site. It's not difficult to find many things on the Internet, but this is one thing I've truly never been able to find. 
This book, while very well written by Bacon, who has also written about Schembechler, it has a shelf life. I waited nearly a year for various reasons, mostly that I'm not an avid book reader. As time goes on and Brady Hoke fills the potholes that exploded under Rodriguez's regime, it's likely this book will find it's way to discount bins. Not great for the publisher, but certainly a welcome sight for Michigan football fans, who, according to this book, never really left Rodriguez's side.
There are so many "what if" moments revisited from Rodriguez's tenure. "Three and Out" could have been titled "Rich Rodriguez Never Had a Chance at Michigan."


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