Monday, September 7, 2009

For Michigan and Rodriguez, winning cures everything

ON FOOTBALL

Throughout Michigan's 31-7 shellacking of Western Michigan Saturday, the ABC cameras panned the Big House and settled on several "In Rod We Trust" signs.

There was an outpouring of support for the coach, who was coming off a disastrous 3-9 season, several legal issues and, most recently, allegations that he and his staff broke NCAA rules about hours allowed to work players.

Rodriguez has had his doubters, and, I'm sure, still has some. But there was nothing but love in the air for the embattled coach Saturday.

I wonder why...

Um, maybe because his players were kicking butt?

If you noticed, ABC didn't show many shots of the supportive signs until, 5 minutes into the rout, the Wolverines scored their first touchdown. From there, Michigan fans had no worries. After a quick second score, the outcome was never in doubt.

Would the sign holders have used their arm muscles to show them off if the Wolverines were losing? Or struggling?

Probably not.

Which brings me to the obvious thesis statement of this column: Winning cures everything.

Even at Michigan.

Anyone who thinks the Wolverines' program is more pure than the Ohio States and Floridas and Miamis of the college-football world is either joking around or nice and naive.

The Wolverines fully adopted the win-at-almost-any-cost philosophy when they put down the large down payment to snag Rodriguez from West Virginia and then paid a large chunk of his buyout from his old school.

So far, each of his four victories has been worth about, oh, $700,000.

His success, and job security, at Michigan will be judged solely on how much that cash-per-victory number decreases.

Yes, there is an ongoing investigation into the claims former and current players made about the amount of time spent practicing during the season and offseason. Maybe something will be discovered, maybe Rodriguez will have to explain himself (in other words, tell the truth).

But if Michigan's winning, if the Wolverines are in the Top 25, if they're back to competing for Big Ten titles, it won't matter. Athletic director Bill Martin is a businessman, and he knows what brings in the big bucks from boosters.

Wins.

He, like the rest of us, knows that Rodriguez can coach. Let me add to that: can coach really well. He's also a zealous recruiter.

So once the W's start rolling in week after week, and once his spread offense resembles what it did at West Virginia, that'll be all we'll hear about from anyone associated with the university.

It'll be all that really matters.

I mean, consider the reactions in and around Ann Arbor after beating a MAC team. If the Wolverines can take down Notre Dame, all this other stuff will be nothing more than flotsam.

All in the past.

And if Michigan beats Ohio State...

Rodriguez is no saint and is, undoubtedly in my mind, guilty of many things. But he's capable of coaching Michigan to large handfuls of victories.

And in today's college-football world, that's all that really matters.

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