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Rodriguez waiting in booth, watching sidelines

By Jack Bogaczyk

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Rich Rodriguez is coming to a football stadium near you!

He's hoping to occupy a major college head coach's office somewhere in December, too.

Rodriguez, no stranger in these parts, is spending what he hopes is a single-year's sabbatical from the sidelines working for CBS Sports Network as a college football studio and game analyst.

"It's great and it's fun, but coaching, yes, I do miss it," Rodriguez - his West Virginia twang intact - said by phone Monday from Michigan, where he still lives when he and his family aren't at their other home in Naples, Fla.

Fired in January after three seasons at Michigan, where he moved after seven years and 60 wins at West Virginia, Rodriguez worked his first telecast game last Saturday in Houston, Rice's victory over Purdue.

Next week, he'll head to Huntington for Virginia Tech's visit to Marshall on Sept. 24. He has a schedule of Conference USA and Mountain West dates - including a couple of TCU games - on CBSSN this season.

Reminded of his previous trip to Edwards Stadium, as a villain WVU coach in 2007, I asked whether he expected a warmer reception this time. Rodriguez laughed and said, "Gosh, I'd hope so. I'll be there a couple days early to talk with Doc (Holliday) and his staff. Do you think I can kind of sneak in?"

Not much chance of that ... and he knows it. Rodriguez, 48, is spending his first football season out of coaching since 1984 - when he was a Mountaineer defensive back.

"It's different," said Rodriguez, who went 15-22 at Michigan and endured NCAA sanctions in his program after leaving his home state school in a fashion that riled a populace. "I'm doing a lot more traveling now, a lot of airports, getting those frequent flyer miles.

"The network's been great, and it's an opportunity for a second career. They know I still want to coach, but they were interested and I decided to do it ... but I'm still hoping that an opportunity for me will open in December when schools start looking around."

Rodriguez said his desire to return to the sideline is a reason his family stayed in Michigan for this school year, "because we might be moving again in another three months."

He said he will not take just any coaching job to add to his 120-84-2 record.

Asked if he might be willing to get back in as an assistant coach or coordinator, Rodriguez said, "I've thought about it a little bit, but not a lot. I think I could be a really good assistant, but I'd only do that if I thought it was a great situation.

"I'm hoping there's an opportunity for a fit as a head coach. I've been a head coach (18 seasons, at Salem, Glenville State, WVU and Michigan) and I think I've shown what I can do, and I think a lot of the right people know that.

"You never know. I always told young assistants to treat every job like it's your last because it might be the last one you ever have. I'd like to think there's another one there for me. I'd like to coach, if I can, another 10, 12, maybe 15 years, if it works out."

Rodriguez flies to New York every week now for the network's "Inside College Football" studio show, which airs first on Tuesdays (8-10 p.m.). He said he really enjoys preparation for a game telecast, in particular, talking to coaches and watching tape and admitting, "You're watching both teams instead of one (an opponent), but it's a whole lot less intense than when you're coaching."

Last spring, Rodriguez did something few in his career-long business would do. In a CBSSports.com column penned by Gregg Doyel, the erstwhile coach admitted - after being dumped by Michigan - that he was wrong in leaving WVU in December 2007.

He told Doyel:

"But you know, hindsight is always easier to look back and say, 'It was a mistake.' Because we did have a good thing going at West Virginia, and we really enjoyed it. As you look back at it, it wasn't the best move. Easy to say now."

Really, a coach admitting something like that is as rare as a bloody steak. Maybe there's a page on candor in that zone spread offensive playbook.

"I have gotten some comments about that," Rodriguez said of his remarks. "I said it because that's what I felt. I think most people would look at what happened and say, 'Gee, you think so?' or 'I guarantee you it was a mistake.' And I don't blame them for thinking that at all.

"Now that I've had more time to reflect, I think, it's not just in coaching, it's anybody who gets wrapped up in a job, whether it's happened a year before or 10 years before. You can say it turned out to be a mistake, but there was a real opportunity there (at Michigan) and I met people I wouldn't have met and learned some things I'd have never known.

"It wasn't all negative, not at all."

Rodriguez coached one of the game's storied programs, and it ended abruptly with a 6-18 Big Ten record, and only 11-11 at the "Big House" he could never really make into a home.

He was paid a $2.5 million buyout of the final three years of his six-year deal, a number that dropped from $4 million on the New Year's Day that Mississippi State throttled the Wolverines 52-14 in RichRod's Gator Bowl finale.

His ultimate frustration, Rodriguez said, was not getting to finish the job with "a fourth and fifth year, where we could maybe win 10 or 11 games. Even after what we went through, I still thought we could have fun at the end, maybe win 11 or 12 (games) and win a championship."

He never got that chance, and Rodriguez seemed particularly wistful about another glorious moment in Wolverine history that occurred last Saturday.

It was the first night game in Michigan Stadium history, before a record crowd of 114,804, as UM rallied in the final seconds to beat Notre Dame behind the spectacular quarterback, Denard Robinson.

"We'd have 110,000 every game," Rodriguez said. "Even the tough years, we had big crowds. Not long after I got there, I talked to people about how there should be a night game at the Big House.

"No one was really receptive early, but then we started talking and we finally got it scheduled for this year, and then we weren't there anymore ... but some things that happened at Michigan were really terrific."

He said he followed the "whole drama" involving his former WVU assistant, Bill Stewart, and the Mountaineers' abrupt coaching change in June.

"I don't know a whole lot more than I read," Rodriguez said, "but since I wasn't coaching, I had more time to read up on it than I normally would. As for a lot of the details of what went on with everyone involved, I don't know."

Nor does he seem to care to know. What he wants is to get back on a sideline somewhere.

Rodriguez probably has a pretty good chance at his wish. Since he left WVU, in four seasons, among the 120 major college programs there have been 87 head coaching changes. Shoot, Ohio State and North Carolina have interim coaches right now.

Maybe he wasn't a Michigan Man, but he knows that headset will still fit somewhere.

"I hope," he said, "there's at least another opportunity somewhere."

Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at jackb@dailymail.com or 304-348-7949.


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