From the end, Rich Rodriguez was always going to coach again. When Michigan fired him in January, he was too young, too competitive and too good of a coach to be sidelined away from the sidelines for long.
So less than a year after he was fired, less than a year after he took a gig commentating on the sport he’d rather be coaching, Rodriguez is back in college football.
With Arizona hiring the former Michigan coach Monday night, it offers two things. For Rodriguez, it is a fresh start and a second chance. For Michigan, it is closure.
The Rodriguez story at Michigan was never going to end fully until he was hired for another job. There was always going to be the cloud of whether he was treated fairly in the final months of his job and whether he ever really had a chance to succeed at Michigan.
Since his January firing, Michigan had moved on, hiring Brady Hoke. The Wolverines, with mostly players recruited by Rodriguez, are 9-2 and a possible candidate for an at-large berth in the BCS. They also look to be in the process of reclaiming their spot among the Big Ten’s elite.
Now Rodriguez has a chance to do the same with his career. He might not have the recruiting ties to the West Coast or the knowledge of the Pac-12 others might, but he will be a good hire for Arizona.
He’s a name. He’s a guy who has won big in the BCS before at West Virginia. And the spread-it-out, zone-read option offense he runs will fit in well in the wide-open conference.
Even when Rodriguez was at Michigan, his teams made slow improvement offensively each season. Had he received a fourth year in Ann Arbor and made defensive staff changes, no one knows exactly what he could have done. He would have had an experienced offense and a quarterback in Denard Robinson who is electrifying in his offense.
Once Rodriguez installs his system and has a quarterback even marginally capable of running what he wants, offense will not be a problem. Wouldn’t be a shock if Arizona, within a couple of years, ends up as one of the top offensive teams in the country.
But defense, among other things, failed Rodriguez at Michigan. And that lack of a defense cost Michigan games and eventually cost Rodriguez his job.
One of the things he hopefully learned from his three years at Michigan is the importance of either hiring a defensive coordinator who can run the 3-3-5 defensive style he prefers or entrusting the defense to a capable coordinator.
As far as fits go -- which was something he was always criticized for and questioned about at Michigan -- this doesn’t come much better.
At Arizona, he has to do only one thing: Win.