Rodriguez anxious to move on after rough stretch

July, 24, 2008
7/24/08
4:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 AP Photo/Reinhold Matay
 With the high-profile West Virginia lawsuit behind him, Rich Rodriguez wants to focus on the future.

CHICAGO -- The last seven months might not have changed Rich Rodriguez, but they took a toll on the new Michigan coach.

"After a while, it was like, just stand in line, they're going to throw some darts our way," Rodriguez said Thursday at Big Ten media days.

Most of the damage stemmed from the lawsuit between Rodriguez and his former employer, West Virginia, which was settled earlier this month. The drawn-out dispute involved athletic directors, school presidents, coaches, agents, lawyers and even a governor before Rodriguez agreed to pay a $4 million buyout to West Virginia.

There were also unflattering comments from former Wolverines offensive lineman Justin Boren, who, before transferring to rival Ohio State, said the program's family values had eroded. Purdue coach Joe Tiller also called Rodriguez "a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil" after losing a recruit to the Wolverines.

Rodriguez was asked if his image needed some repair after all the bad PR.

"I've not changed who I am, I never have," he said. "It just seemed what was portrayed was changed. That was probably the most disappointing part about it. I mean, what have I done wrong, image-wise? Did I cause anybody to leave? Everyone wants to talk about the guy that leaves. What about the 99 that stayed?

"It's disappointing in that regard. I still have my health, still have my family and I'm in a great place. If the reputation's been damaged, that is upsetting because I've just changed jobs."

Rodriguez can improve his image with a strong season this fall. A self-proclaimed "realist," he didn't minimize the difficulties Michigan will face, particularly on offense. Though he confirmed the offseason progress players have made under new strength coach Mike Barwis, training camp will bring a new set of challenges.

Settling the lawsuit before the season became a priority for Rodriguez, who wants to focus on the future but spent most of Thursday recapping the last seven months. The public nature of the West Virginia dispute made the coach "afraid to open up a paper," but Boren's comments rankled him the most.

"That was the one that really upset me the most because that's the one we take the most pride in," Rodriguez said. "Any player that's ever played for us, in my 15 years as a head coach, will tell you just the opposite. And we think there's nobody that's going to have a closer, family-type unit than our football program."

Rodriguez was able to show his sense of humor regarding Tiller's comment, saying, "I can't wait to see Joe because I've been working all summer on my new snake-oil concoction."

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