Big Ten: West Virginia Mountaineers

Has something seemed odd to you about the BCS bowls this year? Does it seem like ... oh wait, West Virginia just scored again.

Does it seem like ... wait, there goes De'Anthony Thomas. Don't think he'll get caught from behind.

Does it seem like ... wait, would somebody please tackle Justin Blackmon?

Does it seem like there have been a lot of points this bowl season?

It's not just you. There have been a lot of points. More points than ever before. And by huge quantities.

So far, BCS bowl teams have averaged a total of 77 points in the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar bowls. That, folks, is nearly 26 points more than last year (51.6). And it's nearly 11 points better than the previous high of 66.3 from 2001-02.

Perhaps pairing two SEC teams in the title game has created a black hole sucking all defensive stinginess into the LSU-Alabama rematch, which you might recall went 9-6 with no touchdowns in their first meeting. West Virginia scored 10 touchdowns -- 10! -- against Clemson. Alabama gave up 12 TDs all season.

Speaking of Clemson: ACC. Well, well, well.

After the Tigers ingloriously fell 70-33 to the Mountaineers, we got our second story from the BCS bowl season: The ACC's insistence on throwing up on itself in BCS bowl games.

The conference that was once expected to challenge the SEC is now 2-13 in BCS bowl games. That's hard to do. You'd think in 15 BCS bowls the conference could get lucky at least five or six times. But no, it insists on making ACC blogger Heather Dinich, a genuinely nice person, into some sort of Grim Reaper every bowl season.

Heck, the Big East has won seven BCS bowls -- second fewest among AQ conferences -- but it's 7-7.

Of course, this all ties together, and we're here to bring out a bow, but first a warning: If you don't want to read about how good the SEC is for the 56,314th time this year, then stop reading. I'd recommend an episode of "South Park" or perhaps a John le Carré thriller as an alternative for passing the time.

We can all agree the SEC plays great defense right? Alabama and LSU will play for the title Monday with the nation's top-two defenses. Do you think perhaps that it's not a coincidence that the conference that is 16-7 in BCS bowl games plays great defense?

The only other AQ conference with a winning record in BCS bowl games is the Pac-12, which is 11-7. The Pac-12 isn't known for defense, either, but USC was when it won the conference's last national title in 2004.

The only team to win a BCS national title without an elite defense was Auburn in 2010, but the Tigers' defense seemed to find itself late in the season. Since 1999, eight national champions had a top-10 defense. Other than Auburn, the lowest-rated defense to win a BCS national title was Ohio State in 2002. It ranked 23rd in the nation in total defense.

Three of the four BCS bowl games have been thrillers. Two went to overtime. We've seen big plays all over the field in the passing game and running game. Yet, if things go according to script in the title game, we'll see none of that. We might not see more than a couple of plays that go for more than 20 yards. We might not see any.

Some might call that boring. It might seem that both offenses are so paranoid of making a mistake that they are stuck in mud, both in game plan and execution.

But, snoozefest or not, when the clock strikes zero a team from the SEC will hoist the crystal football for a sixth consecutive time.

That might say something about playing better defense.
Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez and athletic director Dave Brandon both released statements this afternoon following West Virginia's announcement that it had received a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA.

The NCAA is looking into potential major rule violations at the end of Rodriguez's tenure at West Virginia -- and the first two years under his successor, Bill Stewart -- that mirror the alleged violations against Rodriguez's program at Michigan.

In their own words ...

Rich Rodriguez: "I have always taken compliance seriously and have sincerely felt our program was very open and transparent. I regret any mistakes that were made or rules that were misinterpreted. Any errors certainly weren’t made intentionally. I openly discussed my past practices with NCAA investigators and will continue to cooperate fully during this process. I have redoubled efforts with my staff and our compliance team to improve several processes, strengthen communications, and work to ensure these mistakes won’t happen in the future. We have a tremendous program and an exceptional group of student-athletes, and I look forward to an exciting and successful football season."

Dave Brandon: "We’re not part of the inquiry at WVU and we have limited access to the information pertaining to this investigation. We’re certainly paying close attention to the situation, but we all need to let the process -- and the facts -- unfold before we draw any conclusions. I’m not going to speculate about any aspect of the outcome. I've already said Rich is our coach this fall and WVU’s announcement does not change that fact. Our focus is on our program and the start of the football season.

So regardless of Rodriguez's troubles with the NCAA, he will be on the sideline, as expected, on Sept. 4 when Michigan opens the season against Connecticut. As I've said all along, this situation isn't good for Rodriguez, but his ultimate fate will be decided with wins and losses.

He needs to win this fall to be Michigan's coach in 2011. We all know that. There's just a little more urgency now.
Stop me if you've seen this before.

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez just wants to start coaching football again, but his name continues to be in the news for the wrong reasons.

Rodriguez's former employer, West Virginia, announced today that it has received a notice of allegations from the NCAA detailing five potential major rule violations from 2005-09. The time period includes Rodriguez's final three seasons at West Virginia and the first two under current coach Bill Stewart.

You can check out the allegations, but trust me, it'll sound familiar.
  • Improper involvement by "non-coaching staff members" -- grad assistants, quality control assistants, student managers -- in activities with players during the spring and summer.
  • Improper involvement by non-coaching staff members in video review with players during the season, and meetings with the coaching staff that they weren't allowed to attend.
  • Improper advice on techniques and plays provided by non-coaching staff to players from 2007-10.

Most important, the NCAA alleges that Rodriguez "failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the football program and failed to adequately monitor the duties and activities of the graduate assistant coaches and the noncoaching sport-specific staff members." That's exactly what the NCAA wrote in its notice of allegations to Michigan in February.

So this is basically the same situation as Rodriguez is facing at Michigan (Rodriguez, by the way, will appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions on Aug. 13-14 in Seattle). The only big difference is that Stewart also is alleged to have failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.

Here's more on the situation from my colleague Brian Bennett.

Remember what Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon said in May, when Michigan responded to the NCAA's allegations and strongly defended Rodriguez?

"Rich has a history of following the rules."



The NCAA seems to be disputing that history. It's hard to imagine the NCAA investigating West Virginia if things hadn't first surfaced at Michigan.

Like I've said from the beginning, these allegations aren't in the same league as paying players, academic fraud or certainly the recent problems involving agents and players. Michigan shouldn't be punished like USC.

But if the NCAA sees a pattern of non-compliant behavior under Rodriguez, it could come down hard on the Maize and Blue.
The NCAA is looking into potential rules violations committed by West Virginia's football program under former head coach Rich Rodriguez, colleague Mark Schlabach is reporting.

Although WVU officials didn't specify the nature of the potential violations by the program, a source tells Schlabach that Rodriguez is at the center of the NCAA's examination. Rodriguez's current team, Michigan, is facing five allegations of rules violations from the NCAA relating to the amount of time players spend on football-related activities. Rodriguez and other Michigan officials are scheduled to appear before the NCAA's Committee on Infractions in August.

Rodriguez is scheduled to meet with reporters today at 2:45 p.m. ET to discuss spring ball. Obviously, we'll have more to come on this situation as it develops.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


In light of the allegations of NCAA time-limit violations at Michigan under head coach Rich Rodriguez, West Virginia reviewed its own compliance records for football when Rodriguez served as coach from 2001-07.

West Virginia found no wrongdoing or any complaints from players about Rodriguez or his assistants exceeding time limits on practices or offseason workouts.
"I worked with the previous compliance people and the [current] staff and I went through all the records," West Virginia assistant athletic director for compliance Patrick Hairston told the Charleston Daily Mail. "Nothing has been identified as a problem from the time [Rodriguez] was here. ... It's closely monitored. Any student-athlete that has issues with it are encouraged to come to us and from what I'm hearing about what was done in the past, there were no complaints."
A former Mountaineers player under Rodriguez told the Daily Mail that the compliance office frequently checked to see if time limits were being enforced.
"Compliance was always around," the player told the newspaper. "You couldn't do it even if you wanted to. There wasn't any rule-breaking going on because you couldn't do any of that with compliance around like they were."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In a move that will delight the Mid-American Conference and could draw mixed reviews from Spartan Nation, Michigan State has reached a long-term scheduling agreement with the three MAC schools located within state lines -- Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Eastern Michigan. 

Billed as the Celebrate the State Football Series, Michigan State will play 12 games against the directional Michigan schools during the next 10 years.

The agreement includes road contests against each MAC team, beginning in 2012 with a trip to Central Michigan. The Spartans have never visited Central Michigan or Western Michigan and last played a MAC team on the road in 1899. 

"I'm not sure if there's another school in the country or another conference in the country taking this approach," Western Michigan athletic director Kathy Beauregard said.

There are obvious financial gains for the MAC schools in this deal, and while Michigan State could draw some criticism, the Spartans aren't shying away from the big boys. Michigan State will continue its series with Notre Dame and play both Alabama and West Virginia in the coming years.  

There will be some heat for playing the MAC, but almost every Big Ten school does it and both Central Michigan and Western Michigan are respectable programs, while Eastern Michigan is starting fresh under coach Ron English. 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez stood his ground Monday when asked about former player Justin Feagin, who was dismissed from the team last month following his role in a failed cocaine deal.

Feagin told University of Michigan police that he used to sell drugs in his home state of Florida and had been arrested for battery and trespassing. According to Rodriguez, Feagin's checkered past didn't surface during the recruiting process.

"Trust me, no coach in America is going to want to take a guy that has baggage or that they think is a bad guy," Rodriguez said. "We certainly won't. But everything in the recruiting process [with Feagin] that we had heard was all positive and our dealings here was there was no negatives until that recent thing. And once we heard that, it was immediate dismissal."

Rodriguez dismissed Feagin hours after the player met with police and later consulted Feagin's mother and his assistant coaches about any potential red flags they missed.

"Sometimes there's mistakes made and if it's an avoidable mistake then we have to look and say what did we miss?" Rodriguez said. "And sure, you do that. And that's the first thing that happened. As soon as we found out this situation, you boot him off the team, then you call the coaches in and say, what did we miss? You call the mother up and say, 'Hello, Mrs. Feagin, what did we miss?'"

Rodriguez is fighting the perception that he recruits questionable characters.

Several of his former West Virginia players got into legal trouble, though many programs deal with similar issues. But the coach maintains he does his due diligence during the recruiting process.

"You know, there are some guys you recruited and they never would have given any hint of ever getting into trouble or being poor academically," Rodriguez said. "And all of a sudden they go to college and they make mistakes and you have to adjust accordingly."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- The Big Ten's sagging national reputation isn't lost on the league's coaches, who have had internal discussions about the need to pick things up across the board.

It's obvious where the Big Ten must make the biggest jump -- in late December and January. The league's recent bowl performances, particularly in the Rose Bowl and other BCS games, have fueled the negative perception more than any other factor.

"All it takes is one or two wins in a bowl game and that will go away," Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez said.

The Big Ten's lengthy layoff before bowl season has been a hot topic in recent years, and though the league has no plans to add a 12th team and play a championship game in early December, some teams are finding ways to extend their seasons. Many Big Ten coaches seem to like the idea.

Illinois will wrap-up regular-season play Dec. 5 against Fresno State, while Wisconsin likely will play the final regular-season game of the 2009 season Dec. 5 at Hawaii.

"It's a great opportunity for our guys to prolong the season," Illinois coach Ron Zook said. "To me, that's one way we feel we can help ourselves. I thought it was important to have some open dates and some rest." 

Illinois and Wisconsin are the only two Big Ten teams with bye weeks this fall, as the league plays its final season without open dates. Starting in 2010, the regular season will end after Thanksgiving, bridging the gap between the bowls by a week. 

Rodriguez had a shorter bowl prep during his time at West Virginia and hopes the Big Ten will follow suit. Michigan and Ohio State play their traditional pre-Thanksgiving game Nov. 21, but that will change in future years.

"Having six weeks as opposed to four weeks before you play another game does make a [negative] difference," Rodriguez said. "There's a difference in execution and rhythm and just playing the game. ... So I think it will help."  

Big Ten mailbag

June, 2, 2009
6/02/09
5:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Craig from Northville, Mich., writes: Adam, A quick note about minority hiring (which, please note, your premise, as a whole, is sound and well written.) Coach Rod does not consider himself Hispanic. His paternal grandfather was born in Spain and immigrated to West Virginia. It was all in John U. Bacon's article in Michigan Today back in November. In as much as this is the case, while Coach Rod may fit the definition of a minority coach, he does not self-identify as Hispanic, which I think is an important distinction. Keep up the great work.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Craig. There has been some debate about Rich Rodriguez's ethnic background. The Black Coaches and Administrators doesn't consider him a minority, and like you said, he doesn't identify himself as Hispanic. But his boss definitely considers him a minority coach. How do I know? When I asked Michigan athletic director Bill Martin about the lack of minority coaches in the Big Ten last month, he specifically pointed out that Rodriguez qualifies because he's Hispanic. So if Martin considers Rodriguez as Hispanic, it's good enough for me. The general point of my post wasn't about Rodriguez as much as that the Big Ten doesn't have many minority coaches in key positions. Though the number is steadily increasing, it would be nice to see more of these men in important roles.


Adam from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, love your blog and congrats again on the wedding! Going back to the whole Notre Dame/Big 10 expansion issue; what would be UND's stance to joining the Big 10 if the BCS did indeed disband [through congressional ruling]? They might not have guaranteed clauses in bowl contracts for getting a bid anymore. What do you think? (Would this spur Army/Navy to join conferences too?)

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Adam. First off, it would be hard to envision any playoff/bowl system without some pretty solid guarantees for Notre Dame to appear in those games. Like it or not, Notre Dame has an enormous fan base that is willing to travel and spend money, and those things always go a long way in college football. The new rules for Notre Dame would need to be pretty restrictive for the school to cave and join a league. It probably would also take the termination of the NBC television contract for Notre Dame to look elsewhere. Here's a good breakdown of why it doesn't make sense for Notre Dame to join any league right now.

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Big Ten lunch links

May, 15, 2009
5/15/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

For most people, Friday's just the day before the weekend. But after this Friday, the neighborhood'll never be the same.  

"It hurts our recruiting," Paterno said. "In addition to that, our teams are losing their edge competitively. I think we're hurting ourselves. There's a perception the Big Ten isn't as good a conference as it was, or isn't as good as some of the other conferences, because we don't do as well in bowl games. What do you expect when you start out with one hand tied behind your back? It's not fair to the kids."
"The folks in West Virginia are still pissed at me," he said. "I've said many times I'd have been better off killing a family of five with an ax. Right now, it's kind of hard."
  • Three former Michigan State players have completed a 2,000-mile bike ride to raise money for an orphanage in Mexico, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Don't worry, you'll still get your regular Friday mailbag. But the response to this week's news -- or non-news -- about Big Ten expansion has predictably sparked tons of debate.

Here are a few of the many suggestions and proposals I've received, as well as my quick take on each one. Be sure to check Friday's blog for my proposed addition to the league.

Adam from Pittsburgh writes: You're great Adam (echo)! I read the blog daily! Ok, I could see conference realigning like this: -Big Ten takes Iowa State (UI/ISU rivalry) -Big 12 takes TCU (they've earned it as of lately) -Pacific 10 takes Utah and Boise State (that would be a nice conference) Now 5 of the big 6 conferences would have championship games. I could see a Big Ten East as Penn State, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue. Big Ten West could be Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Iowa State. Any thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Adam. It's important that the 12th team has established rivals in the league, and Iowa State certainly would have one with Iowa. In my view, a Big 12 North school would make more sense than a Big East school because of the geographical similarities. Iowa State fans and Missouri fans have more in common with Big Ten fans than those of Syracuse or Rutgers. The Big 12 also would have an easier time filling a vacancy because of the strength of the Mountain West. TCU certainly could compete in the Big 12, as could a team like Utah. 


Todd from Toledo writes: Hi Adam. I'm a faithful reader and I wanted to ask if anyone had talked about Cincinatti in terms of expanding the conference. The football team is definatly on an upswing with Brian Kelly and the basketball team has some tradition of excellence. I'm sure they are not the academic powerhouse that Delany says he is looking for, but with their recent BCS bowl trip last year they could make an impact. Cincinatti might not have the fan base, they do have the location. I just think the Bearcats are a tough, gritty team and could make an impact with Brian Kelly as their coach. I'm not saying they would beat my beloved Buckeyes, but they could finish fourth, perhaps third. Are you buying or am I nuts?

Adam Rittenberg: Cincinnati has been brought up by several e-mailers, Todd. I agree with you, though, on the academics argument. Not sure UC is what Delany and the school presidents see as an ideal fit. From an athletics perspective, Cincinnati would be a good addition. The basketball team has been a national power in the past, and the football program is definitely on the upswing under Brian Kelly. It's certainly a school to consider, but I'm not sure it's an ideal fit.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Before getting to the Green-White game, there was some exciting scheduling news Monday for Michigan State fans.

The school agreed to home-and-home series with both West Virginia (2014-15) and Alabama (2016-17) and extended its contract with longtime rival Notre Dame through the 2025 season. Kudos to athletic director Mark Hollis for making the type of moves most ADs avoid at all costs (pun intended), and giving his fan base some exciting games down the line. Notre Dame no longer provides a guaranteed marquee matchup for Michigan State, so adding these other teams ensures the Spartans will be tested almost every year.

Now back to Saturday's spring game ...

Michigan State's coaches talked all spring about how the competition between sophomore quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol was too close to call. They also expressed no panic or anxiety about having no clear-cut starter right now or for the immediate future.

The spring game showed why, as both Cousins and Nichol threw the ball brilliantly. Nichol and the White team prevailed 38-37 as safety Danny Fortener sealed the win by knocking down a Cousins pass on a two-point conversion attempt.

Both Cousins and Nichol threw for exactly 357 yards and four touchdowns, capitalizing on an improved group of wide receivers/tight ends and a banged-up secondary. Nichol showed impressive mobility and completed 20 of 28 passes, while Cousins maintained his efficiency in the pocket and completed 29 of 43 pass attempts.

"I think you saw why we look at our quarterbacks and say it's too close to call," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "Both guys responded when they were down and made big plays. And both guys had receivers make catches with guys draped all over them."

Nichol threw touchdowns to four different receivers, while Cousins twice found tight end Charlie Gantt for scores.

Other items from the Green-White game:

  • Whoever wins the quarterback competition will have plenty of capable targets this fall. Senior wide receiver Blair White recorded a game-high six receptions for 89 yards, and fellow wideouts Keshawn Martin, Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham also performed well. The tight ends will be spotlighted this season as Gantt hauled in two touchdown receptions and Clemson transfer Brian Linthicum led the White squad with six receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown.
  • It was a disappointing day for the four running backs vying to replace All-American Javon Ringer. Sophomore Andre Anderson had a game-high 30 rush yards on nine carries, while sophomore Ashton Leggett, who created some separation earlier this spring, finished with just seven yards and a touchdown on eight carries. The competition remains wide open here, and incoming freshmen Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will be in the mix this summer.
  • Playing without four injured defensive backs, the Spartans' defense had a very disappointing day. Linebackers Greg Jones (10 tackles, 2.5 TFLs) and Eric Gordon (11 tackles, 1 TFL) led their respective teams.
  • Penalties were a problem for the Spartans, who got flagged 12 times for 117 yards in the scrimmage.

Big Ten Friday mailbag

April, 17, 2009
4/17/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Nice, quiet week in the Big Ten, especially in Ann Arbor. Don't you agree?

Vince in Salt Lake City writes: Terrelle Pryor said that the offensive scheme calls for him running less in 2009. Troy Smith ran his least in his senior year (Heisman season). Do you believe Jim Tressel is trying to speed up the process with Pryor and try to make him into a more complete QB faster? Also, do you believe the Columbus Blue Jackets should have Tressel give a pre-game speech against the Detroit Red Wings next week (with his successful record against Michigan)?

Adam Rittenberg: Totally agree, Vince. The run will always be a part of Pryor's game, but if he can become more consistent on short and intermediate throws, Ohio State will be a much more effective offense. I don't think he'll ever be great on the deep ball, but if he can make the high-percentage throws, Ohio State should be fine. And the Buckeyes really need to limit the hits Pryor takes as much as possible.

Here's what offensive quality control coach Nick Siciliano had to say about it Thursday.

"I'm not saying he's Troy [Smith], but if you watch Troy's progression throughout the course of time, how much he ran the ball in '04, in '05 he ran a little less, in '06 the ball is coming out like that," Siciliano said. "So you've just got to give him some time."

Not sure Tressel talking to a hockey team would work. Most of those guys are Canadian or European and didn't grow up as die-hard Buckeyes fans.


John from Here and There writes: Adam, Despite all of the aspersions and criticisms launched against him during his tenure, Lloyd Carr was as self-effacing and classy as any coach in the game. He won conference titles, a national championship and produced many successful pro athletes. He was one win away from the National title game in 2006 ... *sigh* I really miss him and the old staff right now. I agree with you, this whole Paulus nonsense reeks of desperation and proves the current staff has very little regard for what the University of Michigan truly represents. I hope this move doesn't start a trend of more risky behavior and poor decision making.

Adam Rittenberg: Like I posted earlier, I'm a bit torn on the whole Greg Paulus situation. But you're absolutely right about Lloyd Carr. No way this happens under his watch. Rich Rodriguez did something similar at West Virginia with J.R. House, a standout high school football player who played minor league baseball before joining the Mountaineers. That didn't work out too well. There might not be much risk at all to adding Paulus, but you don't like the message it sends to Tate Forcier, who worked his butt off this spring learning the system. Let's wait and see what happens with Paulus, but that could be a pretty tense quarterback room this summer.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After making history for all the wrong reasons last fall at Michigan, Rich Rodriguez enters spring practice with history back on his side.

As Michigan returns to the practice field Saturday, Rodriguez can fall back on a track record of producing better offenses in Year 2 than Year 1 during his various coaching stops.

 
  James Lang/US PRESSWIRE
  Rich Rodriguez hopes a year of experience in his system pays off for Michigan in 2009.
  • Tulane went 7-4 in Rodriguez's first year as offensive coordinator (1997) but surged the next fall, going 12-0 behind a dynamic offense. The Green Wave was the only FBS team to average more than 300 passing yards and 200 rushing yards. They finished second nationally in scoring (45.4 ppg) and fourth in total offense (507.1 ypg).
  • Clemson went from 6-6 to 9-3 in Rodriguez's second season as offensive coordinator (2000), and the offense improved from 36th in total offense and 44th in rushing to 10th nationally in both categories.
  • After West Virginia went 3-8 in Rodriguez's first season as head coach, the Mountaineers rallied in 2002, going 9-4. The offense improved from 80th nationally in total yards and 89th in scoring to 18th in total yards and 33rd in scoring.

Could Michigan make a similar jump in Rodriguez's second season?

"We hope," Rodriguez said, "but there's a lot of things that have to go right."

Almost nothing went right for the Wolverines and their head coach last fall.

There's no need to rehash the entire list of lows, but Rodriguez's offense finished 109th nationally in yards (290.8 ypg) and 99th in scoring (20.3 ppg). Playing with mostly novices struggling to adapt to the spread system, Michigan mustered 21 points or fewer in eight games and eclipsed 29 points only once.

But spring ball brings new hope to a unit that returns full- or part-time starters at every position. Michigan is still young, but players who looked utterly lost last season have had time to ripen.

"They'll be able to recognize things a little bit faster," Rodriguez said. "Not only from what we're doing, but also a recognition from a defensive standpoint. That, in itself, will allow them to be fundamentally better because they won't have to fake as much.

"First-time system, you're thinking a lot and you're not able to play to your capabilities because you're thinking too much. Hopefully, with some of that experience coming back, you'll be able to see [progress]."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I'm definitely among those who think Rich Rodriguez still will earn his keep at Michigan, but his first-year tab for the university was a tough one to swallow, especially in rough economic times. 

The Ann Arbor News reported that Michigan's athletic department paid $4.1 million last year to cover part of Rodriguez's buyout owed to his former employer, West Virginia. Rodriguez settled a lawsuit with West Virginia on July 9, agreeing to pick up $1.5 million of the buyout while Michigan paid $2.5 million. 

From The Ann Arbor News:

"With the $2.5 million buyout figure considered compensation for Rodriguez, Michigan decided to make the necessary tax payments 'in order that Rodriguez not be unduly burdened or distracted in connection with the performance of his duties hereunder,' according to his contract.

"The tax obligations paid last year by the athletic department on its portion of the buyout totaled a little more than $1.6 million."

Add the $4.1 million with Rodriguez's $2.5 million total compensation from last year, and Michigan paid $6.6 million for its head football coach in 2008.

Not to sound too mean, but that's $2.2 million per victory. Ouch. 

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