In case you've taken leave of this world for the past seven hours: Rich Rodriguez has been fired as Michigan's head coach. Rodriguez produced Michigan's worst three-year stretch since 1934-36, went 1-13 against Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, and Iowa, incurred major NCAA violations, and did countless other things which, collectively, suggest that he never was a true Michigan Man (TM). As MSU fans, we'll mourn Rodriguez's departure; the downfall of Michigan under his watch coincided with a major upgrade in our program under Mark Dantonio. The end result was three consecutive victories against Michigan, near-parity in recruiting battles, and unprecedented schadenfreude opportunities.
So, Dave Brandon's decision to relieve Rodriguez of his duties was certainly understandable. But, the decision came a month too late. Had Brandon hit the "abort" button after the Ohio State game, some parts of the Michigan fan base would have been concerned but serious quibbles with the decision would have been few and far between. Michigan probably would have been the second-most attractive vacancy, behind only Florida, and would have been able to choose from any number of the country's most highly-regarded assistant coaches -- and had more time to convince Jim Harbaugh to head home to Ann Arbor.
Of course, Brandon waited, and has now decided to fire Rodriguez 1) less than a month from national signing day, and 2) with full knowledge that Harbaugh is almost certainly heading to the NFL. Needless to say, Michigan fans are furious, and with good reason. One wonders why it wouldn't have made more sense to give Rodriguez one more season at the helm, while requiring that he hire a new defensive staff. If the team showed significant progress, Michigan could have moved forward with Rodriguez; if not, Michigan would have been in a much better position to hire a new coach next November than it is now.
Regardless, the die has been cast, and it should please MSU fans that the realistic suitors are underwhelming. mgoblog has the full list of likely candidates, but Brady Hoke looks to be the odds-on favorite. His resume is here, and is not something which should make Big Ten teams cower in fear. If Hoke is hired it will represent the apotheosis of the MICHIGAN MAN intangible: that some tangible connection to Ann Arbor is valued above actual coaching ability. As Brian wrote: "If [Hoke had] been a Michigan State assistant no one would have ever brought him up." Such is life when so many ascribe Rodriguez's failure to his inherent anti-Michiganness, rather than his failure to, oh, produce a semi-competent defense. Brandon could still pull a rabbit out of his hat -- as most thought Bill Martin had with the Rodriguez hire three years ago -- and hire someone truly terrifying like Chris Petersen or Gary Patterson, or even Harbaugh. The consensus, however, seems to be that Brandon has made a true mess of the situation (and certainly this morning's press conference), and the probability of redemption looks slight.
While Michigan's decision will impact MSU in many ways going forward, the immediate impact will be in recruiting. Rodriguez's efforts to nationalize Michigan's recruiting meant that the Wolverines and Spartans competed for recruits less often than in the past. However, Michigan did sign a few players that MSU coveted, and it seems certain that Dantonio & Co. will be making some phone calls to test the strength of their commitments.
More, after the jump.
Michigan has cancelled its January 7th recruiting weekend; two expected visitors -- Darian Cooper and Frank Clark -- are players that MSU has been strongly recruiting. Cooper, in particular, is a priority, as defensive tackle is a position of strong need for the Spartans. He visited East Lansing in December; the visit apparently went well, and MSU's chances for Cooper's signature are presumably buoyed by the prior commitment of his high school teammate, Darien Harris.
MSU previously extended offers to several players who later committed to Michigan: DE Brennan Beyer (Canton, MI), OL Jacob Fisher (Traverse City, MI), RB Justice Hayes (Grand Blanc, MI), and DE Jack Miller (Perrysburg, OH). Hayes told the Detroit News this morning that he's plans to stick with Michigan regardless of who is hired to replace Rodriguez. One may rightly be a bit skeptical of that, given that Hayes has already decommitted once this cycle (from Notre Dame), but in any event, MSU already has a surfeit of running backs. More interesting is Fisher:
Traverse City West offensive tackle Jake Fisher said Tuesday he likely will reopen his recruiting process if Rodriguez is no longer Michigan's coach.
"He will certainly look somewhere else," West coach Tim Wooer said of Fisher. "We've been in contact with Oregon and Notre Dame. We've talked with both coaching staffs (Tuesday). You can throw Michigan State in there as well. He's looking to staying close to home."
Fisher is a four-star lineman whose 6'7" frame certainly provides him with the potential for stardom. His coach's suggestion that he's "looking to staying close to home" is encouraging; you can be sure that Dantonio has been in contact.
In the aftermath of Demetrius Hart's decommitment, Brennan Beyer has become the flagship player in Michigan's class. As of earlier today, he wasn't responding to media entreaties regarding his status. Beyer is certainly another player to watch.
Whoever replaces Rodriguez will have the unenviable task of salvaging a decent recruiting class from the rubble. Michigan's class was considered the third- or fourth-best in the conference prior to the Hart decommitment; in the end, they could be far lower than that. What's certain is that the next few days and weeks will have a gigantic impact on the goings-on not only in Schembechler Hall, but 70 miles to the northwest as well. Only time will tell if Brandon has indeed made a colossal error; but regardless of what happens in Ann Arbor, it's safe to say that the denizens of Daugherty Hall are following the situation closely, and stand ready to pounce on any opportunities presented as a result of the turmoil.