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Published: Saturday, 4/19/2008

Rodriguez in his element talking football at BGSU

BY RYAN AUTULLO
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BOWLING GREEN - Turns out Rich Rodriguez has some friends after all.

Over the last few months the new University of Michigan football coach has been bashed by his former school as well as the coach of his new rival. Somewhere along the way a few of the players Rodriguez inherited at UM even took a shot at him.

But Rodriguez has some buddies in Bowling Green, and he met up with them last night at BGSU's football coaching clinic. Rodriguez entertained a room full of high school coaches at the Sebo Center after conducting a press conference in the Mike Wilcox room, which is named after Rodriguez's friend and financial adviser.

"A lot of our job isn't fun," Rodriguez said. "But this part, talking football, is."

Members of the media were instructed not to ask Rodriguez any nonfootball-related questions, which encompasses a whole lot. Rodriguez has been on the job less than four months and he's already had to face being criticized by Ohio State coach Jim Tressel and Purdue coach Joe Tiller for stealing recruits from other Big Ten teams. Weeks before, the Wolverines' top returning offensive lineman, Justin Boren, left the program citing "eroded" family values. If that wasn't enough, Rodriguez is also involved in a messy lawsuit from his former employer, West Virginia.

But last night Rodriguez was in a comfortable setting, breaking down film with eager coaches instead of thumbing through court documents. He was hired to headline the clinic by BG coach Gregg Brandon, whom Rodriguez considers a friend in the industry.

"Coach Brandon and I met back when Urban [Meyer] was here," Rodriguez said. "One of Urban's first calls when he took the job was to talk about the spread offense, so he sent Gregg and some of his staff to West Virginia. We've been good friends ever since."

As for Wilcox, Rodriguez met the BG trustee a few years ago and the two quickly grew close both professionally and personally. Wilcox is the CEO of Wilcox Financial, a diversified financial services and consulting firm in Toledo.

"He's been a terrific friend," Rodriguez said. "We talk several times a week and have been the last couple of years, not just on financial matters, but also on personal matters."

Rodriguez wasn't the only successful coach who spoke at the clinic. The opening acts were Larry Kehres, the face of the tremendously successful program at Mount Union, and Steve Trivisonno, who has led Mentor High school to berths in the last two Division I state championship games. Kehres makes the drive to BG every year to talk football with the Falcons coaching staff. Last night he shared his wisdom with coaches from the high school ranks.

"Most men in our profession don't treat football like a bunch of secrets," Kehres said. "If we're asked to speak, we usually go."

Trivisonno, a defensive back in the early 1980s at BG, returns to his old stomping grounds every now and then, but last night was his first as a speaker.

Several of Trivisonno's Mentor players have gone on to play at BG, with another arriving in the fall - Ohio Mr. Football Bart Tanski. Tanski will walk on at BG after receiving no Division I scholarship offers. Asked if he was surprised at the lack of interest Tanski garnered, Trivisonno said, "The better word would be shocked. "I'm really happy he came here," Trivisonno said.

Contact Ryan Autullo at:

rautullo@theblade.com.



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