COLUMBUS — Sometime Sunday morning Rich Rodriguez is expected to arrive at Schembechler Hall to begin his work day.
Just how many more times Rodriguez makes the trip from his home in Saline to his office in Ann Arbor is the question surrounding the embattled Michigan football coach after his team was crushed by Ohio State Saturday to end a ho-hum regular season.
Rodriguez, who is 6-18 in the Big Ten, has three years remaining on his six-year deal. He is a combined 0-6 against Wolverine rivals OSU and Michigan State.
“I worry about my future every day,” Rodriguez, who is 15-21 overall, said after the game.
“Before I took the job, after I took the job. But nothing's going to change how we work.”
UM athletic director Dave Brandon maintains he will evaluate the football program after the season. The Wolverines will play a postseason game for the first time under Rodriguez, which many believe will be the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz. A chance, should Brandon desire to make one, could be done before then.
Rodriguez argues progress is being made under him (UM has improved its win total from three to five to seven) and that he knows what is needed to fix what ails the program.
“Sometimes it takes a little longer to mold the program the way you want to mold it,” Rodriguez said. “Sometimes you get more obstacles in your way when you're trying to mold the program the way you want to mold. That doesn't mean you can't do it. I'm not deterred one bit. I think the worst part is behind us. I know it is.”
Speculation about their coach's job security has not been a distraction for the Wolverines, said safety Jordan Kovacs.
“Not at all,” he said.
“We play for each other. We don't concern ourselves with that.”
Freshman Ray Vinopal said Rodriguez's team is in support of him keeping his job.
“Absolutely,” Vinopal said. “Everybody in that lockerroom is.”
Vinopal said Rodriguez is “never down on us” even when the coach critiques his team's often substandard play.
“He knows we play hard,” Vinopal said. “We want to win, and he wants to win. He's not a happy guy, and we're not a happy team.”
Rodriguez points to an improved offense — though Saturday's seven points don't help his case — and an inexperienced defense for why UM may soon turn the corner and be competing for Big Ten championships. There were as many seniors [three] in Saturday's starting lineup as there were freshmen.
“We've made progress but not as much as a lot of folks want and not as much as I want,” Rodriguez said. “You kidding me? I'm not used to this either. These coaches aren't used to this. We're used to playing in championships and BCS bowls and it's frustrating as heck. But I'm not deterred because I know where I'm at. I know what we're doing. I know what we have in the program. I know what we need to fix it.”
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