Rich Rodriguez has been fired as the University of Michigan’s football coach after three seasons in which the Wolverines went 15-22, including a 6-18 record against Big Ten Conference opponents.
Rodriguez, 47, was dismissed today following a meeting with Athletic Director Dave Brandon, who announced the decision during a televised news conference.
Rodriguez’s tenure at Michigan, whose 884 wins are the most in college football history, was marked by two losing seasons, rules violations and the most lopsided bowl loss in the school’s 131-year football history.
“His three years can somewhat be defined as three years of turmoil,” Brandon said in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “It seems like it was one thing after another. It clearly impacted recruiting. It created a lot of distractions.”
Michigan owes Rodriguez $2.5 million to buy out the last three years of his contract, ESPN.com reported, without saying where it got the information.
Brandon said he’ll immediately begin a search for Rodriguez’s successor and refused to rule out any candidates. Brandon said he believes Stanford University coach Jim Harbaugh, who played quarterback at Michigan from 1983 to 1986, will take a coaching job in the National Football League.
“There’s been a lot of Jim Harbaugh noise out there and I’m not deaf to hearing it,” Brandon said. “Jim has a lot of contacts with this family. I personally believe Jim is headed to the NFL, but that’s my opinion.”
Jack Bechta, Harbaugh’s agent, didn’t immediately return a telephone message seeking comment.
Brandon also deflected questions about whether he’ll talk with former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke, who is the coach at San Diego State, or Louisiana State coach Les Miles, who played two seasons for the Wolverines under Bo Schembechler.
“This program is still one of the premier programs in the country when you look at the facilities, the fan base, the passion that’s here,” Brandon said. “I believe there will be very qualified, interested candidates out there and it’s my job to select the right one.”
Rodriguez took over as Michigan’s coach in 2007 after seven seasons at the West Virginia University. He failed to match the success of Lloyd Carr, his predecessor who won a national championship and five Big Ten titles over 13 seasons.
The Wolverines went 3-9 in Rodriguez’s first season and 5-7 last year. They used the same spread offense that helped Rodriguez’s West Virginia teams compile a 60-26 record and make six bowl appearances.
Michigan had a 7-6 record this season, yet lost six of its final eight games. The Wolverines were outscored 71-24 in losses to rival Michigan State and Ohio State, and then were blown out 52-14 by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.
“We need to put ourselves in a position where we get competitive again, in the Big Ten as well as nationally,” Brandon said.
Rodriguez was also found to have violated National Collegiate Athletic Association rules by exceeding practice limits and having staff members monitor the players’ voluntary workouts. The school self-imposed a two-year probation and a reduction of practice time by 130 hours, while the NCAA tacked on a third year of probation.
Rodriguez was cleared of major infractions, though the NCAA said he failed to monitor the program.