Michigan, one of Notre Dame’s biggest rivals, is officially looking for a head coach for the second time in three years after officially firing Rich Rodriguez and his staff after just three seasons.
After a 5-0 start to the season, including a last minute win over Notre Dame in week two, it appeared as though Rodriguez’s job would be saved after two disappointing seasons to start his tenure in Ann Arbor. A 7-5 finish including a 52-14 drubbing at the hands of Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, however, sealed his fate.
Rodriguez’s fate had been the subject of constant speculation over the last month. Michigan Athletic Director Dave Brandon was adamant about waiting until after the bowl game to make his decision. The result for Michigan is that they are now beginning their coaching search after several other schools have successfully changed coaches already. Michigan has also taken a beating on the recruiting trail and recently lost one of their prized recruits for 2011, running back Dee Hart.
In the time Michigan wasted in between the end of the regular season and their bowl game, the likes of Miami, Florida, and Maryland have all replaced their coaches with quality head coaches. Florida nabbed Will Muschamp, one of the nation’s most respected defensive coordinators, Miami hired up and coming head coach Al Golden from Temple, and Maryland replaced Ralph Friedgen with Randy Edsall.
Michigan’s delay has also seen Jim Harbaugh’s NFL stock sky rocket to the point where it appears that he may have his pick of NFL jobs with the 49ers, Dolphins, and Broncos all allegedly having interest.
For the last year, most Michigan fans had thought Harbaugh would be there for them if Rodriguez failed this season. Stanford’s amazing season that was just capped off with a dominating performance in the Orange Bowl, however, has made Harbaugh the hottest name in the coaching market right now.
The current situation for Michigan is actually very similar to Notre Dame post-Ty Willingham when everyone assumed Urban Meyer step right in and take over only to spur the Irish in favor of Florida.
Some names that have been linked to Michigan so far are San Diego State head coach and LSU head coach Les Miles who three years ago looked to be headed to Michigan to replace Lloyd Carr before Rodriguez was hired. Other than Hoke and Miles, it doesn’t look like there are many more names out there at this time other than the standard speculation during coaching searches.
Rodriguez, despite his struggles in Big 10 play, had a winning record (2-1) against Notre Dame after back to back last minute wins over the Irish in 2009 and 2010. Ironically, the last coach to last only three years at Notre Dame, Ty Willingham, had the same record against Michigan.
Who Michigan hires to replace Rodriguez could shape this rivalry over the next few years. A big name hire could result in a quick turn around and a stronger Michigan on Notre Dame’s schedule each a year. If Michigan misses on a big name, however, and ends up with an up and coming head coach or coordinator, it could take the Wolverines a little longer to restock their talent on the recruiting trail resulting in a weaker Michigan on the schedule for the next few years.
With less than a month until Signing Day, Michigan will need to act fast in order to salvage their recruiting class so we may not have to wait too long to see who will placed in charge of one of Notre Dame’s yearly opponents.
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