It was W.C. Fields who once uttered the phrase, "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Could the second time be the charm at Tulane?
Rich Rodriguez is broadcasting the Central Florida at Southern Miss Saturday night for CBS Sports. On the way to Hattiesburg, Rodriguez may make a slight detour--due west to New Orleans.
Sources tell sportsNOLA.com that Rodriguez is expected to speak with Tulane officials this week about the Green Wave football head coaching position.
Tulane (2-8) hosts Houston Thursday night in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Houston is 9-0 and ranked 11th in the current BCS rankings with record-setting Case Keenum at quarterback.
Keenum is the NCAA record holder for total offense and passing touchdowns. A prohibitive favorite, Houston has won eight straight games over Tulane, including a 43-23 victory in 2010 when the Cougars played without an injured Keenum. Houston is ranked first in offense in the nation in three major categories. Tulane has lost seven in a row, including three straight under interim head coach Mark Hutson following Bob Toledo's resignation on October 18 following a 44-7 loss to UTEP.
It all adds up to a likely Houston win and a possible blowout before a sparse crowd in the cavernous Superdome. Will Rodriguez see the glass as half (or mostly) empty or half full? No doubt he remembers the empty seats in 1998 despite the team's success though there were far fewer empty seats then.
Rodriguez was passed over for the Tulane job in 1998 after Tommy Bowden resigned to accept the head coaching position at Clemson. Rodriguez was led to believe that he would get the job only to be left at the altar in favor of Chris Scelfo. Factors which led to him not getting the job included his use of the same agent as Bowden and the fact that he would not promise that he would be at Tulane on a long-term basis.
At Tulane, Rodriguez presided over a spread option offense with Shaun King at quarterback which produced an average of 45 points per game en route to a perfect 12-0 record. Despite being passed over, Rodriguez remained at Tulane for the Liberty Bowl on December 31 as the Green Wave defeated BYU 41-27. As the newly appointed head coach, Scelfo allowed Rodriguez to call the plays. Rodriguez was carried off the field following the win.
1998 was the most successful season in Tulane history. King broke nearly every Tulane season and career passing record under the tutelage of Rodriguez, becoming the first NCAA 1-A player to amass 3,000 yards passing and 500 yards rushing in a season. He established an NCAA 1-A passing efficiency record of 183.3, rushing for 11 scores and passing for 38 touchdown passes. He played with a broken left wrist in a 21-7 home win over Southern Miss.
Rodriguez landed on his feet. The Grant Town, West Virginia native joined Bowden at Clemson as his offensive coordinator and associate head coach for two seasons before heading "home" to his alma mater, West Virginia, as head coach. Success followed him.
Rodriguez went 60-26 in seven seasons, guiding the Mountaineers to six consecutive bowl games. Following a 3-8 season in 2001, Rodriguez compiled an impressive 57-18 record and won or shared the Big East title in four of five seasons between 2003 and 2007. He earned Big East coach of the year three times.
After considering an opportunity to go to Alabama following the 2006 season, he departed his alma mater to become the head coach at Michigan in 2008. Success did not follow him.
In his three seasons at Michigan, Rodriguez went 15-22, posting just one winning season, his final season, when he went 7-6 and took the Wolverines to the Gator Bowl. It was not enough for a program accustomed to competing for national championships. Rodriguez has the lowest winning percentage of any coach in Michigan's storied history.
Rodriguez has an overall record of 120-84-2 combined for his 18 years as a head coach at Salem, Glenville State, West Virginia and Michigan. The record is impressive. He is overqualified to become the Tulane coach so why is their cause for pause on both sides?
Rodriguez may have other opportunities and may view Tulane as a no-win situation and wait for a better opportunity. Some at Tulane may view Rodriguez as damaged goods.
While at Michigan, Rodriguez and his staff were accused of five "major rules violations" by the NCAA. Michigan acknowledged that it committed four violations. The university self-imposed sanctions, including cutting practice time, two years probation and terminating or disciplining some staff members. The NCAA added another year of probation to the sanctions.
At 48 years of age, Rodriguez remains more than viable as a Division 1 head coaching candidate.
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