When Michigan and Alabama kick off in Arlington tomorrow night, the man most responsible for bringing them there will be starting over. He’ll be 950 miles away, likely tucked in an office, waiting out the two hours before he begins again. Rich Rodriguez will be in Tucson, preparing to coach his first game at the University of Arizona. He’ll be far from Jerry Jones’s kingdom and the gem of college football’s first weekend, but without him, the Wolverines and Tide might be just as far away.
It’s a testament to what Nick Saban has done in Tuscaloosa that for those removed from Alabama’s football program, it’s hard to remember any of the mess that came before. The shine of those crystal footballs has a way of leaving Mike Shula in the dark. The truth is that it didn’t take Saban long to get his statue. It was less than six years ago that he was pried away from the Dolphins, and in that time, the success has made it easy to forget that the man who’s already a legend wasn’t even Alabama’s first call in the winter of 2006. That was Rich Rodriguez.
I have no idea if Greg Schiano will be a successful coach in Tampa Bay. The early consensus appears to be that he will fail. This is because Schiano doesn't have the feel of a successful pro coach, which I guess is what happens when an NFL franchise goes after someone who is not comically self-absorbed and/or vaguely sociopathic. Schiano comes across as a genuinely decent man; when one of his players suffered a severe spinal injury during a kickoff, it affected him so deeply that he suggested college football abolish kickoffs altogether. He managed to build a competitive program at Rutgers, a school where football hadn't been relevant since the publication of War and Peace by emphasizing discipline and organization while stressing academics.
In other words, he seems like a college football coach.
In case you were out living a life of leisure, here's what you missed in sports on Thursday.
Novak Djokovic advanced to the Australian Open final with a five-set victory over Andy Murray. On Sunday, he'll face Rafael Nadal in a battle of the top two seeds. Meanwhile, Andy Murray remains confident that he'll eventually win a major. "Hey, does anybody know the number of the guy who stabbed Monica Seles right before Graf started dominating?" he asked a room full of reporters. "A friend wanted to know."
At a Joe Paterno tribute, Nike CEO Phil Knight criticized the process by which Paterno was fired. "If there's a villain in this tragedy," he said, "it lies in that investigation and not in Joe Paterno's response." Later in his speech, Knight said that if there's a comic relief character in this tragedy, it's probably Crazy Scott Paterno, the protaganist's son.
1. Greg Schiano, football coach, Rutgers University
College football is the most compelling sport in America, yet nothing is more torturous than listening to college football coaches speak publicly about their teams. I know this because I spent Tuesday morning standing in a hotel ballroom in Newport, R.I., while eight Big East coaches filibustered for a solid hour. I heard them reminisce about games played in 1991, speak about punters with irrational brightness, thank people who I'm not sure actually exist, and trumpet the competitive supremacy of a conference that has a direct tie-in with the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. I heard one coach chastise a player for going to class too much, which was either the closest thing to joke anyone made or the closest thing to the truth anyone spoke. "That was the most boring hour of my life," one player said, as he headed toward a battery of television interviews. "My god."