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August 17, 2013
Paging Rafiki. Again.
Anyone with young children 20 or so years ago remembers The Lion King - Rafiki the monkey bopping young Simba on the head with his walking stick, admonishing him for dwelling on the past. Any Michigan fan who didn't became aware of it when former head coach Rich Rodriguez arrived in Ann Arbor.
"Remember the monkey in the Lion King?" he'd begin, and go into the story in explaining how there's no benefit to rehashing things that are over and done - like a player leaving the program, etc.
Apparently, the story only pertains to things in the past he doesn't want to talk about. Asked recently by FoxSports.com about his time at Michigan - well, we would have loved to hear about our little monkey friend one more time.
"Were you undermined?" Rodriguez was asked. And instead of a 'Whap!' to the reporter's head with an Arizona desert sand walking stick, it was more of the same.
"Well,'' he said Wednesday in his office, pausing, "I found out later I was. I didn't know it at the time. You'd heard rumors and all that, but I was kind of incredulous, like, 'Nah.' But after you leave, you find out a lot more."
Except that (and to his credit) he spent much of his time trying to align the factions to be "all in for Michigan." Even after the press conference following a big win over Notre Dame in 2009, during which he made a plea one more time to get people on the same page.
"The biggest frustration about Michigan wasn't that there were different factions - I mean, that was frustrating that people that should be rooting for you in your own building were really rooting against you " he continued.
The real story was out there in books, he said. At the same time, John Bacon's fascinating read "Three and Out" about Rodriguez's tenure was really only one side of the story. Bacon had spent three seasons with the coach, but nobody on the opposite side (or about whom allegations were made) chose to respond.
Not surprisingly, only a few people choose to rehash the 'opposition's' alleged roles in "bringing the program down."
"How can you forget the backstabbing? Or the unwelcoming party he had from the first day: You're not a Michigan guy. You don't know the Michigan Way," FoxSports.com's Greg Couch wrote.
Only the latter isn't true, unless he's referring to someone other than the previous head coach (and the article states, "While Rodriguez wouldn't name names, he was theoretically pointing the finger at former coach Lloyd Carr, who was still in the building as an ambassador to the program").
We won't get to hear Carr defend himself. It's clear he has no desire to talk about the past, and he refused comment to Bacon. But to say Carr wasn't on board from the first day is a falsehood. We were there when he spoke to the media about how Bo Schembechler would have liked Rodriguez because he ran the ball. He was saying the right things publicly and privately at the time. What changed, when and why is open for debate.
Regardless - it's in the past, and that's where Rodriguez should have left it rather than saying - again - "we thought we had turned the corner and that year four and five We didn't get a chance to see it through.''
At that point, was there anyone who wanted to see a defenseless team again? When it's hard watching the wins on ESPN Classic, there's an issue.
"There were things I'd like to have done differently, too," Rodriguez said. "You do the best job you can with the people you have. But we thought we could fight through all the so-called 'stuff,' and that should be OK. But we didn't."
That, followed by the words of the astute Rafiki, was all he needed to say.
(Editor's Note: This article might be a reprint, or similar to, an article already written here on TheWoverine.com after one of the several previous occasions Rodriguez spoke of his time at Michigan. But we don't remember. It's in the past).