How close was Rich Rodriguez to taking the Alabama job?

Posted by: Chris Vannini on Thursday October 10, 2013


Alabama has won three of the past four national championships under Nick Saban. How would things have turned out if Rich Rodriguez had taken the job in 2006?

The former West Virginia coach had been offered the job, and there were reports at the time he had accepted it, but that was never the case.

In an interview with Seth Davis, Rodriguez explained just how close he was to taking the job.

“I never visited campus, but I would say it was close,” he said. “We met in New York. I wouldn’t talk to them until after the regular season was over. The regular season was over, the following week or the week after, we met up. (Alabama athletic director Mal Moore) was terrific and the passion he had. It’s Alabama. We talked a little bit, and they offered the job. I was obviously very flattered and doing my due diligence, but never once did I say I was going to take the job.

"If my agent at the time had said, ‘He’s very, vey interested. I think he’s going to do it,’ he may have said that, but he was never told by my direction to say that. I don’t think he did. But I think there was an assumption that, ‘He’s going to go from West Virginia and take that Alabama job. Are you kidding me?’ And I didn’t. I never told them I was going to take it. There were never any assurances or no plans to have a press conference and fly on campus.

When they announced it, my daughter was in grade school, and they made an announcement over the loudspeaker at her school that Rich Rodriguez is leaving. Everybody in the class booed, and she started crying. She got to a phone and called me and said, ‘Daddy, what are you doing?’ I said, ‘ I’m not going to Alabama. In fact, I’m turning it down and staying here.’ She says, ‘Everybody’s talking about it.’ That’s the media, and sometimes things happen. But it turned out great for them, because they got Nick Saban.”

But it didn’t start off great for Saban. Alabama went 6-6 in the regular season with a loss to UL-Monroe. Meanwhile, Rodriguez had West Virginia at No. 2 in the country and would be in the national championship game with a win over 4-7 Pitt.

But the Panthers would pull the shocking upset, and Rodriguez would leave for Michigan a few weeks later. He lasted three years in Ann Arbor before being dismissed. After a year in broadcasting, he took the head coaching job at Arizona.

“Sometimes I forget, because I do try to move on,” Rodriguez said. “All the things that have happened, the twists and turns of life, I’m sure I would have loved it there. Would I have had the success Nick’s had? Jeez, I don’t know. Nick’s done awful well. We had a great year at West Virginia the following year. Had we not screwed up in the last game, we’d have been playing for the national championship. Lessons learned, and life moves on.”

Chris Vannini is in his third year with CoachingSearch.com and serves as its managing editor. He has previously written for The Detroit Free Press, The Oakland Press, The State News, MLive.com, 247Sports and SB Nation.  A graduate of Michigan State University, Chris lives in the Metro Detroit area.  Be sure to follow @coachingsearch and send emails to chris@coachingsearch.com.