UPDATE 3:20PM - DETROIT FREE PRESS - The end finally arrived for Rich Rodriguez.
Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon has made the decision to fire Rodriguez, the Free Press has learned. The two were meeting this afternoon, according to a Michigan spokesman.
Rodriguez would leave after three seasons as Michigan's football coach a tenure marked by far more turmoil than usual in Ann Arbor and far more losses than in decades.
There was only speculation on who would replace Rodriguez. The Free Press reported today that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh was highly unlikely to accept the U-M job if it became available. Other candidates could include San Diego State coach Brady Hoke and LSU coach Les Miles, both a former U-M assistants.
Although Rodriguez, 47, came to Michigan in December 2007 after a long and successful run at West Virginia in fact, if he hadn't lost his final game there, his Mountaineers would have played in the national championship game he leaves with this legacy:
* A record of 15-22 overall and 6-18 in the Big Ten. He lost all three of his games to Michigan State and Ohio State.
* An end to Michigan's streak of playing in a bowl every season since 1975. He missed a bowl each of his first two seasons and this season lost to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl, 52-14, the worst bowl loss in school history.
* The first losing season at U-M in more than 40 years. His first team went 3-9; U-M's last losing season, at 4-6, had come under Bump Elliott in 1967.
* Three years of NCAA probation for five major violations. The storied program had never been on probation.
When Lloyd Carr retired in 2007, Rodriguez agreed to a six-year, $15-million contract. It stipulates that he will be paid a $2.5 million buyout if fired. U-M conceivably could have fired him for the NCAA violations without the buyout, a provision allowed in his contract, but Brandon has previously said the NCAA troubles did not warrant dismissal.
Michigan already has paid Rodriguez three years of salary, plus $2.5 million of the $4 million buyout he owed West Virginia for breaking his contract there.
After struggling to a 3-9 record his first season which included an incredible comeback against Wisconsin and an embarrassing defeat against Toledo Rodriguez started fast in 2009. With freshman Tate Forcier at quarterback, the Wolverines rushed to a 4-0 start, including a thrilling victory over Notre Dame. But momentum dissolved in the season's second half as Forcier suffered a shoulder injury and the defense imploded.
That squad finished 5-7 and did not beat an FBS opponent after Sept. 26.
Despite the ongoing NCAA issues hanging over the program and a new boss in the athletic department Brandon replaced Bill Martin over the winter Rodriguez and fans expected major improvement on the field this season. And the Wolverines again got off to a fast start going 5-0 led by another new starting quarterback, Denard Robinson. He was an electric player and after the season's first month he was widely considered a front-runner for the Heisman Trophy.
But Robinson, a sophomore, struggled with injuries in the second half of the season, and the U-M defense was even worse than previous seasons. Michigan surrendered more yards and points than any year in its long gridiron history.
U-M won only two of its final eight games to finish 7-6, sustaining lopsided losses in its final three games to Wisconsin (48-28), Ohio State (37-7) and Mississippi State (52-14).
On the field during Rodriguez's tenure, his defense was his major undoing. It didn't work his first year with coordinator Scott Shafer and under his replacement, Greg Robinson, it was even worse.
Even though his spread offense and Rodriguez came to Ann Arbor regarded as guru of the spread struggled against ranked opponents, it continued to improve during his tenure. When Robinson, a prototypical dual-threat signal caller, was healthy, the offense looked unstoppable at times. Even when Robinson got hurt, Forcier stepped in and completed one of the most amazing games in school history: a 67-65, three-overtime victory over Illinois that included more offensive fireworks in the Big House than the Fourth of July.
That victory, on Nov. 6, came at a perfect time: two days after U-M announced the NCAA sanctions. The sanctions, although extremely serious, did give Rodriguez and U-M a break by reducing a disputed charge. The NCAA determined that the "head coach failed to monitor the duties and activities of the quality control staff members, the former graduate assistant coach and a student assistant coach, and the time limits for athletically related activities." However, the NCAA cleared Rodriguez of "failure to promote an atmosphere of compliance."
The victory over the Illini raised U-M's record to 6-3 and made the Wolverines bowl eligible for the first time under Rodriguez.
After that game, Brandon said: "I put my arm around him as we were walking into the press conference and said, 'Rich, you had a really good week.' And he did, he really did. Getting this whole NCAA matter behind us, the fact that the NCAA came out and appropriately reclassified Rich's role in this in a way that I think meant a lot to him and meant a lot to the program. For the kids to come out and play this hard against a team that had all kinds of momentum to win this game, high expectations, all kinds of momentum, he had a good week."
Rodriguez's teams improved each season from three to five to seven victories and that often is enough for a coach to stay employed in major-college football. He had to deal with so many off-the-field circumstances, from taking risks on a few academic casualties notably Demar Dorsey this past spring to recruiting Justin Feagin, who brokered a cocaine deal to a revolving door of players who transferred to the five major NCAA violations found under his watch to a bevy of very public missteps.
UPDATE - 2:30PM - Fox 2 in Detroit in reporting that Rich Rodriguez has been fired as the University of Michigan football coach.
No replacement has been named.
No other sources have reported the firing yet.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. (Detroit Free Press)--Michigan football coach Rich Rodriguez will meet with U-M athletic director Dave Brandon early this afternoon, according to a report published on annarbor.com.
Additionally it's believed there will be a team meeting at 7 tonight.
Rodriguez's firing has been considered a foregone conclusion, especially after Saturday's 52-14 loss to Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. Speculation has been that if Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh says no to Michigan, Brandon could turn to San Diego State coach Brady Hoke, a former Michigan assistant under Lloyd Carr.