Now that the 2010 Michigan football season is in the books, athletic director Dave Brandon's timetable for the program has entered the evaluation phase. Although many believed that Brandon would decide about bringing back head coach Rich Rodriguez or firing him following the Ohio State game, he maintained that any decision about the future would wait until after the Gator Bowl. That game was played earlier today, meaning it is now time for Brandon to make a decision about the future of the Michigan football program.
Even before Michigan's embarrassing 52-14 loss to Mississippi State today, the tide was turning against keeping Rodriguez for a fourth season. The first part of the season went exceptionally well for Michigan, but it's been downhill ever since the Michigan State game. The Wolverines ended up losing six of their final eight games, and as the record suggests, very little improvement was made over the course of the season. It is true that Michigan dealt with injuries and inexperience, especially on defense, but the Wolverines faded down the stretch yet again.
Now that Michigan is fresh off of its worst bowl loss in the history of the program, the calls for Rodriguez's job are getting even louder. Many wanted to bring Rodriguez back with a new defensive staff since Denard Robinson and the offense have shown the potential to be very explosive, but after losing by 38 points in the Gator Bowl, it seems as though the "Fire Rodriguez" bandwagon is starting to fill up. The argument could certainly be made that Rodriguez deserves another year based on the potential of the offense (even the offense isn't there yet, as they only put up 14 points today), but when all three phases of the game continually fail, it's no surprise that people will demand a change to be made.
The next week of Michigan football news should be very interesting to follow. It's unclear when Brandon will make an announcement about Rodriguez's job status, but the expectation is that we will hear something in the next few days. If Rodriguez were to return with some new assistants, that announcement would likely be made pretty soon in order to stabilize the recruiting class. If Rodriguez is in fact fired, that announcement could happen as soon as tomorrow or not until sometime next week (after Stanford plays in the Orange Bowl on Monday night and Jim Harbaugh becomes available, for example).
Based on Michigan's performance today, all signs certainly point to Rich Rodriguez being fired. Dave Brandon obviously won't base his decision strictly on one game, but losing 52-14 with your job on the line will make it tough for Brandon to keep Rodriguez around for at least another season. I suppose we will just have to wait and see what happens, but right now it looks like the Rich Rodriguez era of Michigan football is coming to a close.