If you’re an Alabama fan, she is St. Rita. But if you are fan of literally any other college football team in the nation, you likely go to bed cursing the name of Nick Saban. However, second on your list of imprecations, condemnations, and damnations ought to be Rita Rodriguez, the wife of Rich Rod.
Older fans remember the story well. It was December 2006, Alabama had just gotten smoked in another Iron Bowl, Coach Mike Shula was out, sanctions were ending, and the Alabama job was open and becoming attractive again. There were several names on the list, and Mal Moore had several backchannel meetings or inquiries with the likes of Bobby Bowden, Frank Beamer, and other well-esteemed program-builders. One name that rarely came up (though it should have), was the man who rebuilt West Virginia: Rich Rodriguez.
I say that it should have been apparent from the start, because Rich Rod checked all the boxes: He could rebuild programs — and Alabama would require a complete overhaul. His teams played aggressive defense. His balanced offense was innovative at the time and leaned on power-running behind a dominant zone-blocking line. And the simple fact is that Rich Rod just flat out won games, especially and most memorably against far more talented teams. They weren’t flukes either: his Mountaineers lined up and routinely whipped “better” teams like a rabid cur.
Speaking of rabid curs, ask Georgia if they’ve figured out how to stop the trap yet. Then again, it’s not like Alabama can really talk smack here — the Tide had its own problem that year with the inside trout.
Anyway, Rich Rodriguez was who ‘Bama administrators zeroed in on. He was a red-hot commodity at the time, and there was interest among several high profile programs. Rich Rod was offered the job, which had agreed to in principle. However, his wife Rita allegedly had a thermonuclear hissy fit about living in Alabama, and talked him out of it. Though he had not yet informed WVU administrators of his decision to stay, the silence worked to his advantage: the ‘Eers re-upped Rich Rod and gave him those sweet, sweet Jimmy Sexton bucks.
However, as all this was going on, Jimmy Sexton leaked to Mal Moore that his prime client was disenchanted with the NFL, specifically the Dolphins, and could likely be talked out of South Beach. A five-hour meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria later, and history, as they say, was about to be made. And we owe it all to Rita.
I should note that Rich Rodriguez has recently denied that Rita had anything to do with the decision. However, no one really sits on that sort of denial for 15 years before calling it “fake news.” And certainly no one in Tuscaloosa or Morgantown is going to throw shade at her either. For WVU, it meant another year with their favorite son. As for Alabama? Well...it has worked out okay.
That link above is a nice feature from Tuscaloosa News on the history of the RichRod saga culminating in the eventual Saban hire.
Like so many other facets of college football, NIL has rapidly turned into a monster that is both ungovernable and wholly unsustainable.
Add Nick Saban to those worried about the straight-up P4P that NIL has become:
Nick Saban has issued a stern warning over the way that Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) legislation has been implemented in college football. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, the legendary Alabama coach said “I don’t think what we’re doing right now [with NIL] is a sustainable model.”
“The concept of name, image and likeness was for players to be able to use their name, image and likeness to create opportunities for themselves. That’s what it was,” said Saban. “But that creates a situation where you can basically buy players. You can do it in recruiting. I mean, if that’s what we want college football to be, I don’t know. And you can also get players to get in the transfer portal to see if they can get more someplace else than they can get at your place.”
For a man that has built his reputation on outhustling competitors within the boundaries of the rules, and being so good at it that the NCAA has had to try and rein him in legislatively, it has to be killing Saban to know that bad actors with deep pockets can abnegate decades of hard work. The NCAA is going to have to get a handle on it though, as the bad actors are becoming more brazen.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but you know who you are, Texas A&M: proud holders of an alleged $25-$30 million dollar signing class.
But hey, that’s only going to make the Aggies’ perpetual 9-3 record all the funnier, TBH.
Saban’s solution to avoid creating what he calls a “caste system” is another proposal that makes sense too: equal pay.
“We give everybody the same medical care, academic support, food service. Same scholarship,” Saban said in a recent interview with the Associated Press published Wednesday. “So if we’re going to do this, then everybody is going to benefit equally. I’m not going to create a caste system on our team.”
To the surprise of no one, Alabama PG JD Davison has declared for the NBA draft. That does not necessarily mean that he won’t be back. In CBB, players are permitted to not only declare, but to also seek representation and still return — a rule so commonsensical that is ought be adopted in other sports (which is why it will never happen.)
Still, given JD’s athleticism and raw-if-reckless-talent, Davison is likely gone for good. Alabama: your new home for one-and-done point guards. If you’re keeping count, that’s now three one-and-dones in the last 5 seasons; a trend that is apt to only keep rising as Alabama becomes more of a destination, and less of an afterthought.
Speaking of, where’s my damn basketball arena, Greg?!
I really enjoyed this piece in BOL, the 10 players that they are keeping an eye on for A-Day. There are some obvious ones (JC Latham, Jermaine Burton), and then there are some less obvious players:
AARON ANDERSON, WR
It’s not uncommon for a freshman receiver to show out in the A-Day Game. Sometimes it can be a sign of things to come like when John Metchie was named MVP in 2019. But it can also lead to expectations that never come to fruition – see Agiye Hall in 2021. This year, however, a pair of freshmen, because of the lack of experience at the position, have chances to earn more reps with the ones this summer and preseason, and we gave the nod to Anderson in this instance. The New Orleans native can continue to make his case for early playing time this fall.
Baseball is on a bit of a tear, winners now of seven straight, including last week’s sweep of then-No. 7 Ole Miss on the road. This is the Tide’s longest winning streak since the 2020 Coronavirus What Could Have Been team ripped off 15 straight (though against a much more forgiving schedule).
When I asked Roger about the last SEC road sweep against a ranked team, here’s what we’ve got: 2017 against Auburn and 2012 against Auburn (although, Alabama also swept TAMU on the road last season, and in 2015 had a road sweep against...Auburn. Again.) THe point being is that these are precious and rare series victories, to be sure.
So, how is the Tide doing it? Better baseball, in short: across the board improvement at the plate, and a rotation on the mound that seems to finally have found its way (unless we’re counting closer):
The pitching staff has battled throughout the schedule. Alabama’s ace, Tuscaloosa native Garrett McMillan, has held opposing batters to a .198 batting average. Last week, McMillan was awarded co-SEC Pitcher of the Week for his seven-strikeout performance against Ole Miss.
There have been various bright spots on the Crimson Tide pitching staff. Sophomore left-hander Grayson Hitt threw eight strikeouts and only allowed three hits vs. Ole Miss. Hitt’s 2.78 ERA is seventh-best in the SEC, with McMillan right behind him at eight with a 2.79 ERA.
“On the mound it has been great. We have had so many guys contribute,” said Jackson. “It allows us to start looking at matchups, and it gives us more options and takes the load off some of our guys.”
‘Bama Baseball Fever...Catch it, or Roger will yell at you.
With all things Portal being the big news nationally this Spring, Tide 102.9 posted what I think is a great story — Alabama’s wish list players from the Portal.
Like speedy Desmond Demas from Texas A&M:
Agiye Hall decided last week that he wasn’t cut out for the Crimson Tide football program. There are a lot of other young guys in the wide receiver room that Saban has sang the praises of this spring, but there’s no clear-cut number 2 to compliment Burton. Demas would be one of the tallest guys in the unit at 6’3” and scouts say that he does a great job of leaping up over defenders on “go get it” balls. In addition to being able to grab balls high out of the air, he’s great at getting separation from defenders on vertical routes due to his speed. After the success Bryce Young had throwing to Jameson Williams last year, Demas seems like he would be a great target for the returning Heisman trophy winner.
FINALLY, we end on a somber note: Bill Belichik did not approach Nick Saban about Bill O’Brien “out of respect” for Saban and his program.
Though, I daresay that a little bit of disrespect here would have suited me just fine.
How long would Rich Rod have lasted in Tuscaloosa and how would he have fared?
This poll is closed
1-3 years, a bum, out on his keister.
1-3 years, raging success, moves on to a "better" job.
4-7 years, steady but not really a contender, Alabama eventually goes another direction.
7-plus years, a dynasty is born, then he moves on to "a new challenge."
7-plus years, very competitive but the program eventually stagnates a la Mark Richt.
He’s still here, baby! Rita is venerated like Miss. Terry. Streets across the city are named in his honor