The Times West Virginian

June 11, 2009

HERTZEL COLUMN: Rodriguez calls home

By Bob Hertzel

MORGANTOWN — This is a true and personal story, one that does have a point if you will bear with me for a few paragraphs.

Back as I was going through my first divorce, I met a young lady with whom I fell very much in love. There was a whirlwind romance, an engagement ring, wedding plans, invitations sent out.

If there was any problem at all it was that she was far more mature than me.

She was 20. I was 32.

Two weeks before the marriage, I got cold feet and backed out, rationalizing that it was too much a rebound, too close to my divorce.

For the next 10 years we led separate lives. Then when she went through a trying personal time, she contacted me.

We became friendly again, but when she met the man who proved to be her true soul mate, she married him and we drifted apart.

The other day my cat, Lisa, died. She had grown to be something more than a pet, closer to a best friend, and losing her was far more emotionally damaging than I thought it would be.

Needing consolation, I picked up my phone and called the lady I had almost married.

On the surface this was more personal than anything sports related … until I picked up the newspapers on Wednesday and saw Rich Rodriguez had picked up a telephone and spoken with a couple of West Virginia reporters.

One was a return call from one placed a week earlier, the other had to be very similar to the one I placed to my one-time love in a moment of need, for as Rodriguez would admit in talking to that reporter, it grew out of some inner turmoil.

“Let’s just say it’s not been the most fun year of my life.”

The battle between himself and West Virginia University was well publicized. No one can argue that he snuck out the back door just a year after turned down Alabama and professing his desire to stay at WVU until global warming destroyed the planet or he found a way to beat South Florida, whichever came first.

The loss to Pitt when he and the Mountaineers stood on the verge of a national championship game date had poisoned the atmosphere to the point that the world Rodriguez had come to know seemed to have been completely destroyed.

He not only jumped ship, but tried to take his football with him. His behavior was inexcusable, his comments uncalled for. He complains now that it became something personal, yet it is difficult to see where anyone but he was at fault for that.

Upon discovering that Rodriguez is now publically expressing his “love” for the state and the people of the state, along with his proclamation that “West Virginia is my home. It’s always been my home”, you hope there might be room to perhaps work out a comprise with the man, to forgive and forget.

OK, just forgive, but that would be a huge step in and of itself.

However, Rodriguez’s comments lacked the two words necessary to welcoming him back as a favored, if not favorite, son:

“I’m sorry.”

In fact, if anything Rodriguez remains defiant.

“It was painful last year and it’s still painful now,’’ Rodriguez said to the Charleston Daily Mail, speaking of the personal situation and his 3-9 season at Michigan. “But I still have to be honest and say that I’m glad I did it. That’s nothing against West Virginia or anyone there, but I felt the time was right. I just wish it hadn’t gotten so personal.’’

Let the words echo throughout our state … “I’m glad I did it.”

Nothing else Rodriguez can say or do can change one thing — Rodriguez simply walked out on West Virginia. He can say it was because he was denied certain requests to improve the program, requests which just standing alone were rather minimal but taken in context of all he had demanded – and received – over previous years were nothing but harbingers of bigger demands in the future.

That football-only jet that he dreamed of had not yet been granted him, and his practice facility didn’t house a full-sized 100-yard field, and there certainly is still room to expand the stadium and its private suites.

Who knew where Rodriguez would have gone with his demands after having succeeded in extorting virtually everything he wanted out of the school, even as his unscrupulous agent, Mike Brown, was shopping him around.

Rodriguez is where he wants to be, for the moment. While it would be nice if he could rebuild the bridges he burned behind him as left the state, nothing he has said or done has given any reason for that to become a reality.

I know I felt better after making my phone call, and I certainly hope the same is true for Rodriguez after having made his.

But it is best to leave yesterday alone and move forward, for you can’t change the past, only the future.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or reach him on Facebook.com.