Jacksonville, Fla. Mississippi State displayed a program and a coach on the rise with an overwhelming performance in the Gator Bowl.
For Michigan, it could have been the final blow for its beleaguered coach.
Chris Relf accounted for four touchdowns, Vick Ballard ran for three scores, and coach Dan Mullen’s 21st-ranked Bulldogs routed Rich Rodriguez’s Wolverines, 52-14, on Saturday.
The 38-point drubbing was the worst bowl loss in Michigan’s storied history and might have sealed Rodriguez’s future. His three-year tenure has been tainted by consecutive losing seasons, NCAA sanctions and late-season slides.
Rodriguez said all the speculation about his job was “the elephant in the room” during meetings and practices, but insisted his team never “cheated the University of Michigan a day of work.”
But defensive tackle Mike Martin said the uncertainty clearly affected Rodriguez.
“He’s human, he’s a man, a constant stress is going to wear you down,” Martin said.
Asked whether he thinks he will return next season, Rodriguez replied, “You’re asking the wrong person.” This much is certain: Athletic director Dave Brandon couldn’t have been pleased with Michigan’s performance Saturday.
“After traveling back in the next day or two, I plan to sit down with coach Rodriguez to go through the evaluation I’ve been talking about for months,” Brandon said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.