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Rich Rodriguez  

Three straight BIG EAST championships. A Top 5 finish. Three straight New Year?s Day bowl game appearances and a Sugar Bowl victory.

Three straight BIG EAST championships. A Top 5 finish. Three straight New Year’s Day bowl game appearances and a Sugar Bowl victory. Six wins over Top 25 teams and home attendance averaging 94% of capacity. Innovative, high-energy and enthusiastic, Rich Rodriguez has built quite a resume as he propels Mountaineer football forward.

Now in his sixth season on the job, Coach Rod has solidly positioned the Mountaineers to be among the dominant programs in the new BIG EAST configuration and in the top ranks of college football for seasons to come.

Success in any format is nothing new to Rich Rodriguez, and his accomplishments keep outdoing themselves.

In 2002, just his second season at WVU, Rodriguez engineered the best turnaround in BIG EAST history, as the Mountaineers worked together for a 9-4 record, a BIG EAST runner-up finish, back-to-back road wins over ranked teams at Virginia Tech and Pitt and a Continental Tire Bowl berth.

Keyed by BIG EAST career rushing leader Avon Cobourne, West Virginia finished second in the nation in rushing at 283 yards per game, and the Mountaineers, with a stable offense and an aggressive defense, were fourth nationally in turnover margin. That led to a six-game improvement in the win column, one of the three best in the nation that year.

The next year, faced with the task of replacing 22 seniors (11 of them starters), the school’s career rushing leader and the majority of the offensive and defensive lines, repeating that success seemed unlikely, especially after the young WVU squad started the campaign 1-4. Entering the BIG EAST portion of the schedule, however, Rodriguez convinced his team of the opportunity ahead of it, and the rest proved one of the great chapters in West Virginia football history.

After losing a remarkable 22-20 game at No. 2 Miami in the final two minutes, West Virginia won seven straight games from that point, posting a 6-1 conference record and tying the Hurricanes for the BIG EAST championship to earn a New Year’s Day bowl berth in Jacksonville’s Toyota Gator Bowl.

Following the 2004 season, West Virginia returned to the Gator Bowl and the Mountaineers tied for the BIG EAST championship once again. WVU was ranked as high as sixth during the regular season, spending 15 straight weeks in the Top 25, finishing with an 8-4 mark.

In 2005, picked to finish third in the new BIG EAST alignment, Rodriguez and his Mountaineers ran the table in the conference, going 7-0 in league play to win their third consecutive BIG EAST championship and first outright title since 1993.

West Virginia, with a 10-1 regular season record, was undefeated on the road despite playing a nucleus of freshmen and sophomores. The young Mountaineers were invited to play SEC champion Georgia in the Nokia Sugar Bowl, and WVU stunned the higher-ranked Bulldogs, 38-35, in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for West Virginia’s first-ever BCS game win. Finishing the season 11-1, West Virginia ranked fifth and sixth in the final polls, and the Mountaineers were pegged as a preseason heavyweight for the 2006 campaign.

The happenings of the past four seasons have kept an entire state buzzing with excitement, which was one of Rodriguez’ objectives when he returned to his alma mater: keeping Mountaineer football as a point of pride for everyone who comes in contact with the program. The Mountaineers have been his team since he was a boy in Grant Town, just a half-hour away from the WVU campus.

Hired on November 26, 2000, as WVU’s 31st head football coach, Rodriguez came back to his alma mater from Clemson, where he served two seasons under Tommy Bowden as offensive coordinator and associate head coach with the record-setting Tiger offense.

In 1997-98, Rodriguez was offensive coordinator and quarterback coach under Bowden at Tulane, where the Green Wave was 19-4 over two seasons, including a 12-0 undefeated 1998 campaign, when Tulane won the Conference USA championship and beat BYU in the Liberty Bowl.

But the Rodriguez roots are deepest in the Mountain State, where his career record in 14 seasons as a college head coach is 84-58-2.

Rodriguez was a three-time letterman at defensive back for the Mountaineers from 1982-84, playing in the Gator, Hall of Fame and Bluebonnet Bowls. He came to WVU as a walk-on, earned a scholarship from Coach Don Nehlen and recorded 54 career tackles and three interceptions, including a team-season-long 43-yard pick against Pacific in 1983 and a 14-yard interception in 1984's 17-14 win over Penn State, WVU’s first defeat of the Nittany Lions in 29 years.

After serving two seasons as a student assistant coach and graduating from WVU in 1986 with a degree in physical education and safety, he began his coaching career at Salem College as secondary coach and special teams coordinator. In 1987, he served as assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at the school while completing a master’s degree in physical education.

In 1988, he was promoted to head coach of the Salem Tigers, becoming the youngest college head coach in America at the age of 24. He was 2-8 during a trying season after an announcement that Salem would drop football at the end of the year.

Returning to WVU as a volunteer assistant coach in 1989, he worked with the outside linebackers that season, as the Mountaineers went 8-3-1 and earned a spot in the Gator Bowl.

From 1990-96, Rodriguez turned around the football fortunes at Glenville State College, where as head coach he earned four consecutive WVIAC conference championships from 1993-96, Glenville’s first league titles since 1959. The Pioneers were twice a participant in the national playoffs, advancing to the 1993 NAIA national championship game.

Rodriguez’ record at Glenville was 43-28-2 in seven seasons. He was named WVIAC coach of the year in 1993 and 1994 and NAIA national coach of the year in 1993; his players set five national career records for Division II. He coached three players who earned WVIAC Player of the Year honors: Jed Drenning (1992-93), Chris George (1994) and Scott Otis (1995).

Rodriguez, who received the state College Coach of the Year award for all sports from the West Virginia Sports Writers Association in 1993 (an honored he repeated in 2003 and 2005 at WVU) also served as Glenville’s athletic director in 1995 and 1996. He was inducted into the Glenville sports hall of fame in October, 2003.

A native of Grant Town, W.Va., in Marion County, Rodriguez is a 1981 graduate of North Marion High School, where he was a four-sport letterman and an all-state honoree in football and basketball, leading Coach Roy Michael’s Huskies to the 1980 Class AAA state football championship.

Following the 2002 season, Rodriguez was named BIG EAST coach of the year by The Sporting News and state college coach of the year for all sports by the West Virginia Sports Writers Association. He received the 2003 Frank Loria Award for coaching distinction from the West Virginia chapter of the National Football Foundation in June. In 2003, he was the unanimous choice of his peers for BIG EAST Coach of the Year, and the District I coach of the year for the American Football Coaches Association, one of five district AFCA winners. In 2005, he was asked to join the AFCA Board of Directors. He was again voted BIG EAST coach of the year following the 2005 season. Rich and his wife Rita, a native of Jane Lew, W.Va., have two children, Raquel and Rhett.

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