Head Coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines looks on while playing the Penn State Nittany Lions on October 24, 2009 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Penn State won the game 35-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Photographer: Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Image
BY: Larry Lage, Associated Press
LIVONIA, Mich. -- Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez fought back tears, talking about the toll his job has taken on his family, and used passages from the Bible and a Josh Groban song during an emotional address that closed the team's banquet.
"I truly want to be a Michigan man," he said Thursday.
Rodriguez might not get that chance next season.
He didn't have to deal with the awkwardness of having Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh in the same ballroom, getting honored with the Wolverines who were honored 25 years after finishing the season ranked second, but the tension he feels about his job security was apparent.
Harbaugh, who might replace Rodriguez if he is fired, planned to attend the banquet as late as Saturday night. He ended up scheduling a practice on a day teammates such as Jamie Morris, John Kolesar and Gerald White sat at a circular table.
"Whoever is the coach at Michigan, I'm going to give him my support," White said.
Senior guard Stephen Schilling said he and his teammates are trying to disregard the conjecture about Rodriguez's status.
"Obviously, it's hard to ignore when it's out there in the news," Schilling said. "But this team is pretty dedicated to coach Rod."
Schilling, who was recruited to Michigan by retired coach Lloyd Carr, said he will give a good review of the Rodriguez era if athletic director Dave Brandon asks him for his opinion.
"It was a good experience," Schilling said. "The wins and losses haven't gone our way, but I believe in coach Rod and his system and what he's doing here."
Brandon reiterated on Monday that he won't evaluate Rodriguez until the season is over.
Rodriguez has three years left on his contract, but his 15-21 record, NCAA violations, a boss that didn't hire him and the possibility that the school could lure Harbaugh back to Ann Arbor have combined to raise questions about whether he will be back next season.
He didn't speak with reporters before or after the banquet, but is expected to have a news conference on Monday to talk about the bowl game and to dodge questions about his future at Michigan.
Rodriguez finally got a show of support, a standing ovation at the banquet, and cracked jokes as speculation swirls about his future.
"I had to stretch my legs, too, so I appreciate it," he said.
Rodriguez wiped sweat off his brow early and often during the 3-hour event.
"This hot-seat stuff is not very much fun," he quipped.
Then, he got serious with a prepared speech.
He cited Hebrews, talking about the faith he had in program's direction, and talked about how Groban's "You Raise Me Up," inspires him before having it played. Rodriguez, his wife, Rita, Brandon and players stood on risers with their hands held above their heads as the song blared in the ballroom.
Rodriguez will get to coach the Wolverines for at least one more game and it might be the Gator Bowl in Florida instead of the widely projected destination of the Insight Bowl in Arizona.
"I think we might be going in a different direction," Brandon said after master of ceremonies Frank Beckmann suggested the team was headed to Arizona to play a Big 12 team.
The Wolverines went 7-5 this season -- a year after going 5-7 and two years after losing a school-record nine games -- in large part because Rodriguez found the dual-threat quarterback he needed for his spread scheme.
Denard Robinson, the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, was voted by his teammates as the Bo Schembechler MVP. He told a packed crowd that he expects the team to earn an eighth victory.
"No matter what team we play against, we're going to get a win," Robinson said.