ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez away from his alma mater after failing to bring back one of its own.
College football's winningest program ended its coaching search yesterday, nearly a month after it started, by announcing that Rodriguez would succeed the retiring Lloyd Carr.
Rodriguez is scheduled to be introduced as the Wolverines' coach at a news conference this morning.
"I am thrilled to have Rich Rodriguez as Michigan's new coach," athletic director Bill Martin wrote in an e-mail to the Associated Press. "Rich brings an exciting brand of football to Michigan Stadium. We welcome the entire Rodriguez family to Ann Arbor."
Former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen, who coached Rodriguez when he played for the Mountaineers and was on Bo Schembechler's staff at Michigan, endorsed the move.
"I felt it was a great opportunity for Rich," Nehlen told the AP by telephone from Morgantown, W.Va. "There are not many Michigans around."
Michigan's reputation, though, seemed to take a hit during constant coverage of its first coaching search since hiring Schembechler nearly four decades ago. The school had permission to talk to LSU coach Les Miles, who played for Schembechler and also was an assistant under him, but couldn't bring him back to Ann Arbor. It also talked with Greg Schiano, who decided to stay at Rutgers.
The 44-year-old Rodriguez built West Virginia into a Big East power, winning the conference championship this year for the fourth time in five seasons and going 60-26 overall.
The 11th-ranked Mountaineers (10-2) will play in their second Bowl Championship Series game in three seasons, but Nehlen doesn't expect Rodriguez to coach them in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.
Rodriguez told the Mountaineers before their practice yesterday afternoon that he was leaving to coach the Wolverines.
West Virginia cornerback Vaughn Rivers said Rodriguez was emotional to the point of tears, but did not elaborate on his decision.
"It's a rough day," Rivers said. "Now we just have to pull together as a team and get ready for a bowl game."
Carr announced Nov. 19 he would retire after 13 seasons as Michigan's head coach following the season, which ends on New Year's Day in the Capital One Bowl against Florida.
Rodriguez's West Virginia contract, which ran through the 2013 season, had a $4 million buyout clause if he left before next September. After several days last year, Rodriguez turned down Alabama's reported six-year, $12 million offer after the Mountaineers gave him a one-year contract extension.