By Mickey Furfari
MORGANTOWN — Rich Rodriguez steadfastly refused to answer any questions Saturday morning about his reported interest in the football coaching vacancy at Michigan.
West Virginia’s head coach, accompanied by wife Rita, met Friday with Michigan President Mary Sue Coleman and athletic director Bill Martin in Toledo, Ohio, to discuss that position.
That such a meeting was held has been confirmed by knowledgeable sources and well publicized.
But Rodriguez has said nothing about that situation, according to players interviewed Saturday. And WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong said Friday evening he hadn’t been able to contact the coach.
Meantime, Rodriguez showed up for a previously scheduled 10:30 a.m. informal news conference with the media Saturday.
Before it started, however, he said he would not answer any questions except those related to his team and its preparations for the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma.
“It may be disappointing to you, but I’m not going to talk about any rumors or innuendoes or jobs or what else is floating out there,” Rodriguez began.
“All I’m going to talk about is this year’s team, bowl preparations and aspects of the recruiting we’re heavily involved in right now.”
Asked by a reporter what he’s telling recruits with theMichigan reports circulating, he replied:
“I’m not talking about anything other than this year’s team and this year’s bowl coverage.”
“That’s all I’m going to talk about.
Another reported then asked, “You did say rumors, coach. Is that what they are — rumors?”
“One more question and unfortunately this press conference ... You all have been super. If (those types of) questions persist, then this thing will be over.”
After that, Rodriguez received only questions about the BCS No. 9-ranked Mountaineers and the No. 4-ranked Sooners.
Those two teams clash at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 2, at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
With final classroom exams ending Friday, WVU practiced that evening and again Saturday morning.
“I’ve really been pleased with our practices,” Rodriguez said. “Today was a good one, and Friday evening’s was really good, too.
“We didn’t practice this past week because of final exams. But they did work out and the strength coaches said they did a super job.”
The first two practice sessions were held the week before finals.
“The thing you worry about — fans worry about — is whether kids are resilient. I’ve really been pleased with their effort.
“They’re excited. They’re talking about their bowl game. I think they’re anxious to go.”
Rodriguez praised Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford, a redshirt freshman.
“He’s probably as accurate a passer as we have seen,” he said. “Our defensive staff has even mentioned that.
“I think he’s way up there at 70-some percent. He doesn’t play like a first-year starter. He can make all the throws.”
Rodriguez also stressed the Sooners have some talented players on both sides of the ball.
He thinks Oklahoma, 11-2 and champion of the Big 12 Conference, is probably the best team WVU has seen in the last several years.
“So we’ve got our work cut out for us,” Rodriguez said. “I think our guys know it’s going to be a challenge. We know we’ve got to play our best game.
“When you get in a BCS bowl, you know you’re going to play someone really good.”
The Mountaineers will practice each day this week. Then they will be released after next Saturday’s session and head for their homes to spend Christmas with family and friends.
Players will reassemble Wednesday evening, Dec. 26, at the Scottsdale Resort Hotel where the WVU will be headquartered.