ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Rich Rodriguez began his employment Wednesday at Michigan, where he observed his future team practice.

Rodriguez was introduced as Lloyd Carr’s successor Monday morning, then returned to West Virginia later that day.

His resignation as the Mountaineers’ coach was moved up from Jan. 3 to midnight Tuesday, a West Virginia spokesman said.

Rodriguez’s $4 million buyout clause in his West Virginia contract still must be worked out.

His agent, Mike Brown, said Rodriguez’s previous comment, “The lawyers are working on it,” still stands and declined to say whether the buyout clause would be contested.

Michigan and Rodriguez have agreed to the structure of a contract, but Brown deferred comment on the timetable to finalize the deal to athletic director Bill Martin. A message seeking comment was left with Martin.

Carr will coach the Wolverines Jan. 1 against Florida in the Capital One Bowl, then will retire after 13 seasons as Michigan’s head coach.

Carr said Rodriguez would have all the access he wanted, welcoming him to watch practice as well as to talk to Michigan assistant coaches and players.

Rodriguez said he didn’t think it would be in his or West Virginia’s best interest for him to coach the Mountaineers against Oklahoma Jan. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl. Associate head coach Bill Stewart has been named West Virginia’s interim coach.

“I think the players understand more than some of the general public,” Rodriguez said Monday. “It’s never easy. I mean, when is the right time or an easy time to leave a program? I don’t think any coach will tell you there’s a right, easy time.”

Rodriguez was 60-26 over seven seasons at West Virginia, where he built the program into a Big East power with four titles in five years.

The 44-year-old Rodriguez said goodbye to the Mountaineers during an emotional meeting Sunday in Morgantown.

His agent hoped fans in West Virginia would appreciate what he did for the program, and not hold his move against him.

That hasn’t seemed to happen.

The signs proclaiming tiny Grant Town, population of less than 1,000, as the hometown of Rodriguez have come down.

Less than 24 hours after Rodriguez announced he was leaving to become Michigan’s new football coach, Mayor Robert Riggs ordered two signs taken down that proclaim Grant Town as the “Home of WVU Head Football Coach Rich Rodriguez.”

Riggs said Tuesday he wasn’t doing it out of anger, but to pre-empt vandalism or theft by outraged Mountaineers fans.

Grant Town is about 20 miles west of West Virginia’s Morgantown campus.

Last year, when Rodriguez was considering an offer from Alabama, one of the signs was pulled out of the ground by a chain attached to a vehicle.

Once Rodriguez signed a new contract with West Virginia, the sign was left across the street from town hall with a note attached: “Since the coach is staying, here’s your sign back.”

Now that the coach is definitely leaving, Riggs said it was just a matter of time before someone went after the signs, which he plans to return to the resident who originally paid for them.

Gov. Joe Manchin, a fellow Marion County native, said the coach is a “victim” of high-priced sports agents. A shop that sells cemetery memorials in Charleston put the words “Coach Rodriguez” on one of the headstones displayed in a shop window.

Rodriguez’s wife, Rita, who is also a West Virginia native, hopes time will ease the hard feelings.

“Someone told us, ’You’re never going to be able to come back to this state again!”’ Rita Rodriguez said. “You hope at some point, people realize we’re not rejecting the state of West Virginia. We just decided to make a career move.”

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