ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan athletic director Dave Brandon refuses to let speculation about Rich Rodriguez's future change his timetable to evaluate the football coach.
"Everyone needs to take a deep breath," Brandon said Monday morning.
The first-year AD reiterated that he won't do performance reviews of any of his coaches until their seasons — not just the regular season — are over.
That might make for another uncomfortable month for Rodriguez.
He helped the Wolverines qualify for a bowl — possibly the Insight Bowl on Dec. 28 — for the first time in his three seasons in charge of college football's winningest program.
The situation swirling around Rodriguez's status had a chance to turn into a circus at the team's banquet Thursday night because Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh planned to be there to be honored along with his 1985 teammates. Harbaugh said Saturday night there's a "75-percent chance" he will be at the event, adding he needed to rearrange some recruiting trips. Two days later, Michigan Football Bust ticket chairman Jeffrey Holzhausen wrote in an e-mail that the University of Michigan club of greater Detroit officials received a call indicating Harbaugh wouldn't be able to make it.
Many of those who want Rodriguez to be fired, want Harbaugh hired.
Michigan's regular season ended Saturday with a 37-7 loss at Ohio State, losing a school-record seventh straight to the rival, and dropping Rodriguez's record at Michigan to 1-10 against ranked teams.
"I'll be mad for a while," Rodriguez said after the game. "This will sting."
Rodriguez was asked at the postgame news conference whether he knew he would be back, or hoped he would be back, and acknowledged being worried about his future every day.
"But nothing is going to change how we work," he said. "I took this job to make it the best program in America."
He's got a long way to go.
Rodriguez lost a school-record nine games in his debut with the Wolverines two years ago, was 5-7 after starting 4-0 last season and turned a 5-0 start into a 7-5 finish this fall.
He has three years remaining on his six-year contract that pays him about $2.5 million per season.
Brandon said earlier this month that the NCAA violations committed under Rodriguez didn't give him cause to terminate his contract.
If Brandon and school officials decide to fire Rodriguez without cause before 2011, it would cost $4 million. On Jan. 1, the buyout drops to $2.5 million.
Former Michigan star and ESPN analyst Desmond Howard said he has confidence Brandon will make the right decision.
"I don't think you use recruiting as an excuse or reason to act sooner than you're ready because this is bigger than one recruiting class," Howard said. "Dave his has finger on the pulse of this situation and he's very calculating. It gives me some comfort and confidence that he'll make the decision that is in the best interest for Michigan."
Brandon understands and appreciates the passion so many people have for Michigan football, but wishes the coaches and players didn't have to deal with constant scrutiny about Rodriguez's status.
"Rich has an opportunity to go through 15 practices to prepare for a bowl that his team has earned a right to play in," Brandon said. "My approach is to give him the opportunity to do his job without doing a performance review at this time. It would be great if everyone let Rich do his job and let me do mine because the timetable for reviews is not going to change for any of our sports."