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Michigan decides to fire Rodriguez

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Michigan fired coach Rich Rodriguez on Wednesday, ending a disappointing three-year tenure marred by too many losses and NCAA violations at college football's winningest program.

Athletic director Dave Brandon announced the decision after meeting with Rodriguez on Tuesday and again Wednesday morning. He said the two had an "open, honest and direct exchange."

"I believe this is the best decision for the future of Michigan football," Brandon said. "We have not achieved at the level that I expect."

Rodriguez was just 6-18 in Big Ten play and 11-11 at home.

"Rich is a good person and coach," Brandon said. "It's unfortunate that it didn't work out at Michigan, but I'm sure that Rich and his staff will find opportunities at other institutions. I wish Rich and his family all the best in the future."

Brandon said he will immediately begin a national search for a replacement amid speculation that Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback, and former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke, now San Diego State's head coach, are possible candidates.

Brandon said he has talked with Harbaugh and "will continue to talk" with him.

Rodriguez, who was the head coach at West Virginia when he was lured to Ann Arbor, finishes 15-22 at Michigan. The school can buy out the final three years of his contract for $2.5 million.

Rodriguez was not immediately available for comment. He and his wife, Rita, drove past TV satellite trucks and reporters camped out near Schembechler Hall's main entrance Wednesday and entered the back door of the indoor practice facility. A team meeting was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

Rodriguez's final season was pivotal and it didn't go well on or off the field.

He helped the Wolverines win seven games to earn a postseason bid, then stood helplessly on the sideline on New Year's Day as Mississippi State handed them their worst bowl beating -- a 38-point drubbing -- in a Gator Bowl loss that looked all too familiar.

Michigan's young defense, which ranked among the nation's worst, was overmatched and quarterback Denard Robinson couldn't consistently make the sensational plays he did during a jaw-dropping start.

Rodriguez finished 7-6, but lost six of the last eight games. The improvement wasn't enough from his 5-7 finish last year and the Michigan-record nine losses in his debut season in Ann Arbor.

He was 1-11 against ranked teams and 0-6 combined against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.

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RedHawks can make history

MOBILE, Ala. -- When it comes to quick turnarounds, Miami of Ohio has already pulled off a stunner.

Just one year after a dismal 1-11 season, the RedHawks are Mid-American Conference champions and facing Middle Tennessee in the GoDaddy.com Bowl tonight at Ladd-Peebles Stadium (8 p.m., ESPN).

But one goal remains. If Miami beats MTSU for its 10th victory of the season, the RedHawks will be the first team in Football Bowl Subdivision history to go from double-digit losses to double-digit victories the next season.

"Now that you look at it, these kids know what's at stake," Miami interim coach Lance Guidry said. "By no means is there pressure -- they want to win the bowl game because it's a bowl game."

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