ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Michigan hired Rich Rodriguez to take college football's winningest program to another level. He did just that, and it cost him his job.
Rodriguez was fired Wednesday after going 15-22 in three disappointing seasons, including an 0-6 record combined against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State, and staining the program with NCAA violations.
"Michigan is not used to this," said athletic director Dave Brandon, who met with Rodriguez on Tuesday and again Wednesday before announcing the firing. "We have not achieved at the level that I expect."
Rodriguez, who was West Virginia's successful coach before arriving in Ann Arbor, was just 6-18 in Big Ten play and 11-11 at home. The school will buy out the final three years of Rodriguez's contract for $2.5 million, bringing its overall cost in hiring and firing him to $12.5 million.
Brandon said he will begin a search for a replacement amid speculation that candidates might include Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh, a former Wolverines quarterback, and former Michigan assistant Brady Hoke, now San Diego State's coach.
Harbaugh has declined to comment about the Michigan job, and Stanford would not say whether Michigan had asked the school for permission to speak with Harbaugh. His brother, Ravens coach John Harbaugh, said he thought "the Michigan thing is done now. … I don't think he's interested in doing that."
Brandon said he has talked with Harbaugh, but added: "I personally believe that Jim Harbaugh is headed to the NFL."
In fact, Jim Harbaugh met with the 49ers on Wednesday.
LSU coach and ex-Michigan assistant Les Miles is another potential Wolverines candidate. "I very much enjoy where I'm at," Miles said.
Rodriguez was not immediately available for comment.
He helped the Wolverines (7-6) earn a postseason bid, a relief for him at the time. Then Mississippi State handed Michigan its worst bowl beating ever, a 38-point drubbing, in the Gator Bowl.
Just before the 2009 season, anonymous players told the Detroit Free Press that the Rodriguez-led program was exceeding NCAA limits on practice and training time. The school later acknowledged that it was guilty of four violations. It was put on three years of probation.
Gators QB mulls future: John Brantley hasn't decided his future at Florida, said his father, John Brantley III, adding they haven't spoken to new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis yet, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
Ingram leaving tide? Barry Sanders Jr., who is being recruited by Alabama, said Tide coach Nick Saban told him that running back Mark Ingram is leaving early to enter the NFL draft. "He's making it public probably Friday," Sanders, son of the Hall of Fame running back, told OKBlitz.com.
staying, going: Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers and Notre Dame tight end Kyle Rudolph announced their intentions to leave school and enter the draft. Oklahoma linebacker Travis Lewis said he will return.
Auburn: Quarterback Cam Newton, whose father, Cecil, was at the center of a failed pay-for-play deal, said his dad and family members from Georgia are expected to attend the BCS national title game against Oregon next week. The NCAA ruled that Cecil Newton and ex-Mississippi State player Kenny Rogers tried to get money from Mississippi State during Cam's recruitment out of junior college. But it also ruled that Cam and Auburn didn't know about it, so after a brief suspension, Cam was reinstated.
Pittsburgh: Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley interviewed for the Panthers' head coaching job.
Texas: Mississippi State defensive coordinator Manny Diaz accepted an offer to hold the same job at Texas. Diaz replaces Will Muschamp, who left to become head coach at Florida.
Senior games: USF receiver Dontavia Bogan accepted an invitation to play in the Eastham Energy All-Star Game, set for Jan. 23 in Tempe, Ariz. Bulls eefensive tackle Terrell McClain will play in the Jan. 22 East-West Shrine Game in Orlando.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.