Rodriguez could be perfect fit for Arizona
Rich Rodriguez said all the right things on Tuesday in McKale Center.
He amped up a crowd of about 200 with talk of the Rose Bowl, and even went as far as to say Arizona could one day win a national championship.
“Why not Arizona? Why not us?” he said.
Rodriguez deemed Arizona his final coaching destination — the place where the 48-year-old wants to coach for the final 12 to 15 years of his career.
“I’m not just going to coach University of Arizona football,” he said. “I’m going to live it.”
He kept UA coaches, who sat all of 30 feet from Rodriguez in the crowd, intrigued by saying he’s “absolutely” open to offering them jobs.
The current players in the stands were all smiles as well, as Rodriguez guaranteed that they will be welcomed back with open arms while he would still offer a clean slate and new opportunity to prove themselves.
He promised the media he’ll be open, honest and available, especially after gaining a new perspective by working at CBS.
And most importantly, Rodriguez admitted his wrongdoings at Michigan and vowed 100 percent compliance moving forward.
In a nutshell, Rodriguez showed players, coaches, the media and the Wildcat faithful that he’s savvy, personable and has lofty goals at Arizona.
But while it’s easy to drink the Kool-Aid after hearing Rodriguez’s sales pitch, his comments need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Coming in with promises of a bright future is standard protocol for coaches, or players, at any level.
What was Rodriguez supposed to do? On his first trip to The Old Pueblo in front of people who will be playing for him, coaching with him, paying him and cheering — or booing — him, did Rodriguez have any other choice? He did what any other coach would do in that position.
But something’s different about Rodriguez. He fits.
While the national championship talk is a bit erroneous, he has what it takes to find major success in Tucson. He may not have been a Michigan Man, but he could very well be the perfect Tucson guy.
“I think at the University of Arizona, this is the right fit for he and his family,” said UA athletic director Greg Byrne. “You could tell up there he’s a very approachable, genuine guy and I know he wants to be here.”
Arizona fans want exactly what Rodriguez can provide, an exciting, high-paced football team with a coach who cares about the fanbase. Rodriguez is the anti-Mike Stoops to some degree.
Unlike Stoops, who displeased fans with his sideline antics and temper, Rodriguez is likeable. For a guy who’s coached at the highest level, he’s your average Joe.
“I say ya’ll,” he joked. “I do have a hillbilly accent.”
Rodriguez won’t have the constant pressure he had at Michigan. He’ll get a tight-knit community, an athletic director dedicated to building something great, and brand-new facilities on the way. And he’ll finally be able to do what he does best: coach football.
The pieces are in place, and it wouldn’t be the first time Rodriguez turned around a program. He took West Virginia from a team that hadn’t won a conference championship since 1993 to major bowl games and an eventual 60-26 record during his tenure.
Rodriguez said the program had so much success because the Mountaineers had a chip on their shoulder. They had something to prove.
Rodriguez has something to prove at Arizona.
“I don’t like when somebody says … I don’t have anything to prove,” he said. “I do. Every day, I do.”
The Wildcats are rebuilding and so is Rodriguez, whose image took a major hit after the Michigan debacle.
So while it’s important to take Rodriguez’s promises and positivity in context, it seems that this could be the perfect marriage.
And unless Rodriguez takes tips from Kim Kardashian, this one should last.
— Mike Schmitz is a marketing senior. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org