Column: Rich Rodriguez distracted by job openings

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Rebecca Noble and Sally Lynx / The Daily Wildcat | The Daily Wildcat The Ghosts exhibition is on display at the University of Arizona's Joseph Gross Gallery. The exhibition features the work of Ralph Ziman, a South African artist working to bring the realities of the African arms trade to light.

The pressure is mounting for Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez as he draws closer to the finish line of his fourth season at the Wildcats’ helm.

Rodriguez is still in the prime of his career and nearly everyone on the team is a disciple of his recruiting; the hangover players from the Mike Stoops era are gone. With the success Rodriguez has had at Arizona—making a bowl appearance every season and leading the Wildcats to the Fiesta Bowl—why is this year the worst he’s had since taking the reins?

Arizona is in jeopardy of losing out to end the season, but the Wildcats are losing more than just games. The recruiting classes of the future are looking more like the stereotypical Arizona football class.

The toppings to a shameful sundae that was Arizona’s weekend were perfectly placed following the blowout loss to Washington. Four-star defensive end Josh Allen decommited from Arizona on Sunday, eliminating the Wildcats’ highest ranked player behind offensive lineman Michael Eletise.

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Allen was supposed to replace Reggie Gilbert and be Arizona’s answer to the horrific pass rush.

Chandler, Arizona, native N’Keal Harry committed to ASU on Monday following Allen’s decision, giving the Sun Devils their third recruit ranked in ESPN’s top 300.

ASU head coach Todd Graham has been with the Sun Devils just as long as Rodriguez has been with Arizona, and Graham is winning the recruiting battle. Arizona recruits the OKG’s, which stands for Our Kind of Guy, but unfortunately for Rodriguez, his kind of guys aren’t winning football games anymore.

So with top recruits again shying away from Arizona and Rodriguez settling with the two-star and three-star players, there has to be something that Arizona fans don’t know. Is it because Rodriguez plans on taking his talents east?

College football turns into a soap opera whenever it comes to changing coaches. It’s a never-ending carousel, where there’s always an interesting tie to what they bring.

Rodriguez brought the Arizona football program out of a ditch and changed the culture of athletics in Tucson. He placed Arizona football back on the map.

But in typical Arizona football fashion, the program has hit a plateau. Virginia Tech will be looking for a head coach after Frank Beamer’s retirement, and that’s where Rodriguez will shine when it comes to recruiting, if he takes the job.

Miami, South Carolina and possibly West Virginia will also be looking to fill head coaching voids in the offseason.

Rodriguez was quick during Monday’s press conference in shutting down any rumors of him leaving Arizona.

“It is all rumors and speculation,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think there are any coaches getting a call who are coaching a current team. But the speculation on the Internet and message boards and rumor sites is just speculation for anybody, not just me.”

Other coaches are rumored to be on Virginia Tech’s checklist.

Justin Fuente from Memphis, Tom Herman from Houston and Matt Rhule from Temple are all head coaches that revived their teams into the top 25 at some point this season, but Rodriguez is a head coach familiar with recruiting in the area.

Being a former head coach of West Virginia, Rodriguez has mastered the recruiting hot bed in the Virginia area. It’s difficult to make trips to that side of the country and convince these players to play in Tucson. If he were at a program that’s already established and adding the hard edge to the Atlantic Coast Conference, then Rodriguez could return to his glory days on the East Coast.

With just three games remaining, Virginia Tech can only hope Arizona loses out, which would leave the Wildcats out of a bowl season. If that become a reality, Virginia Tech Athletic Director Whit Babcock will call Rodriguez’s hotline bling.

If the offer is handsome enough, Rodriguez might dance like Drake right on over to the Hokies. But until then, Arizona fans have to hold their breath until he denies the job.

“Like I said, it normally happens at the end of the season, anyways,” Rodriguez said.


Follow Justin Spears on Twitter.



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