Rich Rodriguez is back in college football after a one year hiatus. The former West Virginia and Michigan head coach will be officially announced at a press conference Tuesday at noon (MST). Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne announced the hiring Monday evening his Twitter page with a picture of Rodriguez, his family, and Byrne all together.
The hiring of Rodriguez comes just over one month after Byrne fired former head coach Mike Stoops after a 1-5 start to the season. Stoops was walking a tough, thin line heading into this season with Arizona losing 10 straight games to FBS schools. Arizona only win came against Northern Arizona Sept. 3 at home to start the season.
Since Stoops’ firing on October 10th Arizona has gone 2-3 and with their final home game this Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette (8-3, 6-2) they have nothing to lose. For seniors Nick Foles, Keola Antolin, and Juron Criner the game is not as meaningful given they won’t be playing for bowl eligibility but will be more of a changing of the guard game.
Rodriguez will bring his high octane, spread offense to Tucson which not only will bring a spark back to an almost dead program but also will bring attention back on Arizona. While Arizona has had recent success prior to this season there hasn’t been an electric vibe that comes with success for a major program.
What Rich Rodriguez brings, besides his rather unique resume with Michigan and West Virginia, is excitement, attention and success. While Rodriguez failed at Michigan finishing 15-22 the circumstances he came into were a recipe for disaster, for any coach.
After a successful seven year run in Morgantown Rodriguez bolted for Michigan just before West Virginia was set to play in the Fiesta Bowl against No.3 Oklahoma. When Rodriguez decided to extend his contract in August of 2007 that’s when it went down hill. When Rodriguez notified his players he was resigning to replace Lloyd Carr at Michigan it set in motion a chain of events that wound up costing the University of Michigan $2.5 million and Rodriguez $1.5 million.
It also hurt Rodriguez’s reputation and led to a lot of unrest the minute he set foot on the campus at Ann Arbor til January, 5, 2011 when Rodriguez was fired. Even today Michigan fans still ridicule Rodriguez for his tenure in Ann Arbor.
Rodriguez also had five major NCAA violations while he was at Michigan to include excessive practice time and rumors of overworking players in practice.
Since then Rodriguez has laid low working with CBS Sports as an analyst until Monday when he agreed to become the new head coach at Arizona. Now it’s time for Rodriguez to get Arizona back on track in the Pac-12 and rejuvenate this now depleted program. Before 2008 Arizona hadn’t been to a bowl game since 1998 when they defeated Nebraska 23-20 in the Holiday Bowl.
The key to success for Rodriguez will be two fold. One, stay out of trouble with the NCAA and play within the rules. Two, he needs to convince his former defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel who worked with Rodriguez at West Virginia, but not Michigan, to come out West to Tucson.
Rodriguez, who now becomes Arizona’s 30th coach in school history, will replace interim head coach and defensive coordinator Tim Kish. His career record is 120-84-2 with a 2-4 bowl record.
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