Arizona football: 'Why not us' as champs?

Rodriguez confident UA has what it takes to be a title contender
2011-11-23T00:00:00Z 2013-09-17T15:54:17Z Arizona football: 'Why not us' as champs?Patrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

The mystery man first appeared in the family's Michigan home in mid-October. He ate pepperoni rolls, a West Virginia speciality, with Rich Rodriguez.

The two met again last week, over breakfast on swanky Lexington Avenue in New York City. Rodriguez was recognized, but the mystery man was not.

The man kept a low profile Saturday, too, when he flew to El Paso with his closest Arizona Wildcats advisors to interview Rodriguez one final time.

Tuesday at McKale Center, Rodriguez and the mystery man ended their silence when the UA named its 30th football coach.

It was anything but low-profile.

On a dais in front of maybe 500 fans, Rodriguez, 48, said he would compete for a Rose Bowl, if not more.

"You want to go somewhere where you can win a national championship," he said in a West Virginia drawl. "I don't mind saying it. Now that's hard to do. That's really hard to do, as you all know.

"But you can win one here."

Raquel Rodriguez, 15, thought UA athletic director Greg Byrne looked familiar, but she couldn't place him.

Then she remembered: He was the man eating pepperoni rolls. Her parents never told their kids his identity.

On Tuesday, her father presented his hope for turning the UA - which fired coach Mike Stoops on Oct. 10 after a 41-50 record - into the Southwest's football power.

More than once, he asked, rhetorically, "Why not us?"

His salary won't be as high as his previous stops and is nowhere near the top of the Pac-12.

Rodriguez signed a five-year contract.

He will make $1.45 million in his first year, $1.5 million in his second, $1.6 million in his third, $1.7 million in his fourth and $1.8 million in his fifth season, pending Arizona Board of Regents approval.

Rodriguez will receive an extra $300,000 per year from Nike, plus bonuses for academic achievement, BCS rankings, season-ticket totals and bowl appearances.

"I'm not just going to coach University of Arizona football," Rodriguez said. "I'm going to live it."

Tuesday, he sold enthusiasm alongside his breakneck spread offense.

He called a huddle the "biggest waste of time" in football.

"When you watch us play," he said, "it won't be boring."

From 2001 to 2007, Rodriguez went 60-26 at West Virginia, his alma mater and the campus where he met his future wife, Rita.

He left for Michigan and was fired three seasons later, after going 15-22.

Last year, the NCAA placed the Wolverines on probation and reduced their practice hours after Rodriguez was cited for exceeding the amount of coaches on his staff and the amount of practice time.

Rodriguez promised Byrne he had no reason for concern, even offering to let UA compliance staff follow his every move in Tucson.

"There were issues, but the issues were fixed, cleaned up," Rodriguez said. "I assure you, and I assure him, that there will never be one again in the future."

Byrne's list was whittled from about 100 candidates on his personal iPad to maybe 10 with whom he had multiple phone conversations.

Byrne used private jets provided by two boosters, consulted former UA athletic director Cedric Dempsey and hired an outside contractor to help research candidates.

He was swayed toward Rodriguez by former Florida coach Urban Meyer, Scottsdale Chaparral head coach Charlie Ragle and even UA basketball coach Sean Miller.

"He's the first person I offered the job to," Byrne said.

UA president Eugene Sander praised Byrne's decision-making process and said he thought Rodriguez would be "a great ambassador to the university as a whole."

Rodriguez, who spent this season as an analyst for CBS College Sports, said he would wait until the conclusion of the regular season to hire assistant coaches who are currently employed.

He hopes to have a final staff in place by Christmas.

Rodriguez, who will coach his first UA game in 2012, said he would "absolutely" consider current assistants and those with West Coast recruiting expertise. 

He began calling recruits Tuesday night and will move to Tucson permanently Friday after spending Thanksgiving in Florida.

UA quarterback Nick Foles said Stoops laid the foundation from which Rodriguez should benefit.

"He's a very lucky coach," Foles said. "I know he knows that. And I hope he does well in the program."

On StarNet: See more photos and video from Tuesday's news conference for new Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez at azstarnet.com/wildcats

Up next

• What: Louisiana-Lafayette at Arizona

• When: 2 p.m., Saturday

• TV: None

• Radio: 1290-AM, 107.5-FM, 990-AM (Spanish)

Contract

Here's a look at Rich Rodriguez's five-year contract, which is pending Arizona Board of Regents approval:

• Base salary: $1.45 million in 2011, $1.5 million in 2012, $1.6 million in 2013, $1.7 million in 2014, $1.8 million in 2015

• Annual Nike income: $300,000

• Winning bonuses: BCS national title game $150,000; BCS bowl game $100,000; Pac-12 South championship $75,000; Pac-12 championship $75,000; bowl game $75,000

• Ranking bonuses: $50,000 for top 10 BCS ranking; $40,000 for 11 to 15 ranking; $30,000 for 16 to 25

• Season-ticket bonuses: $60,000 for 35,000-40,000; $70,000 for 40,001-45,000; $80,000 for 45,000 and more

• Coach of the Year bonuses: $50,000 for national award; $30,000 for Pac-12 award

• Academic bonuses: $5,000 for team GPA of 2.6 or higher; $7,500 for 3.0 GPA or higher; $5,000 for Academic Progress Rate score of 940 or higher; $7,500 for team APR of 1,000 or more

• Perks: Two courtesy cars; eight football season tickets, four men's basketball tickets plus other UA sports tickets; 45 hours of private jet usage per year; one country club membership

• Termination: If he is fired without cause, UA owes half of annual UA-funded compensation for rest of deal; if fired with cause, UA owes none. If Rodriguez leaves, he owes half of UA-funded compensation for rest of deal

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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