UA football: Wildcats get Rich

Rodriguez, former coach at Michigan and West Virginia, named new UA football coach; formal announcement is today at McKale
2011-11-22T00:02:00Z 2011-11-22T16:24:41Z UA football: Wildcats get RichRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
November 22, 2011 12:02 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats' 41-day search for a head football coach ended Monday with a Tweet and a tease:

"And the new Arizona football coach and his family is… "

Rich Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, a CBS Sports analyst and the former coach at West Virginia University and University of Michigan, was named Arizona's 30th football coach with a Tweet from Athletic Director Greg Byrne Monday evening. Rodriguez, 48, will be introduced at a McKale Center news conference today at noon. He replaces Mike Stoops, who was fired Oct. 10 with his team mired in a 1-5 start.

Byrne confirmed Rodriguez's hiring to the Star at 5:30 p.m. Monday; minutes later, he posted a picture of himself with Rodriguez, his wife, Rita, and their two children, Raquel and Rhett, on Twitter. Rodriguez and his kids were sporting white Arizona hats.

The photo was taken in Michigan, where the Rodriguezes still own a home. Byrne and Rodriguez flew from the Midwest to Tucson late Monday, and arrived at the athletic director's Foothills-area home near midnight.

Details of Rodriguez's multi-year contract won't be announced until today, but the UA has budgeted $1.5 million to $2 million annually to pay its new head coach. Stoops made about $1.4 million this season.

Rodriguez went 120-84-2 in head coaching stops at Salem College (North Carolina), Glenville State (West Virginia), West Virginia and Michigan, but has no experience recruiting or coaching in the West. His three-year stint at Michigan, which fired him following the 2010 season, was marked by recruiting successes, culture clashes and sanctions.

The NCAA put the Wolverines on three years' probation for a series of minor violations, including a failure to monitor assistant coaches when the team exceeded practice time limits.

Critics called Rodriguez's spread-rushing attack a tough sell in Big Ten country, and balked at someone who wasn't a "Michigan man" running one of the nation's most prestigious programs. That the Wolverines went 15-22 overall and 6-18 in conference play under "Rich Rod" only made things worse. He was fired in January after a Gator Bowl loss to Mississippi State.

At Arizona, Rodriguez will have to develop West Coast recruiting ties - and fast.

The grandson of a Spanish immigrant, Rodriguez spent most of his childhood in West Virginia. He played defensive back at West Virginia, rising from a walk-on to scholarship player, and served as a student assistant after graduation.

Rodriguez returned to WVU when Salem College dropped football and spent the 1989 season coaching outside linebackers. From there, he served as head coach at Glenville State (1990-96) and offensive coordinator at Tulane (1997-98) and Clemson (1999-2000).

While at Tulane, he worked with current UA quarterbacks coach Frank Scelfo.

Scelfo, speaking Monday before Rodriguez was hired, described his colleague as a "good guy" who would be a natural fit both at the UA and in the offensive-minded Pac-12 Conference. Rodriguez is expected to retain at least one member of Stoops' staff - Scelfo is a strong possibility - to help with recruiting and the transition from a pass-based spread offense to one that focuses more on the run.

Rodriguez's former assistants have scattered to staffs throughout the country, including Pitt and Indiana. He's expected to bring at least a few former staffers to Tucson.

Arizona's players were put off-limits to the media Monday once it became clear that a hire was imminent, and interim coach Tim Kish called a team meeting to remind them, per Byrne's request, to stay quiet until after the new coach was introduced.

Some Wildcats will be happier with the hire than others. Quarterback Matt Scott seems to be a good fit for Rodriguez's system; a redshirt this season, he'll have one more year of eligibility left in 2012. He'll likely pair with Ka'Deem Carey, Arizona's freshman standout, to form a dynamic backfield next fall.

The move could spell bad news for Rutgers transfer Tom Savage, a pro-style quarterback who hoped to challenge Scott for the starting job. Arizona's players will be somewhat familiar with his defensive scheme; they ran elements of it in Saturday's 31-27 win over rival Arizona State.

Monday's hiring ended five-plus weeks of silence from Byrne, who vowed complete secrecy as he pursued a new coach.

Even the candidates remained mostly a mystery. Former Texas Tech coach Mike Leach expressed interest in the job but was rebuffed. It's unclear if Byrne talked to Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, a longtime friend, or Louisiana Tech coach and former UA aide Sonny Dykes. Both were linked to Arizona's opening in the media.

While Byrne continued to attend games - he was in the press box for Saturday's victory - he stayed mum about any possible candidates, with a few exceptions. Byrne joked Saturday that he was "going to go pick Mike Bellotti up at the airport" amid erroneous rumors that the former Oregon coach was headed to Tucson.

Byrne was in a good mood, and for good reason. Earlier Saturday, he had paid a visit to one of his coaching candidates. While Byrne wouldn't say who, Rodriguez - who called UTEP's game against Tulsa in nearby El Paso - seems the logical choice.

Arizona's players didn't know it at the time, but their next head coach was a short flight away - and paying attention.

Nickel back Jourdon Grandon said Saturday that he knew "whoever the next coach is was watching us."

And he was probably happy.

"He saw a lot of kids with heart, a lot of underclassmen that will be willing to play hard for him," Grandon said.

BIO BOX

• Full name: Richard A. Rodriguez

• Age: 48

• Hometown: Grant Town, W. Va.

• High school: North Marion High School, Grant Town, W. Va.

• College (degree): West Virginia (B.A. in physical education, 1986)

• Playing experience: Played defensive back at West Virginia from 1981-84, rising from a walk-on to scholarship player.

• Coaching experience: Student assistant, West Virginia (1985), defensive backs/special teams coach, Salem College (1986); assistant head coach/defensive coordinator, Salem College (1987); head coach, Salem College (1988); outside linebackers coach, West Virginia (1989); head coach, Glenville State (1990-96); offensive coordinator, Tulane (1997-98); offensive coordinator, Clemson (1999-2000); head coach, West Virginia (2001-07); head coach, Michigan (2008-10).

• Coaching record: 120-84-2 (2-8 at Salem, 43-28-2 at Glenville State, 60-26 at West Virginia, 15-22 at Michigan)

• Personal: Is married to Rita; they have two children, Raquel and Rhett

Cost to compete?

Firing a coach is expensive, but hiring one is even more costly. Here's a look at the money involved in Mike Stoops' dismissal and Rich Rodriguez's hiring.

$1.4 million - Mike Stoops' 2010 salary

$1.4 million - Cost of Stoops' buyout, on top of his 2010 salary, when he was fired Oct. 10.

$2.5 million - Price Michigan paid West Virginia for rights to hire Rodriguez in 2007. Rodriguez paid the other $1.5 million of a $4 million buyout.

6 years, $15 million - Terms of Rodriguez's contract at Michigan when he was hired.

$2.5 million - Cost of Rodriguez's buyout when Michigan fired him following the 2010 season.

$1.5-$2 million - Arizona's reported annual budget for its new head coach.

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



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