Rich Rodriguez to Arizona Helps Rose Bowl Chances [73 Days of Summer]
Rich Rodriguez takes over for Mike Stoops as the head coach of the Arizona Wildcats. The Wildcats are still the only PAC-10 team to never make it to a Rose Bowl. Rodriguez was an early hire as a result of being fired from Michigan a few years prior. This is a huge get for Arizona and should enable them to compete for the PAC-12 title in four years.
Under Stoops the Wildcats had varying degrees of success. In 2009 they were one win away from making it to the Rose Bowl. If they had beaten Oregon in double overtime at home they would’ve just needed to beat USC to make it to the Rose Bowl. After losing to Oregon it meant Oregon and Oregon State would play each other for the conference title. Last year the Wildcats went 4-8 and had to make a change by bringing in a new coach as the locker room had apparently turned toxic and fear that Mike Stoops would die of a heart attack due to being so angry during games (I made the second one up).
Rich Rodriguez was fired from Michigan a couple years ago. I chalk his lack of success at Michigan up to neither party really knowing what they were getting themselves in to. I don’t think Rich Rodriguez understood the Michigan culture at all. He once said that beating Ohio State after a sub-par season would make up for all the losses. To the contrary, if he had beaten Ohio State at some point during his time as head coach he probably could’ve bought a few more years.
On the other hand, the athletic director didn’t necessarily take in to account how drastic a change adopting the spread and a 3-4 defense would be. The offense was so slow from the line to even the receivers. The offense looked lost for seasons and the defense didn’t fair much better. The team was stuck in the 70’s playing I-formation football and bear defenses (an exaggeration but Michigan was way behind the times), which is partially why they got torched by Oregon and lost to FCS Appalachian State in 2007 resulting in the firing of Lloyd Carr paving the way for Rich Rodriguez. Neither Rodriguez nor Michigan was really ready for each other.
I really think Rich Rodriguez will be successful at Arizona. He was successful at West Virginia, where he was hired away from and led that school to BCS bowl games. Rodriguez has shown he can win at schools without a lot of tradition and now that he’s at a big school in one of the best conferences with a lot more money.
The first few years are going to be painful though. Mostly on offense the Wildcats are not made at all to run the spread. Rodriguez is going to run in to a lot of the same problems he did at Michigan with slow quarterbacks and a lot of slow position players. I think if two years the offense could see significant improvements but the first year could be rough.
I think Rich Rodriguez learned what Mike Riley learned when he left Oregon State to jump to the NFL; the grass is not always greener on the other side. If he is at Arizona for the long haul this is going to be a scary team in six years. The conference doesn’t see a spread offense that runs other than with Oregon so Arizona will have a big advantage as well as with their 3-3-5 defense that puts a lot of speed on the field and uses hybrid players. Arizona is setting up a Rose Bowl run a few years from now.