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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Rodriguez coaching seat heating up

Head+coach+Rich+Rodriguez%2C+center%2C+hollers+as+players+head+back+to+the+sidelines+during+Arizonas+overtime+35-28+loss+to+Washington+in+Arizona+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Sept.+24.
Rebecca Noble
Head coach Rich Rodriguez, center, hollers as players head back to the sidelines during Arizona’s overtime 35-28 loss to Washington in Arizona Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 24.

The Arizona Wildcats football team is in a freefall. There is no other way to describe it.

After the dismantling in Pullman, Washington on Saturday in a 69-7 loss at the hands of Washington State, the Wildcats have officially landed well below rock bottom. They have been for some time now, dating back to the season opener in 2015 when star linebacker Scooby Wright III came limping off the field at Arizona Stadium against UTSA.

Injuries, suspensions and recruiting misses have hit the football program in the family jewels and the lack of signs that it will get any better have fans wincing in pain. Taking a knee right now is the only thing to do.

So, the question that seemed so ludicrous at the beginning of the season has to be asked: Should head coach Rich Rodriguez be fired?

The answer is no. There isn’t any need or justifiable cause … yet.

Yes, he is having his worst year as a coach since his first year at Glenville State when the Pioneers only won one game. Yes, had Grambling State’s quarterback Devante Kincade not been injured, perhaps we’d be seeing Rodriguez’s history repeat itself. And Yes, these are all Rodriguez’s so-called OKG’s that appear to be overmatched at every position by every team. But replacing him doesn’t solve anything at this point.

First, he deserves the right to attempt to recover from this disastrous season. He has shown the propensity to recover quick from bad seasons before, both at West Virginia and at Michigan.

Second, the money within Arizona Athletics is extremely tight and releasing a coach that makes the most money in base salary—$275,000 more than men’s basketball head coach Sean Miller—is not fiscally wise, seeing as how the Wildcats would still have to pay Rodriguez his remaining salary.

Last, the promise of a brighter future would appear to be within the current recruiting class—scheduled to take the field in 2017—as Arizona has the No. 19 class in the nation, according to 247sports.com.

Rodriguez’s failures of late are coming at the worst possible time, and Arizona may be forced to just bite the bullet and hope for the best. If Rodriguez is let go, what is the alternative?

Prior to Arizona, Rodriguez spent three years at Michigan before rudely getting shown the door. He is largely viewed as being the scapegoat for a program in shambles because of factors that were outside of his control. This is one of the biggest reasons why his hire at Arizona was met with tremendous approval.

His coaching pedigree is one that Arizona fans view as top-notch, despite not having won a conference championship since his West Virginia days. It is a pedigree Arizona fans don’t believe they can acquire elsewhere should Rodriguez either leave for another school or be relieved of his duties.

But should they?

There is nothing to the fact that proves a low-profile coach could come in and turn the program around. This fallacy is debunked by the very coach that currently has the position. Prior to Rodriguez becoming the head coach at West Virginia, he was the offensive coordinator at Clemson. He didn’t lead a big time program to a national championship, he wasn’t a former NFL coach. He was just a bright mind making his way through the ranks waiting for his chance.

The fear of the unknown should not exist among Arizona fans when it comes to a head coach selection, anyway. Vice president of athletics Greg Byrne has proven that he knows what type of coach can be successful. Gymnastics head coach Tabitha Yim and baseball head coach Jay Johnson are living proof of that.

Other coaches around the country have catapulted mediocre programs to national prominence with less than what Arizona has to offer. Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer propelled a mediocre Utah program to an undefeated season in just two years before winning national championships at Florida and Ohio State. Before that, he was the head coach at Bowling Green.

Washington head coach Chris Petersen had stops at UC Davis, Pittsburgh, Portland State and Oregon, before being offered the head coaching job at Boise State and leading it to an undefeated season. The Huskies are currently 9-0 and the only contenders from the Pac-12 Conference in the hunt for the College Football Playoff.

Unknown coaches shouldn’t be the fear for any Arizona fan and certainly shouldn’t be the fear should the program move on from Rodriguez.

The last time the Wildcats only won two games was the last season in the Jim Mackovic era in 2003. Shudder if you want, but this team, performance-wise, has been no different than those of the former coach. The biggest difference is that Rodriguez hasn’t totally lost the program like Mackovic did.

Rodriguez hasn’t given up and vows to get UA back to where it needs to be. He was the one who posed, “Why not us, why not Arizona?” at his introductory press conference nearly five years ago. But the fans are still in doubt due to the lack of upper-level success thought to be on its way when Rodriguez came to Tucson. We’re still waiting to be entertained.

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