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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats, Rodriguez and all, set to face New Mexico in Gildan New Mexico Bowl

Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez announced on Saturday evening he would be remaining with the program. A day later, he was awarded his next coaching matchup: a date with New Mexico in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

It was a busy weekend for the Arizona football program, as Rodriguez attracted all of the attention Friday and Saturday by flirting with the head-coaching job at South Carolina.

Rodriguez traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina on Friday to interview with South Carolina officials, according to a report from Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports.

At 8 p.m. Saturday, Rodriguez reaffirmed his position at Arizona by tweeting, “Happy and honored to be an Arizona Wildcat!! Bear Down!!”

Minutes later, Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne tweeted, “Great news! @CoachRodAZ did not commit to the offer from S. Carolina. He’s an Arizona Wildcat. #BearDown.”

Byrne’s tweet picked up great attention on social media for suggesting that South Carolina had indeed offered Rodriguez a job, but the soon-to-be fifth-year Wildcat head coach turned down the position.

Rodriguez and Byrne each addressed the situation Sunday at the football program’s annual team banquet.

“There was mutual interest and curiosity,” Rodriguez said. “In the end, it wasn’t enough to make a move on both sides. I’ve got a great situation here and a great group of kids, tremendous fans and support.”

Rodriguez did not directly answer questions regarding whether South Carolina formally offered him the job, but he did say there were “no inaccuracies” in neither his nor Byrne’s tweets.

“I thought it was important for our fan base to know, and from a recruiting standpoint as well, that it’s flattering for a coach to have other opportunities,” Byrne said.

Rodriguez’s situation overshadowed Sunday’s headline that Arizona (6-6) will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico to compete in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 19.

Arizona last played in the New Mexico Bowl in 2012—Rodriguez’s first year with the program—when the Wildcats defeated Nevada with two last-minute scores.

The trip will mark Arizona’s seventh appearance in a bowl game in the last eight years.

“We are looking forward to returning to the Gildan New Mexico Bowl where we have great memories from a few years ago,” Rodriguez said. “It’s especially important to our seniors who will now play in a bowl game for the fourth consecutive season.”

The game will be held at University Stadium and is slated for a noon kickoff on ESPN. Arizona men’s basketball hosts UNLV in McKale Center that same night.

New Mexico, who finished the season 7-5 competing in the Mountain West Conference, will receive a literal home-field advantage.

Arizona and New Mexico faced one mutual opponent this season: ASU. The Lobos lost to ASU 34-10 in Tempe in the third week of the season. The Wildcats are coming off a 52-37 defeat to the Sun Devils.

For those interested in attending the game, tickets went on sale Sunday evening on Arizona Athletics’ website. Prices are $40 for the public and $15 for students.


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter. 


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