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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Football Guide ’17: Stand and Deliver


Arizona football head coach Rich Rodriguez stands in University Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Dec. 19, 2015.

Arizona head coach, Richard Alan “Rich” Rodriguez, is no stranger to scrutiny, so coming into the 2017 season with the constant chatter of whether he can save his job is no new obstacle. Ever since his days at West Virginia and the drama associated with his jump to Michigan, Rodriguez has had to deal with people questioning his every move.

This season will be nothing new for Rodriguez, who by all accounts is on the perverbial hot seat. In fact, USA Today has Rodriguez tied for the second highest odds at losing his job alongside ASU head coach Todd Graham at 15/1, just behind UCLA’s Jim Mora who is the favorite at 9/1 odds. The Pac-12 should be very interesting this year.

Rodriguez helped Arizona get back on track after previous coach Mike Stoops was fired in 2011. In his first four seasons he led Arizona to four straight bowl games, a program first. He also took the Wildcats to the Pac-12 Championship game as the South Division Champions in 2014. Rodriguez was trending up and widely considered to have Arizona on the brink of national relevance.

Then 2015 happened.

After starting 3-0, the wheels came off in horrific fashion during a nationally televised game against UCLA. The No. 9 Bruins crushed the No. 16 Wildcats 56-30 and from there Arizona limped to a 6-6 finish. The program hasn’t recovered since and neither has Rodriguez.

Rodriguez, who is considered the innovator of the read-option attack, hasn’t been able to replicate the firepower he once had at West Virginia. Couple that with recruiting misses, a lack of development and a recent recruiting class that started in the top ten and fell to No. 45 by signing day due to the departure of a few key coaches and you can see why Rodriguez may be in jeopardy.

So what would keep Rodriguez on the sidelines past 2017? For one, being able to show that 2016 was a fluke would help. Re-establishing a dominant offense through the air as well as on the ground could also buy time as long as the defense doesn’t dwell near the bottom of the conference once again.

People can speculate about Rodriguez all they want, but what may ultimately keep him around is whether he can energize the fan base enough to actually attend games this season. Despite the announced attendance figures from Arizona athletics, the stadium was half empty a majority of the season. The ZonaZoo was a ghost town, understandably so, I mean, who wants to sit in 100 degree temperatures baking on aluminum seating during a 30-point blowout.

So the bottom line for Rodriguez is not necessarily winning but more remaining competitive for most games. Good games equal higher revenue and even in a three or four win season, the revenue alone may be enough to save RichRod in Athletic Director Dave Heeke’s eyes.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter

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