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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona football is falling apart and belief from fan base in RichRod is dwindling

Carmen Valencia and Sydney Richa
The barren Zonazoo student section at the beginning of the first (top) and second (bottom) half of Arizona’s 14-48 loss to USC on Saturday, October 15.

It was an uncomfortable day in Arizona Stadium. Depending on your view, that could be in reference to the weather, or the display put on by Arizona football during Saturday’s game against USC. 

A program once considered to be on the rise in the Pac-12 Conference has hit rock bottom and there are few signs it will improve any time soon. Head coach Rich Rodriguez spoke about the future of the program with high hopes during his post-USC press conference, but what does that have to do with the present?  It’s unlikely that incoming freshmen are going to have that much of an impact; freshman quarterback Khalil Tate didn’t exactly shine on Saturday, and there’s the first example of how much  you should rely on freshman in college football.

The Arizona fan base has been sucker punched, and this one will hurt for a while. While fans were led to believe that football in Tucson was on an upward trajectory following a Pac-12 championship appearance and Fiesta Bowl bid, the Wildcats have done a complete 180-degree plunge and have taken their talents to the injury report.

The excuse of injuries should be falling on deaf ears by now. The utter lack of talent on both sides of the ball is the real reason this team is failing. Last year, the defensive injuries pulled the wool over the eyes of Wildcat fans, who excused the poor play because Scooby Wright III and others were out of the lineup. It is the same script this year, but on the opposite side of the ball, and it shouldn’t fly.

This is another year of shortcomings by Rich Rod-led recruits, leading one to believe his abilities as an impactful recruiter aren’t as good as many had hoped they would be. The fans know it, the opposing team knows it and, more importantly, the students know it.

The ZonaZoo had approximately 279 people in the stands after halftime, according to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic. It was at roughly 60 percent capacity at the beginning of the game. It seems the heat and the play on the field have pushed the students back into McKale Center for the remainder of the season. There is no reason to suffer through four hours of a mediocre product in the 137-degree on-field heat, when you could be anywhere else in air conditioning. 

Rodriguez has said several times that he likes noon kickoffs; the fans firmly disagree. The east side of the stadium had about as many fans as the town of Mayer, Arizona, population: 1,408.

      Related: Wildcats leave Arizona football fans leave little to be excited about on Family Weekend.

The announced attendance was even more ridiculous. There definitely weren’t, as the announced sell-out numbers suggested, 55,463 people there. You’d be lucky if it was just over half that by looking at the crowd, most of those scurrying to the shady parts of the stadium to escape the heat.

Rodriguez is on pace to not win another game this season. He has been surpassed by Colorado, Washington State and even Oregon State, which has a conference win. The fan base is at a loss, and there is doubt as to whether UA football can be a big-time program.

Fans are split, mostly because they are unsure whether UA could secure a big time coach like Rodriguez. That’s absurd. Sure, it wouldn’t be easy, but that doesn’t mean you settle for being average. If that were the case, Kevin O’Neil would still be the men’s basketball coach.

For his part, vice president of athletics Greg Byrne has had his coach’s back,  but even he has a breaking point. The support for men’s basketball has always been off the charts, and Byrne undoubtedly wanted to transfer some of that passion to the gridiron. It isn’t quite working out. 

The mark of any great A.D. is the hiring of personnel, none more important than a program’s football coach. Byrne knows this. 

There are up-and-coming coaches all over the country, some have succeeded in far worse places than Tucson (see: Boise, Idaho). The coaching staff says it will work hard to make this right, but part of the problem in realizing there is a problem is the failure to recognize there is one until it is too late. That is the responsibility of the head coach—a responsibility Rodriguez has failed to meet up to this point.

Follow Saul Bookman on Twitter.

Video courtesy of Pac-12 Networks.

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