TUCSON, Ariz. – Rich Rodriguez made his first public appearance as football coach at Arizona, standing at center court at McKale Center on Tuesday at a news conference interrupted repeatedly by hearty applause from boosters happy to have a big-name coach take over a program in dire need of a boost to compete in the expanded Pac-12.
The former West Virginia and Michigan coach reeled off a list of attributes that Tucson and the university have, then asked “Why not Arizona? Why not us? Why can’t we win it all?”
Arizona is the only member of the old Pac-10 never to appear in the Rose Bowl.
“I do think I know what it takes to go to BCS bowls and be in the top 10,” Rodriguez said in an informal gathering with reporters after the news conference. “The competition is obviously going to keep getting stronger because of the way the Pac-12 is committed to their programs, but we can get there because look at other schools in our league that have had great success. What do they have that we don’t? I think we have some advantages over them.”
Rodriguez signed a five-year, $9.55 million contract. The university pays $8.05 million and the rest comes from Nike and IMG. The deal also includes incentives – the largest being $150,000 for an appearance in the BCS championship game and $100,000 for any other BCS bowl game.
He replaces Mike Stoops, who was fired halfway through his fifth season in Tucson. Interim coach Tim Kish took over and directed the team to two of its three wins – over UCLA and, last Saturday night in Tempe, archrival Arizona State, whose coach Dennis Erickson also is on the hot seat. The Wildcats conclude their season Saturday at home against Louisiana-Lafayette.
With his trademark spread offense, Rodriguez promised “it won’t be boring and they’ll play as hard as any team you see in the country.”
He said that there were some misperceptions about his offense. He does use a fullback and tight end at times.
“But we do like to play fast,” Rodriguez said. “I do believe the huddle is the biggest waste of time in football.”
Rodriguez went 60-26 in seven seasons at West Virginia.
When Rodriguez left West Virginia, his alma mater, for Michigan, the school sued him to collect on the $4 million buyout clause in his contract, a lawsuit that was eventually settled.
He was fired last year after going 15-22 in three seasons at Michigan. This year the Wolverines are 9-2 and ranked 17th.