Rich Rodriguez ousted at University of Arizona
Showing the folks in Tucson a 3-9 record in 2016. Losing to Arizona State and to Purdue in a bowl game to finish 2017 with a 7-6 record. Going 7-6 in 2015. Not what any enterprising football coach at the University of Arizona should do to endear himself to the alumni, athletic administrators and season ticket holders and contributors if he wants their continued support.
Few were turning a blind eye to what Rich Rodriguez wasn’t accomplishing in his last few seasons.
And then a bombshell of sorts dropped when an athletic department employee filed a lawsuit against Rodriguez for alleged harassment and improper conduct, saying that has been the climate for years.
Among the allegations filed is that Rodriguez asked to have his involvement with a woman who isn’t his wife be covered up by the person now suing him. It’s claimed that Rodriguez asked to have a sideline ticket for a football game against Southern California provided for the other woman. Rodriguez’s wife, Rita, was also on the same sideline for that game. The person suing the coach said she had to stand between the two women in order to keep things from becoming more entangled than they already were.
The University of Arizona looked into the matter and fired Rodriguez early last week.
This is the same Rich Rodriguez who began in 2001 a seven-year coaching stint at West Virginia University.
After fussing through a 3-8 record season in 2001, Rodriguez had six straight winning seasons to bring his overall mark to 60-26.
After a 10-2 season in 2006, Rodriguez interviewed for the vacant head coaching position at Alabama. That interview wasn’t general knowledge until after Alabama hired Nick Saban as its coach. Rodriguez trumpeted “I’ll be West Virginia’s coach for years to come. You don’t have to worry about me going elsewhere.”
Some people actually believed his issued statement.
Then in 2007, the Mountaineers had 10 wins in their first 11 games before losing in early December to three-touchdown underdog Pittsburgh in Morgantown.
Unknown to the general public, Rodriguez took a private flight to Ann Arbor and interviewed for the vacant University of Michigan head coaching position. Upon returning to Morgantown, Rodriguez said he was accepting the offer from Michigan to be its coach.
West Virginia refused to allow Rodriguez to be its coach in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma. Bill Stewart was given a interim head coach label and the Mountaineers crushed the Sooners in the bowl game.
While at Michigan, Rodriguez didn’t return the Maize and Blue to any glory days. His first team went 3-9 and he followed that debacle with a 5-7 record. Given a third season, Rodriguez had a 7-6 record. He didn’t get a fourth season. He was fired.
In 2011, Rodriguez was employed as an analyst by CBS Sports.
Arizona hired him in 2012 and his first team had an 8-5 record. In his second season in the desert, Rodriguez and the Wildcats were 8-5 again, and then came a 10-4 season.
But 2015 brought only a 7-6 overall mark and 2016 was miserable with a 3-9 record.
The just-completed 2017 season was finished with a loss to archrival Arizona State and a bowl loss to Purdue.
The 54-year-old Rodriguez had burned every bridge he ever crossed in the state of West Virginia. His secretive advances toward the Alabama job in 2006 and then his loud assertions that he would never entertain other coaching options again left more than a faint, sour taste in people’s collective mouths.
The straining loss to Pittsburgh in the final regular season game of 2007 rankled legions of fans. And then the job-chasing coach went quietly to Michigan and interviewed there before accepting the school’s job offer.
For many years, finding friends of Rodriguez in most parts of West Virginia would have taken an electron microscope and a large collection of bloodhounds.
This is Rodriguez’s second dismissal. His combined record at Michigan and Arizona is 58-57.
Will this scandal go away with the passing of time? At age 54, Rodriguez is no longer regarded as a fair-haired offensive genius. In the state of West Virginia, he is regarded with much skepticism and continued sneering.