ATHLETIC VOICE: Doubling down on Rodriguez

By STEVE CHOICE

The first two games of the Rich Rodriguez era at the University of Arizona are a perfect microcosm of what we might be able to expect in Tucson. It could be dizzying exhilaration or something much more unpleasant.

It could go either way — or more likely, both ways — with the controversial and well-traveled football coach. With Rodriguez, it usually has.

UA started its 2012 campaign with a lackluster overtime win at home against the Mid-American Conference’s Toledo Rockets. You know, the team the Wildcats crushed 41-2 on the road just two years ago?

That would represent the lows we may well experience with Rich Rod.

But the Wildcats came back to throttle then-No. 18 Oklahoma State 59-38 on Sept. 8. That symbolizes some of the highs we might see.

I draw the metaphor because Rodriguez’s career to this point has been just that — a checkerboard of highs and lows.

He’s brought both Bowl Championship Series appearances and probation to his teams. He guided his alma mater West Virginia to the brink of a national title game invite, but was later sued by the school.

And he landed one of the most plum jobs in the coaching industry, only to promptly run the storied Michigan Wolverines into the ground.

Rich Rod has a past. Since that past could become the UA’s future, we’d be advised to take a look back and see how he came to touch down in the desert.

He was hired in November to replace Mike Stoops, who had a nasty habit of turning beet red on the sidelines while the other team lit up the scoreboard.

So they should’ve hired an anti-Stoops, right? An even-keel guy with a proven record of success?

Instead, UA Athletics Director Greg Byrne informed the world in November via Twitter that Rodriguez would be taking the reins at Arizona Stadium.

While most football coaches are known to be tough, many say Rodriguez goes beyond that.

Several Michigan players transferred and subsequently criticized his behavior. Offensive lineman Justin Boren cited a “lack of family values.”

Detroit Free Press writer Michael Rosenberg went even further, saying, “Rodriguez’s staff uses some of the foulest, most degrading language imaginable. He belittles his players. This is a big part of why Justin Boren left. He felt his dignity was at stake.”

But in the world of big-time college football, there’s something else at stake — a dependable and robust revenue stream for the university. And that’s what Rodriguez would bring if he keeps getting big wins.

This Rodriguez thing could go really well. For a while, that is. Then it may well end in a messy divorce. I guess we’ll find out.

University of Arizona head football coach Rich Rodriguez confers with a player during a game. Aztec Press photo by Larry Gaurano.

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