SOUTH BEND, IN - FILE: Head coach Rich Rodriguez of the Michigan Wolverines watches as his team takes on the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on September 11, 2010 in South Bend, Indiana. According to reports November 22, 2011, Arizona hired Rodriguez, a former coach at Michigan, as their head football coach. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Rich Rodriguez joked about how he was a hillbilly.
He said he'd learned from the Michigan job, and admitted Greg Byrne did what he was supposed to in investigating -- in great depth -- the NCAA sanctions at Rodriguez's previous job with the Michigan Wolverines. He was sold winning could happen in Tucson -- if basketball and softball could bring in the athletes to compete for championships, why couldn't he?
And so it was that the Arizona Wildcats' new football coach was open and honest about everything asked during his introductory press conference, in front of a couple hundred fans and the Tucson media on Tuesday.
Kyle Kensing hit it right on the head with his column previous to the introduction of Rodriguez. This is his program to shape, not vice versa.
Though Tuesday's presser must have been the most awkward of press conferences I've been through.
It was half media inquiry and half pep rally in McKale Center. A small pep band played Bear Down as Rodriguez, his family and Byrne walked out of the tunnel, a small smattering of fan support behind it all. There was no monstrous roar, and the brass of the trumpets echoed throughout a mostly-empty McKale Center.
It must've been polar opposite of the atmosphere of the football coach's first few intros at Michigan.
That's why this fit just might work.
At Michigan, Rodriguez struggled from the beginning, as Wolverine fans questioned bringing in a guy who didn't know about the traditions. No matter what he could've said, it wouldn't have worked out. And Tuesday his ignorance of the program he was hired into was obvious from the beginning once again.
But in Tucson, where fans could really care less about any tradition in the football realm, Rodriguez's lack of knowledge makes no difference. Is it his fault there's not much tradition to cling onto?
He mentioned that Sports Illustrated issue with the Arizona Desert Swarm offense on the front. He threw out the year as being 1994.
"Right?" he asked the media, after he had left the formal interview podium.
Nobody told him he was off.
Rodriguez had already admitted his first trip to Tucson was last night, when he flew into town with his family and Byrne. He admitted he didn't know much about the current roster.
"I've heard of Matt," he said when asked about the future with next year's likely starting quarterback, Matt Scott, who fits Rodriguez's spread-option offense.
Other than that, Rodriguez said he'd study up and learn about the Wildcats' history. He said he talked to former head coach Dick Tomey last night, and he'd speak with him more to learn about the culture in Tucson. He said he'd watch film and determine where the current team is at in spring drills.
And likely urged by Byrne, Rodriguez said he'd emphasize the Arizona State rivalry on a daily basis.
Most of all, Rodriguez said there's not a reason why he can't win at Arizona.
"Why not Arizona? Why not us?."
Like Tucson, Rodriguez is honest. He's not trying to be someone he's not. and he made no definitive promises about his success. He just said he believes, and that he will try his damndest. He didn't try to sell Arizona and tell fans the football team is a big deal. Not yet it's not.
There's not much to grasp to in its history. But the potential is there.
" I will not just coach University of Arizona football," Rodriguez said. "I want to live it."
At Michigan, they wouldn't have liked his lack of historic knowledge. They wouldn't have liked him not saying that the team would win a championship within X amount of years.
"I've got something to prove. I don't like it when somebody says ... I don't have anything to prove anybody. I do. Everyday I do."
At Arizona, he's got his chance.