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Arizona Football: Smooth Mike Stoops-to-Rich Rodriguez Transfer Gives Future Foundation


Reading George Schroeder’s excellent Sports Illustrated piece on Rich Rodriguez (see FanShot link below), a few things jumped out that separate the new head coach’s integration into the program.

First, and most stark is his relationship with former UA head coach Mike Stoops. Schroeder does not bury the lead, opening the feature with discussion of a very amicable exchange of power. And why not?

Rodriguez will coach Stoops recruits initially. Furthermore, any early success the Wildcats may experience can be at least partially attributed to Stoops. The program at least has a foundation now, despite the way his tenure ended. Stoops left UA football in much better shape than he found it, and it’s Rodriguez’s job to build onto that.

Second, nothing in Rodriguez’s language differentiates between a UA B.R.R. (before RichRod) and the current regime. Everything is "we," never "them." Past failures are Arizona’s, not Dick Tomey’s or Mike Stoops’. Likewise, past success is acknowledged and celebrated. To wit:

We've never been to the Rose Bowl, but we've been close.

While acknowledging the brass ring UA so desperately seeks yet has failed to reach, Rodriguez tips his cap to teams like Tomey’s 1998, and Stoops’ 2009 as building blocks for what he hopes the future to hold.

Others among the Pac’s 2012 coaching fraternity pledge class have drawn clear lines between old regimes and new. Take UCLA. Virtually all discussion since Jim L. Mora was hired in December is centered on distancing. Los Angeles media has harped on "culture change" ad nauseum, addressing Rick Neuheisel’s tenure without addressing it.

Not to similarly belabor a common narrative, but since Rodriguez’s hire in November there has been chatter that his unceremonious dismissal from Michigan seems to have set the tone for his tenure in the Old Pueblo.

The Wolverines excelled in Brady Hoke’s first season, winning 11 games including the Sugar Bowl. Virtually every contributor was a Rodriguez recruit, but his time there exists as some unspoken-of footnote; the proverbial Joel Schumacher Batman films sandwiched between the celebrated Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan versions, and a far cry from the beloved classics.

Such a characterization is overly simplistic, and frankly, misguided. Similarly, to compare the beginning of the Rodriguez era to the Mackovic-to-Stoops transition is off-base for the reasons outlined above.

Now, that’s not to say everything is pats on the back and smiles. Rodriguez made several well publicized critiques of his new players’ work ethic in the interim of Stoops’ firing and his hire. Stoops has also lambasted UA’s commitment to football vis a vis the outdated facilities.

Still, this is reconstruction with a level and hammer, not systemic restructuring requiring dynamite.