The idea that Arizona Wildcats head coach Rich Rodriguez should be on the hot seat doesn’t make much sense. Here are the reasons why:
Arizona football has never hired a head coach as successful as Rodriguez.
Arizona is not a desirable destination for college head coaches. Rich Rodriguez is the most successful head coach Arizona has ever hired and it isn’t close. The most successful head coach Arizona had hired prior to Rodriguez? John Mackovic. Excluding Mackovic (which most familiar with his tenure will be happy to do), since 1968, Arizona has hired three other coaches with head coaching experience: Tony Mason, Larry Smith, and Dick Tomey. Rich Rodriguez came to Tucson with more wins than the three of them combined (118-106). Since 1957, five of the ten head coaches Arizona has hired have not had head coaching experience. The idea that Arizona can dump Rodriguez for a more successful coach is not supported by historical data.
Rodriguez has already been very successful at Arizona
Rodriguez wasn’t just successful prior to coming to Tucson, albeit in a short sample size, he’s been arguably the most successful coach Arizona has had to date. He has guided Arizona to their only New Year’s Eve Six Bowl appearance and second Fiesta Bowl. He has put together a four-year campaign unlike any in the school’s history. Arizona’s 33 wins over RichRod’s first four seasons are the best four-year span by any Arizona head coach. Larry Smith won 31 games from 1983-86 and Dick Tomey won 30 games from 1996-99. Arizona had never been to four consecutive bowl games before Rodriguez and he is only the second coach besides Tomey to guide Arizona to a ten-win season.
Arizona’s offense is better than it’s ever been
Rich Rodriguez has posted Arizona’s only top ten finish in total offense (6th in 2012) and the best four-year stretch of offense in the program’s history (Avg. 17th nationally in total offense from 2012-15). Unfortunately, Arizona historically has struggled to bring in top talent. Over the past five seasons, Arizona has brought in zero five-star recruits and 14 four-star recruits according to Scout.com. There were eleven schools that brought in 14 or more four or five-star recruits in just their 2016 recruiting class. While Arizona may never be a school that consistently brings in top-100 talent, Rodriguez’s scheme gives them a chance to be competitive. The Zone Read perfectly fits Arizona’s talent deficiencies, allows them to keep defenses off-balance, and supplements their run game with short passes to keep the chains moving. It also allows Rodriguez to have a strategy in recruiting to reel in signal callers like Anu Solomon, Brandon Dawkins, and Braxton Burmeister, all four-star recruits who wanted to play in Rodriguez’s scheme.
2017 is the best recruiting class Arizona has ever had.
Arizona currently has the 18th-best recruiting class in the nation for 2017 and easily their highest rated class ever. Firing Rodriguez would likely vaporize a huge class of talented players. Arizona currently has 21 committed three-star recruits (most in the nation), and their three four-star recruits (Greg Johnson, Nathan Tilford, and Braxton Burmeister) may start next season. In addition to having a great incoming class, Rodriguez has been able to add talented recruiters to his staff. Donte’ Williams and Marcel Yates are going to allow the Wildcats to approach more talented players, especially in the state of California, where Yates and Williams have strong ties. Firing Rodriguez would likely send two coveted assistants elsewhere as well.
The 2016 season has been a rough one for the Wildcats. Perhaps Rodriguez’s success has fueled the pretentious notion that Arizona Football is above having a down season. The reality is, it has historically been difficult to maintain a competitive team at Arizona. Even worse, you can’t blame an Arizona coach for going the Larry Smith route and leaving Tucson after sustained success for better facilities and more money. The fact that Rodriguez has been so successful, has spurned the temptation to leave (so far), and is starting to bring in better talent suggests Arizona fans shouldn’t bail on RichRod after one difficult, injury-marred season.
Hang in there Wildcat fans; RichRod is your best shot at a Rose Bowl.