Rich Rodriguez is entering his fifth season as the head football coach of the Arizona Wildcats. He will try to become the first coach in school history to appear in five consecutive bowl games. Arizona legend Dick Tomey was able to reach five bowls in six seasons, but never accomplished the feat of five straight.
Bowl games can be a funny thing as 5-7 teams now have the ability to receive bids since there are 40 different bowls. Their significance has somewhat diminished over the years with the expansion of games. However, they can be used to gauge one aspect of the season: if you don’t make one, you had a bad season.
By that measure, is it fair to say that no RichRod-led UA team has had a bad season? There may be no way for anyone to answer that objectively as everyone has their own meaning of "bad". However, there are statistics that can be used to help support the argument one way or the other.
Let’s review some numbers from these past four seasons that may provide clarity to the debate.
Good teams win close games – The Wildcats are 13-9 in one possession games.
Performance against ranked teams matter most – They are 7-11 against ranked teams.
A winning record in the end is all that matters – They have finished with a winning record in all four seasons.
Overall record is good but conference records are more important – They have finished with a winning conference record only once.
So maybe that didn’t provide an edge to either party of the debate but those numbers fascinate me. Who knows how much different the team could have looked if last season wasn’t injury plagued? If they win two more games last year, the numbers turn into 35-18 overall with a 20-17 conference record. Those marks are much more appealing.
Of course, there’s the butterfly effect where the bowl opponent could have been stronger if this scenario happened, but let’s assume they still win it.
The Wildcats have begun 3-0 each season with RichRod at the helm. Granted, those 12 games weren’t against heavyweights, but it’s still an undefeated mark. As shown above, they’re 33-20 overall during his tenure but only 18-19 against Pac-12 opponents.
I think the sub-.500 conference record is the most difficult hurdle to overcome for the Pro-RichRod contingent. The silver lining is he has compiled a winning record at home. The most trouble is clearly with Jim Mora and UCLA as he is still winless against the Bruins.
The first four seasons of the Rodriguez era have shown us just about everything you could imagine. Arizona has been on both ends of blowouts and nailbiters. He has won the Pac-12 South, appeared in a New Year’s Six bowl, and upset a top ten team every year.
This is the most excitement and success UA fans have seen with their football program in a long time, if not ever. Personally, I have been pleased with his tenure thus far. I would argue it has been successful relative to the history of the program.
There will come a time where 6-6 or 7-5 are unacceptable. However, the recent coaching changes suggest that he understands 2014 is the standard moving forward.