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Arizona football: Rich Rodriguez reiterates Wildcats’ need for indoor practice facility

Greg Byrne’s departure adds intrigue to the situation

NCAA Football: Arizona State at Arizona Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Rich Rodriguez remains steadfast in his desire for an indoor practice facility.

The Arizona Wildcats head coach spoke to the media Wednesday and reiterated that an indoor facility is a need — not a want — for the UA football program.

“That’s number one on our priority (list),” Rodriguez said. “I think the stadium certainly needs some renovations. I’m not in the bowels of the stadium, I’m not in the concessions or the restrooms, or sitting in those metal bleachers so I know all that has to get upgraded and fixed and modernized, but priority number one for me selfishly in our program is an indoor (facility). I’ve been here long enough to know that for the heat and our workouts and all that, I think an indoor is a necessity and we have room to do it.”

Rodriguez said he understands that UA has to “do it right”, though, meaning that the facility has to serve multiple purposes as well as allow for student-athletes of other sports to have access to it. Not to mention the program has to come up with the funding for it, which is likely the biggest obstacle in the way (especially since renovations to Arizona Stadium are already underway).

“I think we can use it for pre-game tailgating in football and basketball and there’ll be a lot of purposes for it but you want to do it right,” Rodriguez said. “You want to build it right and you gotta have the money and the funds and all that, but there’s no question that it’s a necessity for us going forward.”

The main reason Rodriguez is adamant about getting an indoor facility is Tucson’s brutal summer weather.

“Our weather is a huge bonus, but the summer heat is sometimes used against us in recruiting and I think unjustly so in some respects, but when it is 108 even if you workout at 7 or 8 in the morning it’s still hot,” he said.

“If you want to come back and throw in the afternoon or if you have a storm in August disrupting practice, but we need an indoor. And I think everybody I talk to understands and is on board with that, it’s just a matter of getting it together sooner rather than later.”

The Wildcats moved their practices to the morning this season and once had to hold practice at the Arizona Cardinals’ indoor practice facility in Glendale when UA’s usual practice field was flooded by an August monsoon.

And considering Arizona finished with the 11th-best recruiting class in the Pac-12 in 2017, it illuminates Rodriguez’s point about the lack of an indoor facility being used against the program in recruiting.

Constructing an indoor facility has been on Arizona’s agenda for quite some time, and Rodriguez said in August that former UA athletic director Greg Byrne had always recognized the need for one.

But Byrne has since departed for Alabama, and it’s unclear how that will affect UA’s process in getting the project done.

Rodriguez gave his thoughts on Byrne’s departure Wednesday plus shed a few details on the UA’s hiring process.

“You never want to lose your A.D. in the middle of the recruiting process,” Rodriguez said. “That’s not always pleasant, but it was a great opportunity for him. ... He did a fabulous job here. He’s helped a lot of our programs, helped (build) a lot of facilities. We had some plans for some future stuff, too. He was obviously in the middle of that, but I think for Greg he sees that opportunity and he’ll do a great job for Alabama.

“I know the school’s been very aggressive in interviewing people. I’ve not been involved in the process as far as interviewing or talking to anybody, but I think they’ll at least give me a heads up on some of the guys they want to talk to and see if I want to meet them or what have you. But we’ll get a great A.D. This is a great place. We’ll get a great A.D. in here and someone that will work hard and try to expand on what Greg has helped build here in the last six or seven years.”

It is not known who the Wildcats have interviewed for the position, though we have compiled everything that has been reported on the matter here.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire