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College Football Analysis: Does Rich Rodriguez to Arizona Make Sense?

The Coaching Carousel is spinning violently and coaches are falling off every day. In addition to coaches becoming unemployed, this is the time of season where coaches are finding new jobs and some are re-gaining employment in the coaching ranks. We briefly touched on New Mexico's hiring of Bob Davie last week but unless you follow us on Twitter we haven't really discussed the Rich Rodriguez hiring. 

As you should know, Rich Rodriguez was wildly successful at West Virginia. He went 60-26 and won ten or more games in each of his final three years. Then he took the Michigan job. At Michigan he went just 15-22 in three seasons although he did show improvement in each of his years in Ann Arbor.

The issue at Michigan wasn't the offense. Yes, he brought a new offense to Michigan which scared the locals but it was the defense that was the problem. In three years, Michigan's offense moved from being ranked 109th in RichRod's first year to #8 in his last year. The defense ranked 67th Nationally in total yardage in RichRod's debut season, then went to 82nd in the second year and finished 110th in his final year. RichRod didn't fit culturally, didn't win fast enough, got into a little bit of hot water with the NCAA and he just didn't seem to care about the defense. Has RichRod learned his lessons at Michigan now that he's headed West to compete in a wide open Pac-12 South?

Coaches By The Numbers gives the hire an A- (make sure you click on the link for further analysis):

As we have discussed before on this site, fan bases and the media have very, very short memories. Some will choose to examine Rich Rod’s tenure at Michigan and conclude that maybe he was only meant to succeed at a mid-tier school in a mid-tier conference. Looking at the bigger picture and examining Rodriquez’ numbers from both his days as an offensive coordinator and his time as an FBS head coach has led us to the conclusion that Arizona AD Greg Byrne made a hire that, By The Numbers, makes a whole lot of sense.

Our own Pete Sonski had these thoughts when I asked him about the hire:

So much about Rid Rodriquez’s stint in Michigan is an aberration from the rest of his coaching career that at some point that chapter may be just a footnote in his biography. His signature coaching job was at his alma mater, West Virginia, where he was within a game of the national championship. His legacy is one of success in the Big East.

After an ugly departure from WV and a poor showing with the Wolverines, the University of Arizona has given RichRod an opportunity at a fresh start. The timing is right for both: Rodriquez has had a year as an analyst with CBS to let the dust settle on his firing in Ann Arbor and Arizona is primed for a new direction with the firing (earlier this season) of head coach Mike Stoops and the departure of senior quarterback Nick Foles.

Look for Rodriquez to begin building his trademark no-huddle, spread-run offense in Tucson. He’ll find a fleet-footed quarterback and focus on ball control and eating a lot of clock. As many have already noted, the biggest mistake to avoid from his time in Michigan is giving too little credence to defense.

Let's take a quick look at the history of Arizona Wildcats Football. They have a career winning percentage of 57%, they haven't won (or tied for) the Pac-12 (or Pac-10) Championship since 1993 and they haven't won more than 8 games in a single season since 1998. When you look at it that way it hard to hate the hire. If Rich Rodriguez can learn from his mistakes at Michigan, I think he can be very successful at Arizona.


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