Arizona built a $72 million football facility and gave Rich Rodriguez the keys. It tore down a baseball stadium and turned it into a football practice facility.
It raised the pay of his assistant coaches about 30 percent more than any UA staff ever. It allowed him to create extra positions for recruiters and X and O analysts. It presented him with a retention bonus that could reach $6 million. It looks the other way when TV cameras capture him screaming at his players and assistant coaches.
It allowed him to fire three assistant coaches in one day, a payoff of close to $1 million.
More? The school gives RichRod the weakest non-conference schedules in the Pac-12, year after year, almost as if to say “if you don’t blow it, you get to start every season 3-0.”
And then he flew to Columbia, South Carolina, to pursue the head coach job of the South Carolina Gamecocks. It was a punch in the gut for those who had supported him.
There’s not a lot of warmth for RichRod. It is all about the money. All about the W’s and L’s.
It is the new way of college football and, frankly, it stinks.
There were 6,000 empty seats at Friday’s Territorial Cup game. And it wasn’t just the losing that kept fans away. Arizona’s home football games this year ended just before midnight at 11:36, 11:35, 10:53, 11:27, 11:29 and, finally, 11:10 p.m.
But that is deemed to be OK because the school gets about $27 million per year from the Pac-12’s media rights package.
As Friday night became Saturday morning, with the Territorial Cup on display at the Lowell-Stevens center, RichRod said “this doesn’t erase what was a tough year for us. But we’re going to be better than OK.”
You decide. Is “better than OK” going to work in a conference that has no mercy on those starting over?
Was the compelling 56-35 victory over ASU merely the beginning of the end?
Questions: Will RichRod fire quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and make him pay for an offense that averaged just 24 points per game, which ranks No. 98 of all FBS schools? Will special-teams coach Charlie Ragle be terminated for a kicking game gone wrong? How safe is the job of any coach connected to an offense that failed to gain 5,000 yards, the school’s lowest total since 2007?
Former UA football player Mark Strickling, a graduate of the school’s Eller College of Management, has the perspective of someone who was part of the evolution of a 4-7 team of 1991 — the first Arizona club to lose to ASU since 1981 — to someone present at the birth of the Desert Swarm period.
Late Friday night on his Facebook page, Strickling quoted Dickens:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us.”
For once, Dickens applies to Arizona’s football program. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess.