Saying his goal was "win the Rose Bowl" as the 30th head football coach of the Arizona Wildcats, Rich Rodriguez preached optimism today in front of about 500 fans at McKale Center.
"Why not Arizona?" he asked rhetorically. "Why not us?" The former West Virginia and Michigan coach said he plans on finishing his career in Tucson.
"For me, making this hopefully my last stop in coaching, you want to go where you can win a national championship," he said. "I don't mind saying it. ... You can win one here."
After one day in Naples, Fla., for Thanksgiving, Rodriguez will return to Tucson on Friday.
He will hire some assistants quickly, but choose others - probably a defensive coordinator - more carefully. He will jump quickly into recruiting.
Rodriguez said he will wait until the end of an assistant's regular season to hire him away, and would like to have a full staff by Christmas.
"I'm not just going to coach University of Arizona football," he said. "I'm going to live it."
UA athletic director Greg Byrne stressed that he spoke with the NCAA, multiple conference offices and coaches when considering Rodriguez.
Byrne spoke with former Florida coach Urban Meyer, UA men's basketball coach Sean Miller and others about who would be a good fit for the vacancy.
"The name we kept coming back to throughout was Rich Rodriguez," Byrne said. Rodriguez comes at a bargain price, as coaching salaries go.
Rodriguez will make $1.45 million in his first year, $1.5 million in his second, $1.6 million in his third, $1.7 million in his fourth and $1.8 million in his fifth season.
He will receive an extra $300,000 per year from Nike and bonuses for academic achievement, BCS rankings, season ticket totals and bowl appearances.
He will make $150,000 for playing in the BCS title game, $100,000 for playing in any other BCS bowl and $75,000 for a bowl. He will get $75,000 for winning the Pac-12 South and another $75,000 for winning the Pac-12.
He will receive two courtesy cars, eight football season tickets and four passes to men's and women's basketball, softball, baseball and volleyball game. He will get 45 hours of chartered air travel and one country club membership.
The UA will owe him half a year's pay for termination without cause and no additional pay if he is fired with cause. If Rodriguez leaves before the end of his five-year deal, he will owe the UA half a year's pay.
The contract is subject to UA Board of Regents approval.
UA president Eugene Sander said he was proud of the "exceptional job Greg Byrne has done with this recruitment."
Rodriguez comes with some baggage. Last year, Michigan, Rodriguez's previous employer, was given probation and had practice hours reduced by the NCAA. Rodriguez was cited for exceeding the amount of coaches on his staff and the amount of legal practice hours.
He said he assured Byrne it would not happen again.