When Will Parks shopped for an outfit to wear to Arizona’s football banquet, he bought a red bow tie and a navy blue jacket at JC Penney’s.
“I would’ve preferred Hugo Boss,” he said Sunday, smiling. “But that wasn’t in my budget.”
A day earlier, Arizona football coach Rich Rodriguez pursued a coaching vacancy at South Carolina that would’ve required him to forfeit a UA retention bonus estimated at $6 million.
The boss has no budget.
“There was a mutual interest and curiosity,” he said. “At the end, it wasn’t enough to make a move on both ends.”
Parks is 22-year-old senior safety from Philadelphia, and RichRod is a 52-year-old coach from West Virginia. They are in the same business, on the same team, but not really.
The one thing Parks and his coach most have in common is waffling. Parks originally made a commitment to play football at Pitt. RichRod encouraged Parks to flip that promise and join him at Arizona.
That’s college football. It’s a transient game played by coaches who can be bought and players who can be sold (figuratively). If your feelings were hurt by RichRod’s flirtation with South Carolina, if you feel betrayed, like your girlfriend hitting on some guy from fraternity row, get in line.
Arizona stole Sean Miller from Xavier, and long before that, Lute Olson from Iowa.
It goes both ways.
Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne said RichRod will not get a bump in pay, no leverage, after he confirmed that South Carolina offered RichRod the Gamecocks’ coaching job.
Arizona plays football with the Big Boys, but it doesn’t print money. It has surely maxed out paying Miller and RichRod almost $7 million a year. Does it matter why RichRod didn’t become a Gamecock any more than it mattered why Dick Tomey didn’t jump at the Oklahoma job in the pre-twitter, pre-secrets-are-safe mid ‘90s?
Tomey was going to be a Wildcat for life. In 2000, at 61, the UA declared him dead. He waited too long to get out.
RichRod will be a Wildcat at least through 2016. That’s the safest assumption. He’s year-to-year.
One of the concessions RichRod will get almost sounds silly. The UA will get new water troughs.
After each practice at Sancet-Kindall Stadium, UA players rush to get available space in seven or eight ice tubs down the left-field line. They are actually horse troughs. It’s so lowbrow that you’d think you were watching a practice at Rice or Montana State.
Next year, Arizona’s football program will purchase state-of-the-art, walk-in ice tubs, the kind you might see at Ohio State and Oregon.
That’s a small price to pay to retain a coach who has a brand name, something the South Carolina Gamecocks do not have, something they hoped to acquire by persuading RichRod to move closer to his West Virginia roots.
Byrne was burned by the Gamecocks amateurish and extended attempt at hiring a coach.
He believes it should’ve done business as usual in the hiring season, wandering eyes on both sides, but nothing that had to be made public.
The man who gummed up the works was South Carolina AD Ray Tanner, a baseball coach by trade, whose search for a coach had more leaks than a homemade canoe.
While the Gamecocks were courting RichRod, Byrne hit the road and did the prep work to hire a replacement. Had RichRod succumbed to South Carolina’s pitch, Byrne probably would’ve had a coach in place by mid-week.
This search was as much about the ADs as it was about the coaches.
RichRod’s reputation has been diminished by his implosion at Michigan, by Arizona’s 6-6 season, by a 1-3 record in the Territorial Cup and the inability to beat UCLA and Stanford. But he’s still a much better option than, say, Utah State’s Matt Wells or Western Michigan’s P.J. Fleck.
RichRod is a hard-boiled dude; he declined to take questions about South Carolina, which was entirely predictable.
Unlike Larry Smith, who jumped to USC after whipping ASU five years in succession and going 34-13-1 in his final four Arizona seasons, RichRod did not weep and say he had no choice but to become a coach at that other USC.
RichRod isn’t going to say he’s sorry. But he’s got to floor it and recruit better to jump to a career-capping Really Big Job.
That would be a payoff for both him and Arizona.
After the best four-year stretch in UA history, 31-13, Jim Young left Arizona in 1977.
He flew to Chicago to interview with Purdue and Illinois just as the Wildcats were about to hit the lottery and join the Pac-10.
Young was a lot like RichRod. Tough guy. No tears. No regrets.
Young did not return to Tucson for a farewell press conference. He went to Purdue, then jumped to Army, then back to Tucson to join Tomey’s staff, and then to the College Football Hall of Fame.
If RichRod can similarly use Tucson to get to the Hall of Fame, his weekend fling with South Carolina will be forgotten the next time he beats the Sun Devils or USC.