Arizona Football

Rodriguez’s start one of best for UA coaches

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Rich Rodriguez’s No. 22 ranking after a 3-0 start is the highest ranking for a new Arizona coach after his first three games (YouTube still)

The Arizona Wildcats have placed 28 different coaches in charge of their program on a full-time basis. In the Pac-10 era, starting in the 1978 season, that number is six, including first-year coach Rich Rodriguez.

With Arizona starting 3-0 and ranked No. 22 that begs the question: Is this the best start for a UA coach in the program’s history?

Not quite, but the Wildcats and Rodriguez are close to that distinction.

— Rodriguez is one of nine UA coaches to start 3-0, the last being — not a misprint — John Mackovic in 2001. Mackovic experienced one of the best starts for a UA coach but also one of the worst beginnings to a Pac-10 season. The Wildcats in 2001 won their first three games at San Diego State and at home against Idaho and UNLV before going on a five-game losing streak to start the Pac-10. That was the worst Pac-10 start in Arizona’s history until the Wildcats lost six straight in the conference under Mackovic to begin the following the season.

— If Arizona upsets No. 3 Oregon on Saturday, Rodriguez would become the sixth UA coach to start at least 4-0. The best start is at 5-0, held by four coaches, with Jim Young the only one from the modern era of helmets, pads and television. Young’s 1973 team started 5-0 en route to an 8-3 season. The other coaches to start 5-0 are Leslie Gillett in 1902, H.B. Galbraith in 1908, and George F. Shipp in 1910. The five games in 1902, 1908 and 1910 were all that were played that season, so Gillett (a player-coach), Galbraith, Shipp and Orin A. Kates (2-0 in 1903) have the distinction of being the only UA coaches to go undefeated in a season.

— If Rodriguez does not achieve a 4-0 or 5-0 start, he can still become the first UA coach in the Pac-10 and Pac-12 era to achieve a winning record in his first season. He needs four more wins to earn that distinction. Dick Tomey was the closest to a winning record with a 4-4-3 season in 1987. The average starting record for a UA coach during the Pac-10 and Pac-12 era (1978 to present) is 4.4 wins, 6.2 losses and 0.6 ties.

— Arizona’s No. 22 ranking is the highest for a new coach after his first three games. Young’s 1973 team was not ranked until it started 5-0. The Wildcats were ranked that year at No. 19 (the AP poll ranked only the Top 20 then).

Records shown are through first five games of initial season in Arizona program. Emphasis is on Pac-10 and Pac-12 era coaches. Arizona did not join Pac-10 until 1978. Tony Mason also coached the Wildcats in 1978 and 1979 before his firing amid alleged NCAA violations.

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Records shown are the first year of the coaches in the Arizona program

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Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner

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