Arizona Football

Disciplinary loss of Bondurant shows Arizona Wildcats coach Rodriguez not cutting corners toward success

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Rich Rodriguez talks to the media after Saturday's practice (YouTube video capture)

Rich Rodriguez talks to the media after Saturday’s practice (YouTube video capture)

This may come as a surprise but personable Arizona Wildcats football coach Rich Rodriguez is no stranger to disciplinary actions throughout his coaching career.

Rodriguez has the image of a players’ coach with his humble, fun-loving demeanor. You’ve seen those Old Tucson and Speed videos produced by the talented Arizona video staff, right? Fun guy. When “Rich Rod”, as he is called, talks to the national media he seems to be a guy anybody would love to enjoy a beer with for laughs.

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Nothing is funny about the loss of talented senior safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant on the first day of fall camp Saturday. Bondurant failed to “do some discipline things he had to do,” Rodriguez told FoxSports.com’s Steve Rivera, who brought up Bondurant’s name to Rodriguez during the post-practice press gathering.

Bondurant packed his bags instead of serving the undisclosed disciplinary action, according to Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has somewhat of an edge about him, which is necessary. Tough-as-nails, yet likable Vince Lombardi and Bill Parcells did not win Super Bowls by giving their pro athletes free reign.

While at Michigan in 2010, Rodriguez stripped the wings off the helmets of some out-of-shape Wolverines players during fall camp to make examples of them being unfit to have that privilege.

“You’ve got to appreciate the privilege you have to play here,” Rodriguez told the Ann Arbor News. “If they don’t, they won’t wear the helmet.”

Some, including consequential quarterback Tate Forcier, did not.


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Rodriguez was criticized as being too loose by some media at West Virginia for allowing former Mountaineers Adam “Pacman” Jones and Chris Henry to become wayward. Reportedly in one case, West Virginia receivers coach Steve Bird was fired for receiver Travis Garvin (another controversial player) and Henry refusing to to do running drills before the 2003 Gator Bowl, with no penalty to either of the players.

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Strangely enough, those reports surfaced in 2008 after Rodriguez upset people in West Virginia because he left his alma mater for Michigan.

The Michigan media also questioned Rodriguez after the coach’s first quarterback recruit there — Justin Feagin — was dismissed before the 2009 season for violating an undisclosed team rule.

Tra'Mayne Bondurant of Arizona leads the nation with three interceptions, two of which have been returned for TDs (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

After the first two games last year, Tra’Mayne Bondurant led the nation with three interceptions, two of which were returned for TDs (Javier Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

MLive.com reported Rodriguez’s handling of personnel this way after news broke of Feagin’s dismissal:

“This week, news broke of the arrest of cornerback Boubacar Cissoko for misdemeanor disorderly conduct, and Rodriguez handled disciplinary actions very (and I mean very) quietly. But it is of note that cursing at a cop probably shouldn’t be cause for removal from the football program. But, the most interesting facet of the story is the lack of disciplinary action of running back Kevin Grady who was arrested and then violated probation. Many Wolverine fans were calling for Grady’s dismissal from the football team, but to no avail.”

The wording by Ryan Kartje is subjective and is an example of the rocky relationship Rodriguez had with the Michigan media.

Controversy followed Rodriguez to Arizona after his first season with the nation’s leading running back — Ka’Deem Carey — having trouble with the law because of an alleged act of domestic violence. Carey was also ejected from an Arizona basketball game for pulling a “Do you know who I am?” with university police when they questioned whether Carey had a ticket to the game.

According to a source close to the Carey family, the running back was incensed about these developments enough to consider transferring from Arizona. Rodriguez soothed things over with Carey and suspended his top player for a game and one quarter at the start of last season.

The school did not tout Carey as a Heisman Trophy candidate entering the season. Rodriguez basically let the running back know that it was up to him to reinvent himself by accepting responsibility for his actions.

Carey accepted Rodriguez’s disciplinary action and Arizona’s lack of publicizing him as one of the nation’s elite. He stuck it out. He became Arizona’s career rushing leader and the school’s first Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year.

With Bondurant, a potential All-Pac-12 player, most likely gone from the program, Rodriguez is faced with another disciplinary action that can affect a season and how he is perceived. The bright side: Seven weeks separate Arizona from the start of the Pac-12 season against Cal on Sept. 20. Rodriguez and his staff have plenty of time through the preseason and three winnable non-conference games to groom Bondurant’s replacements.

Pressure will soon mount in years four and five of his time in Tucson to make Arizona relevant in the Pac-12 title race. His immediate responsibility in his third season is to build a winning culture.

A no-nonsense Rodriguez will create that culture.

Parcells, a Bob Knight apologist, is not a popular guy without those Super Bowls.

ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report and Lindy’s College Sports.

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